Now Novel Writing Motivation

Start writing a book and stop making excuses: 7 steps

Here’s how to start writing a novel and finish it in 7 steps, no excuses:

So many aspiring authors want to start writing a book and finish, yet only a percentage of people achieve this dream. For some, it’s negative self-speak (‘I’m not good enough’ or ‘my central idea sucks’). For others, it’s a combination of struggling with focus, motivation, goal-setting or planning. It’s especially easy to give up if you find the right excuses. Here’s how to start writing a novel and finish it in 7 steps, no excuses:

7 steps to start writing a book:

  1. Find your greatest challenges and create a plan
  2. Post encouragement near your writing space
  3. Get organized and outline if necessary
  4. Set realistic deadlines and make achieving them a game
  5. Take small, frequent breaks
  6. Get an external perspective whenever you need it
  7. Schedule writing time and create reminders

Let’s discuss starting further:

Find your greatest challenges and create a plan

Making excuses for not writing often follows a format such as ‘I can’t write believable characters’ or ‘I can’t figure out what comes next after this scene’. If you haven’t yet, sit down and brainstorm what you like least about your writing abilities as well as the writing process itself. This is productive as once you know exactly where you are you can plan a route to where you want to be.

If you find that you really hate writing opening lines, plan some time to research opening lines from your favourite novels, for example. Read over each line, and attempt to memorize it. Write each line without looking at the original and compare to your own. This helps to draw your attention to details of language, from sentence structure to word choice and punctuation. In the end, you’ll absorb the skills of writers who are adept at crafting great first lines.

Once you know where your weak areas lie, you can make a plan to improve them and start writing a book with greater confidence.

Post encouragement near your writing space

One of the big reasons why we might stop writing is that we get used to justifying not pursuing our goals. It’s easy to say ‘I don’t have time’ for example, even if you watch an hour of TV every day. Instead, cut down to half an hour or watch TV every other day, and use the intervening days for your writing.

Printing out a list of the excuses you tell yourself for not writing will help you notice when you begin to make excuses so that you can stop yourself and question these excuses further. This will help you to shake off unproductive habits.

Get organized and outline if necessary

The ‘pantser versus plotter’ debate is ancient and it’s true that writers have many different methods for writing novels. Even so, if you’re a pantser and tend to get blocked and create excuses not to write, you should at least try a different approach.

The advantage of having a blueprint for your book is that as you go you will have a sense of the ground beneath your feet. Being a pantser can be giddy, but sometimes you take a step and there’s nothing there to support your developing story. Try one of the 7 different methods of plotting a novel and see if any of them make it easier to start writing a novel.

Set realistic deadlines and make achieving them a game

One of the reasons we make the excuse ‘I don’t have time to write’ is that we expect the time to fly by. When the ‘work’ aspect of creative writing appears, it feels like we’ll have to give up our entire lives just to finish a book. Instead, set realistic deadlines for yourself. Work in small increments. When you’re writing 250 words per day, it’s easier to reach your targets and the sense of achievement you feel will help you to press onward.

Whenever you reach a writing target, reward yourself. This is important. You won’t want to make excuses to not write when writing gives you a sense of reward and positive achievement almost every time.

Take small, frequent breaks

The things we tell ourselves and objective reality don’t always match up. For example, you might say ‘I can’t write and I’ll never finish this novel’ when your mind is really telling you that you need a refreshing break. Give yourself a day or even a week off writing if you need to. Working ‘smart’ depends as much on using your working time productively as it does on using your off time to unwind and not focus on your story.

Read Kate Kellaway’s old but good post on becoming a writer and how 5 successful authors made it.

Get an external perspective whenever you need it

Sometimes you’re simply too entangled in your own experience of writing to extract yourself and see your writing process – what’s working and isn’t – objectively.

This is where belonging to a writing group and/or having a writing coach to talk to helps. Another person’s perspective on your work can provide the boost you need to lay aside your most familiar excuses and knuckle down.

Schedule writing time and create reminders

Do you enter writing time on a calendar and forget all about the session? Services such as Google Calendar can be useful since you can set notifications to sound on your phone or emails alerts that remind you of the times you’ve set aside for writing. When you continuously receive reminders, it’s harder to let yourself off the hook and avoid writing.

Start writing a book now with the help of the Now Novel process.

By Bridget McNulty

Bridget McNulty is a published author, content strategist, writer, editor and speaker. She is the co-founder of two non-profits: Sweet Life Diabetes Community, South Africa's largest online diabetes community, and the Diabetes Alliance, a coalition of all the organisations working in diabetes in South Africa. She is also the co-founder of Now Novel: an online novel-writing course where she coaches aspiring writers to start - and finish! - their novels. Bridget believes in the power of storytelling to create meaningful change.

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