It’s easy to start a novel – but harder to keep going and actually finish it. We give some top tips for keeping going.
1. Keep Shoveling
“I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”
― Shannon Hale
Starting a novel is the exciting bit. But remember, you don’t have to make it perfect first time around. Don’t try to edit it as you go along – just write it as quickly as you can, and then go back to flesh it out and perfect the lines afterwards.
That’s why although nobody imagines you can write a perfect novel in thirty days, NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month can be a great way to get words down on a page. If you have missed out on the ‘official’ month for writing a novel (it’s November, you’ve still got ten days left) then don’t worry, you can sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo at any time of the year. It’s a great way to stay motivated, and get encouragement from others also taking on the challenge.
2. Plan Ahead
“Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”
― Winston Churchill
Some people make a detailed plan before they even start writing, while others just start off and hope for the best. If you’re a ‘pantster’ – writing by the seat of your pants, then remember, you can still make a plan when you’re in the middle of your novel, if you’re getting a bit stuck, and feel it would be helpful in clarifying what you need to do to get your story and characters to the end of the book. And if you’re a planner, then bear in mind you can always change your plans if you feel that your novel is heading in a slightly different direction than you expected.
If you need more help then there are lots of online guides to writing a novel plan, for example,
these ten guidelines from The Writers Bureau.
3. Print It Out
“It is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.”
― George Eliot, Middlemarch
Have you been staring at your laptop screen for hours? Is scrolling up and down through your manuscript making you disorientated? Print out the chapter you’re working on, or even the whole manuscript to get a better overview of what you’re dealing with. Somehow when it’s printed out, you become distanced from it, so that you can read and edit your work more dispassionately.
When you think that you’re ready to publish your work, you can get a proof copy from CompletelyNovel at a surprisingly cheap price. Seeing it in book form will clarify things for you still further – typos seem to jump out of the page, and it’s so much easier to see what needs to be done to streamline or fill out your chapters.
It’s also usually a good idea to share your work with others to get different points of view. You could start with friends and family, but if you don’t trust your nearest and dearest to be honest then there are writing communities online that can give you feedback on your work.
Read about the 11 top writing communities you should join and why.
4. See The Wood for The Trees
“When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Don’t rush to send off your book to an agent or publish as soon as you’ve typed ‘The End’. The best thing to do it to wait until you’ve got enough distance to evaluate it as a whole.
If you can be patient enough, wait for a week or even a month before taking a look at it again, and seeing if there are further changes you should make.
5. Decide to Self-Publish
“Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.”
If you’re sending your book off to agents it’s tempting to just perfect the 30 pages/first three chapters, or whatever it is they want you to submit, without finishing the whole of the book. If you don’t get a reply from an agent, or get repeatedly turned down, then you may lose heart in the whole project and never actually see it through to the end. But why not take control of your own destiny, and self-publish it anyway? There are many good reasons to do so – including the great sense of satisfaction you’ll feel in holding a copy of your own book in your hands. Even if it doesn’t become an Amazon best seller it’s a good way to gain experience in writing and publishing, teaching you important lessons for your next book project. If you do make a success of it, it’s a great way to show agents and conventional publishers there is a ready made audience out there for your work – or you might decide that in fact self-publishing is the best way forward for you.