Novel writing tips Writing advice Writing Motivation

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:

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?

Image from here

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.

8 replies on “How to sit down and start writing a novel”

I wish I found your article in January.
I was terrified. Over a years preparation and it was down to the crunch line…
I had my map and a ton of research. I outlined, planned and plotted and did intense character interviews.
I studied/ing (ongoing) the craft of writing, reading everything I can get my hands on.
My second sentence stumped me – there was more research I hadn’t done!

Hi Jordan, thank you. I finished at 91 000 words in 2 months. Now I have “thrown it in the cupboard” as everyone advises. Am looking to start the first round of edits soon. Just finished a short story and am planning the next one in the series on Now Novel…

I wholehearted agree that actually sitting and writing is the hardest part. Personally I just start writing and do the research after, but usually I have an generally idea of what I’m writing about.

That’s an interesting approach, Sophia – to leave research for your revision or rewriting phase. It makes a lot of sense as you can always correct anything factually incorrect then. Thank you for reading our articles and sharing your thoughts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *