Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Your Novel Writing Resolution

This will be the last writing post of the year. I'll take a break during the holidays and be back in the new year.

A lot of people may try to write a novel during National Novel Writing Month in November, but I suspect a lot of people also make a new year's resolution to write a novel. If you're planning to make 2017 the year you finally write that book you've always wanted to write, here are a few tips to get it done.

You can start working on it now -- maybe not writing, but this is a good time to start thinking. What story do you want to write? Who are the characters? What are the conflicts? What is the setting? Is there any research you need to do? The more you think about it, the more ready you'll be to start writing, and the less likely you are to fizzle out after the part that came with the initial idea is done. If you aren't sure what you need to figure out, try writing down everything you know about this idea. You'll soon see what parts need to be better developed before you can start writing.

When making your writing plans, set realistic goals based on your writing pace and the time you have available to write. If all you want is to finish a novel by the end of the year, just writing a page a day will get you there. It's better to set an easy goal you're sure to achieve (and even top) than an overly ambitious goal that you're likely to miss on a regular basis. If your goal is to write five pages and you write two, you feel like you've failed and are running behind. If your goal is to write one page and you write two, you feel a sense of accomplishment and triumph that will give you some momentum into the next day. You can always up your goal after you've established a habit and can see what your pace really is.

But you don't have to write every day to succeed. I keep seeing that advice from writers who claim that if you don't write every day, you're not a real writer, and it's nonsense. You're a writer if you write, period. You can get that book done in a year whether you write one page a day, seven pages on a Saturday, or three and a half pages on Saturday and three and a half pages on Sunday. Unless you're a full-time writer, you have to fit your writing around your existing life, which probably includes things like work, family, and taking care of your home, maybe even a social life. However, that doesn't mean you can use life as an excuse. You just need to take it into consideration when you schedule writing time like it's an appointment. When I was working full-time, I designated writing days and life days on weeknights -- I tried to cram all after-work errands, appointments and weekday activities into certain nights, leaving other nights entirely free. I didn't expect much from myself on weeknight writing sessions, just enough to keep the momentum going, and then I tried to get serious amounts of work done in marathon sessions on Friday nights and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Other people have great success fitting in small bits of writing in every little bit of free time -- a page at lunch, a paragraph or two every time they pass the computer. Some people are most productive if they get up and get their writing done first thing in the morning, before work and life. Others do best at the end of the day, after taking care of everything else. There's no one right answer. You just need to figure out what works for you.

Don't give up if you falter. Just get started again. No one will know when they read the finished product whether you stuck to your schedule or had to catch up. The point is to get it done. If you don't have a contracted deadline, you're not even obligated to finish the book this year.

Try to get a good way into the book before you let yourself give up on that story. Sometimes you do figure out that a story idea isn't viable, but if you've never written a whole book before, it's hard to tell whether you're dealing with a non-viable story or whether you're just stuck and need to work through it. You may need more brainstorming or research. Don't ditch the book you're working on if you get a brilliant new idea. The more you write, the more creative you get, so the ideas will start flowing. Don't let them distract you. Write them down and keep going. You need to finish something if you're ever going to go anywhere. A half dozen partial novels won't do you any good. You can do something with a completed novel.

Have a reward in mind for finishing your project. Visualize that reward when you want to give up (and it's not fair to cheat and reward yourself without reaching your goal).

Good luck, and have fun!

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