From Procrastination to Celebration
I’ve been trying to write a novel since childhood. For some reason, it was much easier to write my first book (non-fiction) than it has been to complete my debut novel. But I’m done – whoop!!! And I’m celebrating today with a blog on my fave tips for finishing your novel. Among other ways, of course.
1) Know that Nobody Cares
The cruel truth is that the world is not waiting for your book – and if you’re like almost all first-time novel writers – nobody cares if you write it or not.
Really. They don’t.
Except you, that is. So you have to fight for it. Yes, I know, it sounds a little cold. And I’m sure you have loved ones and friends who encourage you and want to see you happy. I know I do. But in the harsh light of day, it’s only you that cares about this. So this brings me onto tip #2:
2) Become Pigheaded
There are a hundred other things you should be doing today, rather than advancing your novel. I read The One Thing, and this helped me a lot in this department. Each month I began printing out a calendar for that month. I would place a golden X for each day I worked on my novel, for a minimum of 25 minutes. My inner nerd was thrilled to see X’s building up. Twenty-five minutes is not very long – this meant that every day this would be possible no matter what. Even on days when I hated my book and my writing and felt like giving up entirely.
3) Reach out to other writers – but don’t join the procrastination club.
When I first started this website, I came across lots of writer hashtags, and “met” other writers like me. It was a lot of fun to know there were others, all over the world, struggling too. And it’s not just struggling. The last two and a half years have been a joy. I’ve been so happy to be writing this book.
An excellent way to focus yourself is to set goals – and a time limit – when hopping on to social media to network.
Q: How much time do I want to spend doing this today?
Q: What do I want to achieve from it?
Check back later to see if you honoured/achieved these. Other writers can be very cool people with immensely helpful tips. I’ve learned a lot from my peers. Sometimes though, you might find yourself on social media chatting to other writers when you should be tap, tap, tapping away at your book instead.
You might be lucky enough to find an accountability partner who you can check in with each week as to your writing goals and challenges. I did, and it’s super helpful.
4) Keep Making Goals
Goals are what keeps us stretching ourself to the next stage. Writing the first novel is a mammoth task. Break it down into chunks. Goal examples include:
- Word count goals, e.g. get to 40,000 words by the end of this month.
- Editing goals, e.g. run chapters 1-10 through Grammarly and/or ProWrtingAid by Friday.
- Research Guatemalan priests by the end of this week and answer the questions I have for my book about this.
- Finish chapter 22 by the end of this week.
You get the idea. I often stuck my monthly goals up on a notice board so I could see a hard copy of them regularly. There’s something about paper as opposed to digital for me. If you didn’t achieve your goal, the next time set a more achievable one. If you always set the bar too high, you will become used to never achieving your goals – and use this to beat yourself up. You won’t finish your novel that way.
I found that by making my goals a little too easy, I often ended up achieving even more. When I set the bar too high, I got annoyed with myself and disheartened.
Not sure what goals to choose from? Take a look at my blog on Powerful Questions.
Your goals might not all be about writing the novel. They might be connected to the bigger picture, such as building your author platform or networking with potential agents or publishers or other people who will help you on your journey. Always come back to the book, though. Without your novel being finished, all the other stuff doesn’t matter.
5 ) Use BiteSize Sessions when Writing Feels Intimidating
Whatever you choose to do – it has to be do-able.
I am not Stephen King – and I used the Pomodoro method for writing a lot for writing my latest book. It involves 25-minute sessions of writing (or editing) using a timer. You can just stick to 25 mins or put the timer on again as many times as you like. It’s totally do-able and the time usually flies – even if you were in knots of frustration and trepidation beforehand.
6) Learn from People in the Know
Those who have had success in writing or that know the publishing business have much wisdom to share. I have learned so much over the past three years about writing a novel. You could say, I overdid it at times. Spending more time learning about it than actually doing it. But, well, here I am at the end of a novel. So who cares? I’m going to share some resources I have found helpful:
- Jane Friedman and especially her book ‘How to Publish Your Book,’ but her blog is great too.
- Joanna Penn and her many books, blogs and podcasts.
- The Novelry community/blog/courses.
Did I just contradict myself? I said get pigheaded; make your novel your ONE THING. Huh?? Yes, but life still goes on around you. As a coach, I like to use The Wheel of Life to look at how things are balancing. To enjoy writing your novel, other areas of your life need to work okay too.
To be present for family members, I mostly do my writing early in the morning. And because it’s quiet and free from distractions. Last year I wrote a blog on Mindfulness for Writers. Personally, my writing goes better if I make time to meditate and exercise regularly.
I also love entering short story competitions. The short story can feel very refreshing when you’re working on a novel.
I have a confession to make:
Your novel won’t be finished. Not ever. The most finished it gets is when it’s in print, and there’s not much you can do, besides launching a revised edition, to change it. However, I like to look at finishing a novel as being like a pyramid. In the beginning, you are at the bottom—lots of space there. Don’t know the whole plot yet. Lots of choices and unanswered questions.
Moving up the pyramid space gets smaller, but there’s still loads to do, and you might still feel lost. Towards the top of the pyramid you are polishing, editing, tweaking, and perhaps even still ironing out kinks in the plot.
I love this blog by Julian Gough that tells me it’s okay to not know the end of your novel right until the end, as that was true for me, and it used to stress me out no end apart from when I remembered that.
It feels good at the top of the pyramid. There’s a fantastic view here. Keep going. And tell me in the comments where you are in your book and what challenges you at the moment.
PS) Here’s a blog I wrote two years ago today on where I was at back then – 19th of May 2018. Take a peek.