There are a lot of people out there who have the dream of one day writing that great American novel. They follow their favorite authors, have a few ideas in their head, but have no idea how to get started, much less get published.
The process is a lot easier to handle if you know what you’re doing, can relax, and write your heart out. As a published writer who has endured the entire process, I’m going to share with you several tips I learned about the best ways to reach your goal of becoming an author.
You Make the Rules
I once heard an author on NPR radio explain his process of writing. He made a bold claim, saying no one can successfully write a novel without completely mapping out his process. I chuckled because I have never written out a complete and elaborate story map. Although, you may need to consider it.
I take great notes and create a list of characters, but my novel isn’t planned out from beginning to end. I make it up as a go along and it flows really nicely. The rules are mine to set, but I let my imagination take over. Characters will be added to the list as they come up with a firm understanding of what part they play in the story.
This might not be the way you write and that’s okay! I only bring this up to say you make the rules. You write however you are most comfortable writing. Yes, reading books by various authors will help you soak up any knowledge you can about how the pros got it done, but the one thing you’ll find is: they all do it differently.
There is no set one-way option. Don’t confuse yourself by trying to be like someone else. If you have the talent, you will get discovered.
Getting Over Writer’s Block
Every self-respecting writer will experience the mental block from hell at one time or another. There are several reasons why it happens and each can be overcome without throwing your laptop across the room.
First, identify why you’re stuck. Are you having a hard time finding the right words or phrases? Are the sentences not coming together as you imagined them? The answer is: just relax.
That’s it. Relax. Keep writing even if it doesn’t sound right. You’re going to edit anyway, right? At least you got the general idea down and if it still doesn’t sound right later when you do edit, you can fix it and have a better perspective. It’s just a momentary jam. Leaving it alone won’t hurt the novel. So take a deep breath and keep pushing through.
If you have a major mental dam and can’t seem to put anything down on paper, that’s fine too. Sometimes it’s best to just set it aside and walk away for the night. You could be mentally exhausted or have other stresses in your life where resting may be the best thing for you and your novel.
Make a Schedule
I know so many people with unfinished manuscripts. All the excuses are the same, yet they say over and over again how badly they wish they could finish it. They feel the call to write, but just don’t put forth the effort.
Maybe the whole process is intimidating when you consider the length of an average novel is 50,000 words. It can seem daunting and like it’s too much work, so they put it off.
Those same people ask me repeatedly how I kept up with it for so long, and I tell them I make it part of my day. I set out to write a thousand words each day, no matter what else is going on. Before you know it, you have a decent work coming together nicely, piece by piece, chapter by chapter, it will work out.
At that rate, you can finish a novel in a month or two, depending on length. Set aside all distractions. Fill your glass with your favorite beverage, make sure you’ve eaten, turn the TV off and just go at it.
When You’re Finished
Once you’re finally done, you may feel an incredible sense of accomplishment. Not many people actually finish something they’ve started, especially a novel.
You have much to be proud for, but your work isn’t finished. In fact, the next few steps may be more difficult than the actual writing. That includes setting the manuscript aside and walking away from it.
That’s right, I want you to walk away. This is important if you desire to have a great piece to send to publishers and editors. If you put your work in a drawer and wait at least a month, you can return to it with a fresh mind. It will be like reading a new novel for the first time.
That way you can be a better judge of flow, your writing style, if certain scenes make sense, and so you can correct any mistakes you made.
Once you edit it, pick a few trusted friends or family members to read over it. You may hear a few things you don’t like, but it’s important that they remain completely honest with their review. It’s the only way you will learn how to be a better writer, listening to all thoughts and opinions.
It’s normal to get frustrated or even a bit hurt if someone didn’t enjoy your work, but that’s okay. Not everyone will enjoy what you write.
This skill will come in handy later when you’re ready to turn in your work to various publishers. There are bestselling authors right now who literally received hundreds of rejection letters. If you let it get to you, you will give up the first time you’re rejected.
Stephen King’s very first novel was “Carrie”. His wife Tabitha fished it out of the trash and convinced him to send it in after receiving numerous rejections on previous work. That’s how a legend was born. So never give up trying to get your work in front of as many eyes as possible.
If you’ve been struggling to finish your novel, hopefully these few steps will help you crank out your best work. Writing can be one of the most rewarding hobbies or careers you can find, and to getting paid to do what you love. It takes time, patience, and hard work.