I started writing journals in 1990. I was 15, and I dreamed of being a novelist.
But I didn't seriously commit to writing my first novel until 2009 when I was 34, nearly 20 years later.
Sure, I had plenty of ideas, and I read a LOT of writing books and went to all kinds of writing classes. But I didn't get my butt in the chair and finally get that book written until I sorted out my processes and made the time.
In today's article, Anita Eversen gives some tips on how you can finally write your novel.
You’re not the only one who wants to write a novel. And maybe you even got started and have an unfinished chapter or two lying around. But to stand out from the crowd, you have to get that novel written. And even though it’s no longer January, it’s not too late to sit down and do what needs to get done.
But how do you actually finish your novel?
After all, there’s a reason why you haven’t completed it yet, maybe even several reasons. Maybe you have four kids like me, each one of them could be a good enough reason never to write a single thing. Maybe you don’t have a plan. Maybe writing a novel is just not that important to you. Most likely, you haven’t made it a priority yet.
If getting your novel written is really your goal, then it’s about time to figure out how to get it done.
How to set the perfect goal for your novel writing journey
If you’re like Stephen King, then you can set a daily word count goal of 2,000 words and publish 3 or 4 books a year. If you have the option to write full-time, because someone else is paying your bills, then you should definitely do that. But for most of us, writing starts out as a part-time gig.
So a reasonable goal might be to write 500 words on at least 4 days every week, or to spend 30 minutes on writing every day. Some days you’ll write a lot, some days you’ll stare at the screen the entire time. But it can be done.
What’s a good goal for you? That all depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
It makes sense to start with the end in mind. When do you want to finish your book? Do you want it done in 6 months? Do you want it finished by the end of the year? How long will your book be? Will it have 50,000 words or 100,000 words or more or less or something in between?
The next step is just doing the math. If you want to write a 50,000-word novel in six months, then you’ll need to write almost 2,000 words a week. If you write 4 days a week, you’ll only need 500 words each day. That’s not so scary, is it? That’s completely doable.
Now you really shouldn’t read the next step until you have figured out what your goal is. So let’s take a moment to write down your final goal. To make life easier for you, you could just fill in the blanks for these sentences.
I’ll have a book with ________ words written by _________. That means I’ll need to write ________ words each week. That’s _______ per day if I write _______ days a week.
Here’s my current goal for an example:
I’ll have a book with 60,000 words written by the end of December. That means I’ll need to write 1,300 words each week. That’s 325 words per day if I write 4 days a week.
By the way, don’t try to aim for writing 7 days out of the week. It won’t happen, at least not for six months straight. You have to give yourself permission to rest, too. Besides, sometimes when you take a writing break, you actually come back more creative, because your brain has been thinking up ideas the entire time.
How to add some incentives to keep yourself on track
Now that you have your goals in place (because you didn’t just skip through that part, did you?), you have to figure out how you can keep yourself on track. Just like losing weight, writing a book takes a tremendous amount of effort and willpower. It helps if you have some incentives to keep you motivated.
Now you probably don’t have the funds to buy yourself a treat every day you meet your writing goal. But you should plan on doing something special when you hit a major milestone. Let’s say you’ve written 10,000 words. Now it’s time to buy yourself that book you’ve been wanting.
Ideally, you’ll write those rewards in your plan. So you’ll know exactly what you’re getting for writing 10,000 words. If the rewards don’t excite you, then you haven’t chosen the right rewards. And if you buy the reward without doing the work, then you’re only cheating yourself.
Why you should plan for accountability – write with a team
Everything is easier when you have a supportive team. Losing weight is easier if you have a buddy tagging along to the gym. Writing is easier if you’re being held accountable by your writing partner. There are several options for this.
You could directly team up with another writer and report to each other about your progress. Of course, this might be more effective in a bigger group. Speaking of groups, there is a Facebook group called “Writing Accountability Group”, where the group’s founder asks about your plans every day without fail. If you tend to waste a lot of time on Facebook, then this might be a good group for you to join.
There are other ways to add some accountability for your writing time. You could take it upon yourself to post to social media to your friends every day about your achievements. You could make a public bet to hold yourself accountable. You could suggest that if you don’t follow through with your plan, you’ll have to do something really humiliating.
You could also hire a coach, much like a workout coach, to keep you accountable. All in all, there is no shortage of possibilities, and most of them are free. You just have to take them!
It's time to create an action plan – why it makes sense to plan your steps in advance
Do you know why successful people schedule personal tasks? That’s because that’s the only way to ensure they get done. You put a dentist visit on the schedule, because it has to get done. Similarly, you should put writing on the schedule if you’re serious about finishing your novel (or nonfiction book).
A good plan is the plan that works for you. But it needs to be in writing, and you need to do your best to stick to it. Otherwise, it’s just another dream that will fizzle out.
Follow this #1 tip – do the important thing first
Getting something important done is easy, as long as you do the important thing first. There are always urgent things that require your time and attention. And because they’re urgent, they usually get done. But the really important things tend to get put on the backburner. That includes taking time for you, exercising, and writing.
But imagine what your life would be like if you did the important things first? What if you sat down to write before you went to work? What if you got your 500 words in before you went grocery shopping? If you feel overwhelmed with your to-do list, then you should still just do the important things first. The urgent things will get done. And the non-important things don’t need to get done.
Are you writing a novel this year? What kinds of writing strategies work for you to get black on white? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Anita Eversen is the author of The Busy Woman’s Guide to Writing a Novel and co-founder of novel writing software Novelize. Both the book and Novelize focus on helping writers get their novel written. You can find Anita at AnitaEversen.com.