Writing a novel is not as difficult as you might think, and completing a novel is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world. However, it’s not without it’s problems.
Many people dream of writing the great American novel, you know the one, the book that gets accepted and published by a traditional publisher, hits the New York Times bestseller list and the author makes loads of money and never has to work a traditional job again. Unfortunately, this can be an unrealistic view of what being a successful writer entails. I don’t mean to say this doesn’t happen but it’s rare. If you are serious about being a writer and successfully writing a novel for publication then there are some steps which may help you along your journey.
1. You should treat your writing as though it were any other job. Now I realize this sounds ominous to those of you who may view your writing as relaxing and fun, but I’ve found if I don’t treat my writing as though it were a job, I don’t write. The main point I’m making here is that you must carve out specified blocks of time each day to work on your writing.
2. Exercise each day. No, I don’t mean go sit on your exercise bike for 30 minutes, I mean practice your writing. You can do this by keeping a journal or diary, writing short articles, or writing poetry. I’m sure if you think about it you can come up with others.
3. Make sure you show and not tell. This was one of the biggest roadblocks for me when I began writing as I had a tendency to “tell” my story rather than “showing” the reader what was happening. Showing is where you use descriptive language to create a picture that the reader can see in his/her mind, whereas telling is where you simply are relating what happens without giving the reader any language that helps them see it in their mind.
4. Create goals for your writing. Goals such as how many pages, paragraphs, or words you’d like to write each day. Also keep track of the goals you complete on a calendar, that way you can see how often you reach your goals, and if you don’t reach them you can come up with ideas to better reach them.
5. Write in the same place every day, and make sure it is a place where you won’t be disturbed for your set amount of writing time. On the couch with your laptop or notebook propped on your legs watching television would not be a good choice. Neither would a room with no door that can be shut, or which is close to where there are a lot of distractions such as the noise of people talking.
6. Carry a letter sized notebook with you at all times to write or sketch ideas that come to you for your current book, or future novels, articles or poems. That way you don’t forget them, and trust me you will if you don’t write them down.
7. Be careful of who you allow to read the drafts of your novel, make sure it is someone you trust and whom you know will give constructive and useful criticism, if criticism is necessary. If you know your mother, spouse, best friend, sister whomever doesn’t support the idea of your writing then don’t allow them to read your drafts, in fact you don’t even have to tell them about your writing. Negative criticism has often been the culprit for preventing truly great works from both being completed and published. Don’t let your novel be one of those by not letting those you know who are going to be negative read it. Save yourself some heartache and choose wisely. Sometimes total strangers are the best to critique your manuscript. There are many places online to post your manuscript or portions of it to be critiqued.
8. Utilize down times to write such as when you are riding public transportation, or waiting in the doctor’s office. Most of us hold down regular jobs in addition to our writing so carving out blocks of time can sometimes be difficult. If you utilize your down times as writing times you’ll be able to write more and schedule greater amounts of time to write, which will put you that much closer to completing your writing project.
9. Be willing to write crap. Often it is out of what we consider to be some of our worst writing that gold nuggets can be found. Sometimes it is just an idea, or maybe we realize a better way to write a scene. Whatever gold nuggets you pull from your writing whether you consider it to be your worst or only your semi-worst, being willing to continue writing and working through these times when you think what you’re writing is truly bad is one of the keys to finishing the first draft to your novel.
While these certainly aren’t the only steps to successfully completing the first draft of your novel, I’ve found them to be the key steps. I encourage you to add others as you find them, as I’m sure you will. In the end it is only you who can choose which steps work best for you.