Five Steps to Getting Your Novel Written

When you’re in a rut, the last thing you want to hear is how critical plotting is to creating a successful novel. You know it’s true, but knowing it is not going to get it done. In fact, all the plotting and planning in the world won’t get the book past page 20, let alone finished.

Five Steps to Getting Your Novel Written

1. Write every day

It seems like such a simple thing, but really how many of us truly sit down every day and bang it out for a few hours? Do you compromise on time? Spend a little too long at the cafe (or in bed)? Are you writing on Christmas day?

Everything from this point forward depends on you being focused on hitting the keyboard every day without fail.

2. Separate editing and writing

I’ve read accounts of authors who cannot move on until a single page is perfect, and I assume that some of these tales are even true. However, editing while writing is the fastest way to kill a novel.

I mean, how on earth will you get the raw materials that editing requires if you do not spend a substantial and focused period of time just banging it out?

3. Forget yourself

I get in the way of my writing.

That sentence probably doesn’t sound grammatically correct, but you probably get it anyway. The truth is that you, the writer, are your greatest enemy. You fear success. You fear failure. You fear that you’re unworthy, lack credentials, or you’re just not good enough.


Every writer has some hang-up like this (or perhaps a party assortment of a dozen or two). You can’t stop it, but you can beat it. Just learn to forget yourself.

I find that the best way to forget yourself is to write every day without fail (see above). Spend 20 minutes just typing away. Even if that typing is nothing more than kvetching about not writing, just do it. Keep the fingers going and eventually you will start to forget that you are there and begin to produce. Consider it a warm-up exercise.

4. Keep your mouth shut

Like you, I’ve had ideas for six different novels this morning. Some are good and some are bad. Most will be forgotten before I get to the end of this paragraph. The thing is, I’m not going to tell you about these ideas. It’s killing me not to say something about this one, but I’m not going to do it.

There is nothing like the desire to tell a secret to keep you moving forward.

As writers, we have a natural desire to put our stories before others and to see their reaction to just how wonderful and brilliant we are. We want to entertain, provoke, satisfy, and please. Even if you are the most introverted person on earth, you still want a reader (and lots of them if possible). You just may not wish to get up in front of them and read your story out loud.

The problem is that so many writers get into blabbing their stories before they’re done that they end up talking themselves out of writing the story. The story’s been told after all, why write it? Or, you might talk yourself out of writing the story because there is something illogical or your mom thinks its a bad idea (by the way, she never will). Just keep a lid on it until you have the first draft of the whole book in hand. Personally, I’d keep it under wraps until the second draft is done.

5. Breathe

Writing a novel is a long battle. It is going to take you months if not years. You need to approach the project with that in mind. If you tell yourself otherwise, you’ll only get frustrated when you’re going through that third revision and everything seems like crap.Breathe. Relax a bit.

This doesn’t mean slack off, just try to keep perspective on the end goal.

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