How to sit down and start writing a novel

Once you’ve done the Now Novel process and planned your book, you’d think the hard part was behind you. And in many ways you’re right, but then comes the next step: actually sitting down and starting to write. Here are a few foolproof tips:

  • Be sure to strike a balance between having things in place to begin your novel and procrastinating. If you aren’t careful, you can deadlinespend all your time “getting ready” and drain away your creativity in the process. Weeks, months or even years can pass while waiting for the right space in which to work in the right blocks of time. On the other hand, it is important to attend to some external factors that will increase your chances of successfully finishing your novel.
  • Set a deadline. Whether it’s in six weeks, six months or six years, the actual time period is not as important as actually having a deadline and making it a realistic one. Maybe you have an unexpected sabbatical and nothing to do but write all day every day, or perhaps you have a demanding job, four small children and an ill family member for whom you are the primary care-giver. These are extreme ends of a continuum, but you do need to take into account your lifestyle and obligations as you decide your deadline. Once you’ve done so, figure out how many words or pages you need to write per day and how many days per week to reach it. Make a calendar and tick off days where you reach your target. Reward yourself when you are able to keep on track – it will increase your writing motivation.
  • Plan your time. How many hours per week will you work on your novel to reach your weekly goals, and how do those hours break down across days? Do you work best in the morning or at night? Decide ahead of time when your writing times will be just as you would make any other appointment; don’t try to squeeze writing time into the leftover spaces. If you keep a regular writing time, you may find that ideas (what we call ‘inspiration’) visit you reliably, making it easier to squeeze plenty of productivity out of your writing time.
  • Get your loved ones and those you live with on board. Work with them to agree upon times when you will be unavailable and can be left alone to write. It can sometimes be difficult for people to get accustomed to the fact that just because you are home does not mean you are available for conversation, errands or household tasks. If possible or necessary, find an alternative place to work away from home and schedule some time where you can write uninterrupted.
  • Get a room of your own. In fact, you may not need or have available an entire room for writing, but you do need some kind of space even if it’s just the kitchen table or a desk in the corner of the sitting room. Alternatively, you might find you work better in a library or coffee shop. Public libraries are generally good places for writing, not least because you have immediate access to books you might need for research.A few lucky writers can work almost anywhere and are immune to chaos and distractions around them, but most of us need a little more order, and that means a regular writing space.
  • Sit down and start writing. This is the last but also the most important step. It’s easy to get bogged down in excessive research, much of which you might not end up using. Rather start drafting now. If you run into a section of your story that requires greater factual support or you find yourself wondering ‘but what did people in 18th Century London actually wear?’ you can visit your local library or use one of the many useful online resources available to writers for research purposes.

What are some obstacles you’ve encountered when you start writing a novel?

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