So—you’re writing a novel. You have a magnificent idea. A magnificent plot. Magnificent characters. Maybe you even have a magnificent first draft (though first drafts can rarely be called “magnificent”). Yet despite the fact that you’ve been working on this novel…
You still feel as if it’s going nowhere.
You are not alone in the slightest. Every writer I’ve ever talked to has been in this predicament in one way or another at some point in their careers. This is what I call the “crazy phase” of writing. This is the phase that culls the weak from the herd, so to speak. This is the phase where you stare at the ceiling for hours on end, obsessing over plot holes and lapses in character development and wondering if you’ve always been this bad at writing.
Then, ultimately, you do the absolute worst thing: you give up on your novel.
No. Do not do this. It’s not worth it, I promise you! Part of writing a novel is pushing through the “crazy phase” and proving that you are strong enough to do it! And I have some tips to help you do just that.
#1: Marry Your Novel
Yes, you heard me right. Say “I do” to that ginormous mess of words, page numbers, and headaches. You MUST be committed to your novel in order to finish it. Now, this doesn’t mean you have to be chained to your novel for the rest of your days (divorce is always an option, after all), but once you have committed yourself to a project, try your best to stick with it. By metaphorically “marrying” your novel, you will hopefully think twice when the next tantalizing, juicy “plot bunny” (a persistent new novel idea that has nothing to do with the novel you’re writing) threatens to distract you.
#2: Turn Off the TV
Depending on how addicted you are to technology, this could be either the easiest or most difficult step. Television is wonderful. It’s fun, it’s relaxing, and it allows you to temporarily escape from reality. Unfortunately, it is also incredibly addictive. How many times have you logged into Netflix with the intent of watching just one episode and ended up spending 6 hours paralyzed in front of the screen? Don’t lie to me, you know you’ve done it. You cannot successfully write a novel if you regularly squander your weekends and free time watching The Office for the 5,000th time. My advice is to cut out the television cold turkey. The first week or so will be rough, but after a while you will get used to it, and I promise you: writing will be much easier.
#3: Take Inventory
I don’t know about you, but I am a very messy writer. My work for just one novel can be scattered throughout 30 word processing documents, 5 notebooks, and dozens of random scraps of paper. That is not an exaggeration. When I start to feel overwhelmed and hopeless, I transcribe all my traditional writing into my computer, and then compile everything into one single word document. Then, I organize everything by character, in chronological order. After that, I read through all of it and take notes on what I have already written. I read through the notes and take more notes on what I still need to write in order for the plot to make sense. Is it time consuming? Oh, yes. But is it worth it? Absolutely! I understand this method might not work for everybody, but if you think it will work for you, I absolutely recommend giving it a shot.
At the very least, write down what still needs to happen in order for your novel to make sense. I believe every writer needs to do that, no matter how organized they are.
Magnificent idea? Check.
Magnificent plot? Check.
Magnificent characters? Check.
The beginnings of a rough draft? Check.
No technological distractions? Check.
A list of what you still need to write? Check.
Well, I’ve got some good news for you: you’re ready to write! Put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and create a masterpiece! Remember: only you can tell your story.
So, what are you waiting for?