One of the hardest things about writing a novel is having the endurance to finish. Authors can be plagued by doubt, facing imposter syndrome. Is my book good enough? Will anyone want to read it? The publishing industry is flooded with writers submitting manuscripts and it’s not easy to get published. Nor should it be—it is important for publishers to vet submissions to discover books that will engage readers and sell—publishing is a business after all. Given those odds, I can’t blame writers for stalling out, for finding reasons to do everything but write. I often meet people who, upon finding out I’m a published author, tell me they would love to write a book. The difference between the desire to write and actually finishing a book is persistence—putting one word on the page, and then another, and another, until you have a complete novel.
How do you persist? First, you need a goal. Between 80,000 and 90,000 words is a good rule of thumb for novel length, but this also depends on genre. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) takes place in November each year, and the goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. It’s a worthy goal, and the movement offers support that works for some writers. The limited timeframe of setting aside a month to write can provide helpful structure. If you’re struggling with productivity, it might be worth checking out NaNoWriMo resources.
I admit that kind of structure doesn’t work for me—the social pressure of meeting writing goals has a chilling effect on my writing. I don’t like to exercise socially either…or at all. Running? I don’t think so. I need a bit of motivation, like being chased by an ax murderer.
Okay, so maybe we’re not joiners. That’s okay. Set your own goals. If you wrote 2,000 words a day, you’d have a novel in 40 days. If that’s not realistic for you, try 500 words a day. Work your way up to 1,000 words a day. See, you can still finish your first draft in less than 100 days, which is not shabby at all. Hold yourself accountable, but cut yourself some slack if you don’t meet your goal every day. Focus on your average productivity each week and reward yourself when you meet your goals.
Figure out what works best for you. Do you need to quiet place to write? Create it. Does music help? Make a play list or use a music streaming service like Spotify or Pandora. How much time can you dedicate to writing each day? Carve it out. I find that lunch breaks can be a great time to write because my time is limited, so I can’t mess around and procrastinate on social media. You’d be surprised at how many words you can churn out in an hour of focused writing.
Get in your character’s head. See what they see, feel what they feel. Hear their voice and understand their motivations. If you can do that, the words will come more easily. You become less writer and more scribe, documenting what they’ve experienced. Stay in one character’s head for the entire section or chapter—don’t hop into another character’s head without clueing in the reader. If you can show us what is happening from your character’s perspective, you’ll create a compelling story.
Finally, turn off your inner editor. Banish your urge to correct your writing as you go—switch it off, stick it in locked box, and throw it in the deepest well you can find. You can fish out your inner editor when you’re ready to polish your manuscript, but while you’re working on your first draft, do not edit. If you cave to your need for perfection, you’re going to fall into a vicious cycle where you’re not happy with what you’ve written and you’re overwhelmed by doubt. Give yourself permission to write badly. Just focus on getting the words down and worry about grammar, plot, and everything else later. Immerse yourself in the story and make a mess. Embrace happy accidents. Concentrate on the joy of storytelling, and I promise you, it will be okay. Before you know it, you’ll be holding a finished manuscript.
How do you get more words on the page? Share your tips in the comments below or tweet us @BookDailycom
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
MELISSA ESKUE OUSLEY has won multiple awards for her writing. Her latest suspense novel, Pitcher Plant, won a 2018 Independent Publisher Book Award. She has edited fiction for Barking Rain Press and contributes monthly articles on writing, editing, and book marketing to BookDaily.com. She is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association.