If you are new to writing a novel, then you are no doubt unsure of how to go about the creative project. You don’t know if you should jump straight into it and see how far you get, or whether you should take it slow and plan everything out. You don’t know how to put your personality into your novel, or if you even should.
In this blog post, I will tell you what you need to do to make your writing process simple and even enjoyable!
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Set Goals and then Excel at Them
It doesn’t just pay to set goals for your writing project, it is essential for guaranteeing completion.
Any and every writer wants to ensure they finish their writing project. Too often writers start writing their novel, then something distracts them or their inspiration dwindles. The writing so enthusiastically started is abandoned, unfinished and quite often, never to be finished. The writer’s only obligation to the project was the mood swing that made them begin, but that passed.
Thus, a writer needs to quickly establish another reason to write before they lose interest.
A writer could make a bet with themselves, offering a reward for completion and punishment for abandoning the project. A writer could turn to a friend or family member for help, asking them to remind them to write. Or a writer could team up with another writer starting a novel, then check in with each other to encourage writing.
Yet, the most simple solution is to set word count goals.
“Every day I will write 250 words until I finish the book!” most writers will say, planning weekly word goals.
Some will set deadlines, different goals for certain days and even push goals. Yet, when all this planning and effort is done, it always pays to excel at these preset goals. Having a goal of 500 words is great, but the days where you write 750 or even 1000 words are the ones you are really proud of.
Once you have set yourself goals, work hard to adhere to them. These goals can easily be forgotten, so having stakes to consider or moral support helps as well.
Plan Your Project Out, but Change Plans Often
Planning a novel, as all my followers know, is something I keenly encourage. It is a process that can be extraordinarily fun, depending on the scale of your project.
For writers who want to create an in-depth, fictional world, it allows them to construct societies, important figures, languages, lore and so much more. Creating the world alone could be as big of a project as writing the novel itself if the writer desired to spend that much time and energy exploring the scope of their creation.
However, it can be just as enjoyable on a small scale. When planning a story, chapter by chapter, a writer can easily develop new ideas for the story. The writer considers the characters, the goals by the end of each chapter, the scenes and the dialogue. Some ideas are too good to merely consider, so they are written down and become an integral part of the story.
Yet, with all this planning, one must take into account their creative freedom when writing.
Some writers enjoy following their plans to the letter and they can’t imagine writing their book without them. However, some writers find that their instincts and writing style steer the story in a slightly different direction, requiring them to adjust their plans or rewrite them.
Personally speaking, if I was to plan a novel, I would ensure that the skeleton of the plot remained vague enough for me to adjust without breaking the story. Perhaps I enjoyed a character so much that I want to include them more often, or perhaps I devised a bigger threat than the antagonist I planned, thus the ending needs to change slightly.
It could be anything that requires adjustment, so I don’t want the slight turn in the story to make all my planning for nought. Instead, I want to make minor adjustments and continue without much delay.
Of course, reading these different types of story planning, you no doubt know which one appeals to you most.
Write Without Hesitation, Don’t Look Back
With all the plans set and the writing goals in mind, it is time to start writing!
Writing without hesitation is a simple element of writing that I encourage. It boosts productivity, it makes the most of your energy and your story flows with your keen instincts for storytelling.
The only downside of this method of writing is that what you have written comes out as a chaotic mess by the end. You have spelling errors by the truckload, grammar mistakes that would make your first-language teacher red in the face and a story that can only be deciphered by you.
Does this sound like a bad thing? It shouldn’t, because this is a great thing.
You’re not going to take this first draft, slap a cover on it and start pitching it to publishers. Instead, you are going to start the next phase of your writing journey; editing or rewriting. You are going to read your draft, fix those mistakes, improve scenes with rewrites and so on.
Yet, if you are writing a few hundred words, then go back and read over it, you will kiss your writing goals goodbye. It might seem like a good idea to take it slow, ensure perfection and then move on. On paper, that does sound like a better option, but when you consider the human mind, which has many distractions, mood swings and a range of writing blocks that strive to keep you from continuing your project, you realise it would be better to write your story before you edit it.
That’s because the mentality for correcting something is easy to switch to. It’s easy to frown at a sentence and rewrite it or omit it completely. Yet, it is difficult to write something new. To create requires imagination, time and effort. You don’t want to waste all three on something like editing your work before you even finish the chapter, let alone the story.
I should know, I have made this mistake many times and have regretted it each time. By the time I finally caught up to where I left off, I found myself struggling to write those next few hundred words.
Write without hesitation, don’t look back.
Edit Without Mercy
Speaking of editing, it is recommended that when you are tackling the task of reviewing your work and making corrections, that you do so without mercy.
As an editor, your job is to find sections of the novel that simply don’t work and make them work. We have all sorts of apps and services that help us correct spelling errors and even effectively correct our grammar mistakes, but when it comes to writing, that is all on you.
Some sections might appeal to you and you think that they are good enough to be left alone. Yet, you might have a section that breaks the flow of your story, it doesn’t feel right for a character to act that way or say those things. Perhaps a description comes off a little too dark or a little too happy.
It’s a challenge then to distance yourself enough from the story that you still have the story in mind, but you are also reading the story as if it is your first time. You can see the mistakes with fresh eyes, you can find the clashes in atmosphere and style. From there, you can either highlight it in red and come back to it later or tackle the rewrite straight away.
Now, I would be remiss to not talk about full rewrites; second or even third drafts.
While it may appeal to some writers, it certainly does not appeal to many. Yes, some bigshots recommend complete rewrites and some don’t. All of them understand the heavy task of tackling a large project from scratch, but some choose to do so anyway and can report nothing but good things. Others do not.
If you are wondering what kind of writer you will be, that can only be answered when you have finished your first draft. If you, by the end of your novel, feel like writing it again with the knowledge you have and saving the editing process for later, then feel free.
However, if you have finished your first draft and believe the editing process is all you need to be happy with your story, then do that. There is no right or wrong, it comes down to personal preference.
Once Done, Do It Again
That brings us to the final stage of your writing journey. You have your book, it is edited, it has a cover and you’ve read through it several times just to make absolutely sure you are happy with it. You have sent letters and chapters to all sorts of publishers, or perhaps you have self-published your book, or simply just had it printed for yourself and it is resting on your shelf.
Well, I recommend that after completing this difficult, lengthy and creatively-straining project, that you do it again. Write a new book, a new story, or perhaps tackle writing a sequel. Whatever you decide to write about, just start writing again.
As a writer, nothing beats the feeling of being on a roll. Taking a break from writing is certainly deserved, but that doesn’t mean you should. Your mind is constantly thinking, ideas are constantly forming and inspiration can hit you at any time. It would be a shame to give it a miss because you wrote a book recently and think you should take a long break, or even give up writing completely.
Some writers even come up with ideas for new books while writing another book. These ideas are often so appealing that a writer pursues them instead of their initial inspiration. It’s not uncommon to do so.
Start from square one again.
Take some time to get a grip on your idea, look at similar examples and then start planning it out. People spend years working on their hobbies, not to mention their careers. Writing, whether it be a hobby or a career for you, should be treated the same way. Keep the cogs in your mind turning, don’t let it get lazy, don’t let it get rusty. Otherwise, the next time you start writing, you will be shocked and frustrated to find it’s just as difficult to start writing again as it was the first time.
You could start small, writing short stories or doing some writing challenges now and then, but if you truly enjoyed writing a full novel, then you will enjoy writing another.
There you have it; all you need to do when writing a book.
Of course, this is my take on the essential elements of writing a novel. There are no doubt some writers reading this that have their own methods, their own style for writing that is fundamentally different from my own.
Yet, what works for some can work for others. If you are new to writing, I hope that you found this information useful. I hope I conveyed the charm that is writing a novel, from the particular nuances that you can be so involved with to the bigger picture that wraps all these details into a coherent, enjoyable plot.
If you are an experienced writer, or even a new writer trying things out, let me know what you find essential to your writing process. What is it that you feel you need to do when writing a novel?
Thank you for reading and as always,
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!