“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” —Jodi Picoult
You’ve wanted to be a writer for a long time, but you just can’t find the time to write.
Despite your “amazing idea for a book,” it’s never moved beyond an idea.
You have a drawer full of half-finished manuscripts, but haven’t ever finished one.
If any of those describes you, then this post is for you! The cold, hard truth is, the biggest obstacle getting in your way from finishing that novel is probably YOU. Writing a novel is tough work, but it’s not unmanageable. About 4,000 books are being self-published a day. (Yes, you read that right.) If that many books are being published, it means completing them is not an impossible task. So how do you get your novel idea to move from an idea to a finished manuscript?
Don’t wait for perfection!
“If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.” —Margaret Atwood
Many times, we tend not to pick up the creative pen because we’re waiting for some form of perfection. Whether it’s inspiration, or the right time in our lives, or the most fully fleshed-out idea—waiting for perfection is a huge mistake when it comes to your writing life. Circumstances will almost never be perfect or ideal. And life can certainly get even busier or not give you the slow-down you’re waiting for. Writing, in many ways, is a habit. In order to get your novel written, you have to make a commitment to do the work. That means showing up to write, sitting down, and doing it. Even if all you can get is ten words on a page some days, it’s ten more words than you had when you started.
But here’s an inspirational way to think of it that works well for many: aim to write 250 words a day. Why? Because 250 x 365 equals 91,250. With most novels clocking in with a total word count between 75k-100k, if all you write every day is 250 words, you’ll have a complete novel within a year.
Still feeling stuck on how to get that project complete, though? Here are some other ideas to get you going:
1. Consider doing a 30 day challenge
Many people find it useful to do things like NaNo (National Novel Writing Month, usually in November, but sometimes applied at will). This type of intensive writing project will challenge you to write a novel in a month. Word count goals are tight with this type of venture, but can be the kick in the pants you need to get moving. Remember, your first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be written.
2. Writing retreats
Participating in the community of writers in any form is always a good idea to help your writing life. Writers are fantastic at supporting one another and helping keep each other motivated. That said, one of the best ways to get your writing ideas flowing is to step back from “normal life” for a little bit and focus. Going on a writing retreat (which are often just for a week or weekend), can be a great way to spend some time getting through writers block, dedicating time to talking shop with others, and getting critique. What’s more, writing retreats are often held in natural locations, which give writers plenty of time to spend out in nature alone with their own thoughts.
3. Set a writing schedule
If you really can’t seem to get the work done, make a schedule. An important thing to add to this is: make sure that schedule works for you. If you know that a daily writing habit isn’t going to be something you can handle, consider making a writing day of the week. Maybe Tuesday nights you can set aside an hour or two to sit and work on your novel. Don’t try to force yourself to get up early to write if your brain doesn’t start working until 10 am—find a time that is doable and won’t make you feel burned out in the process.
Whatever method you choose to kick-start your writing project just remember: FINISH. As long as you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll eventually get to the end of the race.