“The hardest part of finishing a novel is often just getting started.”
It’s time to confront some of the most common struggles of writing and offer solutions to help you overcome them. Often the most challenging battle of noveling has nothing to do with the actual story and everything to do with what is happening in your world. Even when you manage to sit down to write, you have no routine, no plan, and no focus. Today, we’re going to change that and help you find the time to write.
1. Finding the Time to Write.
Decide on a specific time of day and which days you will do your writing. The more days you can complete a writing session, the easier it will be to develop a routine. When are you in your optimum mindset for writing? First thing in the morning before the world has woken up? Late at night when everything has wound down? Just after dinner or on your lunch break? And what if you’re working all day and your brain feels a bit mushy when you finally get a bit of free time?
Don’t be discouraged if you feel too tired to write anything good. In the book “The Power of When” Dr. Michael Breus suggests that you may be able to better tap into your creativity when your mind has already used its portion of focus time. “Write tired; edit alert,” might be a good mantra when you’re working on a first draft. If you’re having trouble finding a good time, keep track of what a typical day looks like for you. Chances are, you’ll be able to find a consistent hour that you can use for writing. Even if you can only carve out half an hour, don’t be discouraged because we’re going to focus on building the habit of sitting down and writing – beginning with 15 minutes. Let family members know what you are doing and that you will be available as soon as your session is over. Communication goes a long way in gaining their support, and they’re more likely to leave you alone if they know that you won’t lock yourself away indefinitely.
2. Creating a Habit with Routine
An easy way to create a new habit is to piggy-back it onto an existing routine, so it becomes a built-in reminder and schedule when it is time to write. What happens right before your designated window of writing time? Will you brew a cup of coffee or finish the dinner dishes? Keep the routine as consistent as you can, set a timer for 15 minutes and write. Your words don’t have to be good. While you’re developing this habit, your only goal is to write. You can even write about what your mental block is if you find yourself unable to work on the story. Just keep the words flowing. When the 15 minutes are up, you’re done. You may watch TV guilt-free, knowing you completed what you set out to do. If you’re on a roll, keep writing but don’t push yourself past 15 minutes. Remember, right now the habit of writing is more important than the words themselves. When you finish your session, write a sticky note with the next idea for the story and put it at the end of your document so you can remember exactly where you want to start at the next session and don’t lose time remembering the plot.
3. Track Yourself
We all want to see that we are making progress, especially when the manuscript is growing slowly. Pick something and track it. Create X’s or stickers on your calendar so that you don’t want to skip a day. Keep track of your word count or hours spent. Drop a quarter into a jar for every completed session – or even a five-dollar bill – then spend it on something fun at the end of the month. Be creative and find a visual reminder that you are making progress and completing your sessions.
4. Designate a Workspace
Find a spot in your house and clear it out for your time to write. This is a big deal! It deserves its own little corner of creativity. If possible, don’t work at the same place that you sort mail or pay bills. Keep it clean, organized and distraction-free. If you like, put up a motivational quote or make a pretend cover for your book and hang it on the wall. If you write by hand or have a laptop, you are not relegated to writing at a desk. Kick back in a lazy-boy or take it outside. Work in an extra room in your house where you are free to spread the storyline across your walls or even pick a coffee shop or unused meeting room that gives your mind a clear message that when it’s in this location, it is time to write.
5. Create a Storyline
Writing a novel is like a road trip. At best, you should know roughly where you want to start and end up and which towns you will drive through. Writing out your plot helps you keep on track, know which subplots will advance your storyline, and get back on track after you chase an inspired idea into an unanticipated scene. With that said, a road trip is meant to be enjoyed. You are free to change your route, explore intriguing places, and adapt to the journey as you go. You can completely reroute your trip any time you want to. Your storyline is your guide, not the law. I like to write basic events onto cards or sticky notes and then clip them to a line on my wall. This gives an easy reference at a glance but also allows me to move, add, or delete them as the story develops. Another line can be added below if I have two storylines running parallel to each other and need to keep track of what the second character is doing about the first.
To see how I create my storylines, you can watch my video on Skillshare. If you go through this link, you can get free access for a month to all Skillshare videos, as well as supporting my work here. http://skl.sh/2oSqSnV