…this blog post is for you!
Earlier this year, I typed “The End” on my first ever novel-length manuscript. Let me tell you, there’s not much that compares! I may have jumped around, yelled, cried happy tears, and/or called all my biggest supporters to shriek the news at them.
Writing a novel is something I always dreamed of doing, but never thought I would actually do. I’m a busy person. I’ve got a job, a family, friends, and I coach high school athletics. How would I find the time? I didn’t take any writing courses in college. I’m a science major. Even if I had lots of ideas, how would I know how to shape them?
A novelist is a magical person who can weave worlds out of nothing, right? That’s not me! I’m just… me.
Here’s the truth of the matter: anyone, with enough dedication, can write a novel.
Some may require more effort to do so than others. For example, a person with less experience or natural ability may have to work harder than a person who has knowledge or is blessed with loads of talent. But, either way, YOU CAN WRITE A NOVEL. You can!
Though I don’t claim to be an expert, I’d love to share some tips and tricks I picked up as I worked through my first draft. Hopefully they’ll help another writer achieve their dream, too.
1. MAKE time to write
- No matter what.
My schedule as I wrote Into the Fire was insane. I work full time. I take care of my family, including shuttling a teen around to social engagements and activities. My son needed help with remote learning. Despite Covid, I coached two seasons of high school cheer. If you’d asked me a year ago whether I could’ve done ANYTHING extra with all that going on, I would’ve laughed out loud.
Here’s the thing – life’s always busy, and a novel doesn’t come together overnight. It takes consistent, scheduled effort. Personally, I got up around 4 am almost every week day for months to get writing time in. I was able to write from about four to seven each day. Was I tired? Absolutely. But I made myself get up and do it anyway. (Coffee helps!)
2. Just put words down
I’ve tried to write novels before Into the Fire, but I always failed. Why? I was wayyy too worried about perfection right out of the gate. I’d start a new idea, but never be happy with my openings. Inevitably, I’d lose interest and give up.
Don’t be like this! There’s plenty of opportunity to clean up your prose and refine your ideas in the editing phase. In fact, I’d say that’s where writing really happens. Like a carver creating a masterpiece from of a block of stone, this is where you shape your lump of words into something beautiful. Your first draft is nothing more than rough stone. You’ll carve it up and smooth it out later. The words don’t have to be good. Keep going!
3. Create accountability
Find a critique partner, a Book Coach, or even just a supportive friend or family member to send chapters to. Having a deadline each week is a great way to ensure you’re making time to write, even when it’s hard.
4. Make a writing space free of distractions
Have kids? Pets? A significant other? It’s hard to write when the people you live with don’t understand the level of concentration needed to do what you’re doing. Communicate with them, and create a space in your home (or elsewhere) that you can go to get a few minutes to yourself. Continual interruptions result in frustration and a lack of progress – they did for me, anyway! Thank goodness for early mornings and supportive spouses.
5. Figure out what inspires you
Why did I get through a draft for Into the Fire and not the other stories I’ve tried to write? Because Into the Fire inspired me like no idea I’ve had before. I loved the characters. I loved their relationships. I loved the story. Into the Fire wouldn’t let me stop writing it even if I wanted to!
In order to achieve the dedication necessary, it helps to have a story idea that lights you up. If you don’t love what you’re writing, you won’t get through it.
6. Take notes
Inspiration can strike anywhere, any time. It’s impossible to remember all the little ideas you might have throughout the day (and night). Into the Fire wouldn’t be the story it is without the Notes app in my iPhone!
7. Use your support system
Ask your spouse to watch the kids so you can have an hour to write. Ask your librarian friend to read over your chapter and give you feedback. Join writing groups and find critique partners. This is an undertaking that requires support – both emotional and practical.
On that note, if you can afford a Book Coach, I’d highly recommend making use of one – especially if you’ve never studied the craft. I was 35k words into what I like to call draft zero of Into the Fire when I decided to hire Savannah Gilbo to coach me. I knew what I wanted to do with the story but had a LOT of questions. Similar to taking a college course, my goal with Savannah was to learn and grow as a writer. Not only did I learn an incredible amount, but I found one of my biggest supporters in her as well.
8. Remember why you started
When the going gets hard – and it will – remember what made you sit down and start typing. What’s your ‘why’? Put reminders around your writing area so you can look at them when you feel like giving up.
Following these eight strategies, I wrote my first draft in five months. If you’re a writer, what tips or tricks would you add to the list? If you’re a hopeful novelist, what tips and tricks will you implement to reach your “The End” moment?
Let me know in the comments!