It is now officially 2018, which means it’s time to make some goals and resolutions for the upcoming year. Is your resolution to write a novel but you don’t have any idea where to start? You’ve come to the right place!
If you’re anything like me, my number one resolution for the last several years has been to write a novel. I’ve tried and failed many times, making excuses like, “I’ve got writer’s block” or “I’m way too busy” or “There’s no time to write.”
But I finally figured out the key! This past year I finally wrote an entire first draft of a novel and it’s because I did these 10 things. If you really want to write a novel, you’ve got to push back against all of the obstacles that arise in your life. I mean it when I say all of them. The fact of the matter is, you want to write a book, so you have to do whatever possible to make sure you sit down and write. Follow these 10 steps and you’ll be writing THE END in no time.
1. Start with an idea
Before you can even start to write a novel, you have to know what you want to write. Once you’ve had your lightbulb moment you need to let the idea grow. An idea is like a seed. In order for a seed to grow, you have to plant it in fertile ground and water and nourish it. Once you have your idea plant it – or write it down – so you don’t forget it and you can start planning the story.
Nourish your magnificent story idea by discovering who your main characters are. Give them names, motivations, and flaws. A great resource I use for finding character names is this random name generator. It allows you to choose categories for the name, ethnicity, fantasy, mythology, etc. Make sure to write down the ones you like as they come up because you never know when the name can come in handy later.
Build the world in which your characters will live and where they’ll begin their new adventure. World building is essential for your story. Have a general concept of the setting that will give you a launching point to start writing. Your world won’t be perfect at the beginning it will grow and become more defined as you write the rest of the novel and revise. I like to build Pinterest boards for the stories I’m writing so I have a visual to fall back on as I’m writing. It also helps to spark some new ideas for the story.
Create conflict between your characters and give them something to fight for and against in order drive the story forward. Having at least the basics for a plot will help you to move the story along and have an end goal to work toward.
Once you have those 3 main components of your idea, you’ll be well on your way to putting your thoughts into words.
2. Find yourself a place
Before you start writing, you need to find a place where you can sit down and write with little to no interruptions. This can be one space or more than one. It can be somewhere in your home, at school, at your nearby park, cafe, or even a space at work for when you’re on a break. Make it a place where you know you will be able to sit down and focus and be able to write. When you find yourself in unfamiliar environments, it becomes a distraction and prohibits you from being able to actually focus and write.
When you find your space, get it rid of any and all distractions and make it your own with whatever you want. If it’s somewhere outside the home, choose your booth, your table, your power socket and make a mental note to yourself to mark it as your own.
Every time you come to this place make sure that you’re putting your full focus and energy to writing. Your designated place is for writing and nothing else.
3. Limit or cut out all of your distractions.
Social media is the number one culprit for distractions. If you find yourself browsing Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and repeat when you should be writing – you need to turn them off. If your self-control is lacking, there is a fantastic writing tool I like to use whenever I need to focus. It’s called Freedom. In just a matter of minutes you can select those notorious social media websites sucking your time away and Freedom will block them for a set amount of time. Sitting down to write for an hour? Block your specified sites for one hour so you can be free to write your novel. It not only works on your computer but your phone too! That way you can be free from both distractions so you can dedicate all the time you need in order to work on your novel.
This is a great tool for work too. If you’re surfing the web when you should be working, turn Freedom on and be free to work and write or do whatever you need to do without any distractions.
4. Set aside a specific time each day
If you’re going to write you need to to set aside a specific time each day when you know you’re going to write. Don’t just jot down in your planner “Write Today.” Actually specify a time. If you’re more productive in the mornings, set an alarm in your phone for when you need to write. Do you have have more time late in the evenings? Set aside a specified amount of time when you can sit down and write. When you stick to a schedule and write at the same time everyday, you’ll be much more likely to develop a habit of it. Even if you chug out a few words during your writing time, it’s much better than nothing!
5. Commit to a set amount of words
Once you’ve set aside your dedicated time to write, commit to a set amount of words to write. This will be a goal you can keep in mind for each writing session. If you commit to a specific amount of words for each day and reach it, just imagine how much closer you’ll be to writing the end of the novel!
Think of it this way, if you write at least 1,000 words every single day for 80 days, you’ll have written 80,000 words – which is about the average length of a novel! Imagine that! In just 2 and a half months, you could write an entire novel! Starting with small goals in order to reach the big one – a finished novel – you’ll find much more success.
6. Keep your snack stash handy
Every writer needs fuel in order to be able to chug out 1,000 words a day. Keep a stash of your favorite candy, snacks, or drinks in your designated writing place that you can snack on whenever you’re running low. Keep it easily accessible so you can fuel your brain, imagination and creativity. It’ll give you something to chomp on while you pound out those pesky words into your novel. Make sure to keep your consumption manageable so you’re not consuming too much unhealthy food, but everyone deserves some chocolate every once in a while. If it helps, keep a stash of healthy snacks like carrots, nuts, string cheese or whatever yummy goodness that will keep you going.
7. Have a place to take notes for when inspiration strikes
Inspiration strikes when you least expect it. In the shower, in the middle of class, while you’re driving, when you’re in a movie, when you’re trying to sleep, or on vacation. Don’t let it catch you off guard. Have something handy where you can write down the idea or else you’re going to lose it. If you’re old-school, keep a notepad and paper in your pocket or your purse that you can use to write down your ideas. I like to use my phone to jot down notes that I have whenever they strike because I always have it on me.
The number one lesson, don’t assume that you’ll remember the idea later because you most likely won’t. Write it down! Even if you do end up remembering it, if you write it down you can still revisit the idea in your phone or notepad and have more detailed descriptions of the idea so you can implement it into your story.
8. Don’t edit!
As you start writing, don’t expect it to be perfect.
Your first draft will never, ever be perfect.
If you’ve written out the first sentence of your novel and you keep rewriting it, just stop. Write out the sentence. Then write out another. And another. Don’t go back and edit any of the sentences. Let your brain run freely without concentrating. Just write whatever comes to mind at that moment in time.
Even if you do hate it, you can make a note to yourself in the margins what you do or do not like about it so when you do come back to it (after you’ve finished the novel) you can remember to delete or edit it accordingly. Keep writing and don’t stop. Don’t edit. Keep moving forward and you’ll get that first draft finally finished. Once it’s finished you can go back and start editing. That’s the fun part!
9. Write the parts you’re excited to write
Writer’s block is the number one killer of novels. No matter what anyone tells you, the only thing standing in between you and writer’s block is yourself. Power through! But if you still find yourself staring at that blank page and you have 0 ideas, one trick that helps me is to working on something else. Work on another project to keep up your writing habit or just write what you want.
Write the parts you’re excited to write! There will be scenes in the novel you’re writing that you’re looking forward to more than others. If you’re caught in some boring exposition or rising action, but you want to get to the climax – write the climax! It’s not a sin to write out of order. You don’t have to start at the very beginning and write chronologically until the end. Start writing your novel where you want to write.
Another useful trick is when you are writing a scene that excites you – stop in the middle of it. Write the beginning of the exciting scene then come back to it the next day and finish writing. Make a note to yourself about the direction you want to go next so you don’t forget. Once you’ve had time to do other things and sleep on it, you can come back to write with more motivation to finish the scene and power through the next.
10. Take breaks
There are some crazy people out there who can chug out an entire novel in a week or even a day. I’m not one of those people and probably neither are you. Don’t let the novel stress you out. It’s okay to take breaks. Though you should be writing every day, it’s okay to skip some days. Life happens and there are other things that have need of your full attention.
Take your dog for a walk, go for a drive through town, take a shower, visit a friend, call your parents, etc. Don’t lock yourself in a closet all day, every day in order to write. Do something useful that will help fuel your imagination and give you the social interactions you so desperately need. Life doesn’t stop for writing. We can make time for it in our day but some days we just need to rest and recuperate so when we do come back to write the words begin to flow like a rushing river.
If you implement these 10 steps into your life, you’ll not only finish writing a novel but you’ll have developed a habit of writing that you can carry out through the rest of the year and the rest of your life. Don’t let excuses stop you from writing that novel you want to write. Do whatever you can to start now so you can finish sooner rather than never.