With the proliferation of ‘How to Write a Novel’ courses lately you can be forgiven in thinking that writing a novel requires all kind of expertise before you begin. This is not the case. Writing is an exploratory process and only by writing can you find out what it is you’re trying to say. In our free five-minute video series 30 Days to Better Writing Habits here you will find all the tricks and tips to help you draft your novel.
Here are six tips to get you started:
1. The first draft helps you find out what your story is really about
You need to get the first draft written as quickly as you can. I don’t mean in a week or a month but the idea is not to go back and make your words perfect as you go but to write through to the end as quickly as you can. This is because what most often happens is you’ll find that you want to change the beginning anyway – it’s only as you write your way into your story that you know what you really want to say.
2. The voices in your head will always be there – acknowledge them and move on
If you spend a lot of time making the beginning perfect you might find that you’re going to ditch it and that would be a little bit heartbreaking. There is a tendency to get halfway through a story and give up because it’s so tedious. It’s called the messy middle and sometimes you don’t find your way out the other side.
In our Framework for Narrative Writing we encourage you in the first draft to push your way through to the end even if you feel yourself getting bogged down. Trust me, when you come out the other end and look back you’ll discover that it wasn’t as
bad as you thought it was going to be.
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3. Writing is a habit
As we work our way through our 30-day Writing Habits I’m thinking that we’re getting to a stage where you’re starting to wonder what you’re doing and you’re starting to say, ‘Oh, this is a mess.’ You’re starting to doubt and those voices in your head are really starting to ramp it up.
My advice to you is to keep writing. You can spend your spare time doing plots and diagrams and outlines and all those kinds of things but, remember, your main part of your writing day is to get words on the page because we can fix them. I keep saying that we can fix them but not if you haven’t written them down.
4. Aim for the sky
Tracey Pedersen, a romance author who joined me on the podcast recently here, is part of a group called the 1 Million Words facebook group and their plan is that everyone in the group writes a million words in 2018. It sounds daunting but they’ve worked out how many words a day and it’s three thousand word. Suddenly, it seems achievable. The group started in January and some members wrote a hundred and twenty thousand in January.
There are people turning out huge word counts and there are people who was still talking about starting. In 30 Days to Better Writing Habits you can make a start. One day you can aim for one hundred and twenty thousand words in a month but it’s more important to get some consistency around what you’re doing.
5. Trust your ideas
You need to allow your subconscious brains to kick in and as you write you’ll be surprised at how you start to live and breathe your story. You’ll find you’re walking around and you’ll get ideas. You’ll write these ideas on scraps of paper – I hope you have paper and pens everywhere – so you can jot down these ideas as they come. Sometimes, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night and you’re scrambling around for a pen until your partner or your husband tells you politely to go back to sleep please, and you know you’re hooked.
This is what starts to happen when you write everyday, when the habit of writing starts to take hold, and it’s only through habits and bum on chair that the first draft will start to take shape. You can see that you’re making progress. Your words are a mess but they’re your mess and you’re proud of them.
6. Keep going
It’s now you have the confidence that when you forget what your saying you skip four lines and keep on typing. You have some characters you like and things happening in your story that you like. You have research to do that you didn’t know needed doing a week ago. You’re writing your novel. And if you want to aim for a million words why not why not go for the sky because if you fail what’s the worst thing that could happen? That you write 500 thousand words? That’s still a few novels worth of words.
So, here’s your chance to get into the writing habit, be consistent, and realise this thing you’re trying to achieve is not actually that difficult after all.
Happy writing xx