Anyone who’s attempted to write a novel–even if they’ve just managed through the planning stage–knows how challenging and often daunting the prospect can be. Precious few of us have unlimited time to sit back, drink coffee, and write (as Stephen King famously does, for instance) until you reach your daily 20 pages, or 10,000 words, or whatever.
Here’s a few suggestions that might help you out of the mire. I’m not an expert, but over the last decade or so I’ve figured out some tips that just might get you going in the right direction.
1.) Don’t listen to other writers’ processes. I’m not saying not to listen to me, exactly. I’m saying, don’t take a successful writer’s process as law. Everyone works differently, and at difference paces. Tolkien took decades to write the LoTR, and many popular authors seem to crap (for lack of a better term) out a book every month or so. Find your own pace, your own style. Learn when you write best, and under which circumstances. If you are busy, like me, you might want to use a calendar for a few weeks and mark down what days and when you were the most prolific.
2.) Avoid quicksand. There’s a reason writers write in drafts. Very few people–excluding, I’ve heard, Neil Gaiman–have to rewrite large parts of their books during the process. So when you’re writing your first version down, try not to sweat the small stuff. It’s way too easy to mistake the forest for the trees when you’re writing your first draft, and you can get hung up on the smallest stuff. If you’re like me you treat your first draft like an outline, and build from there. I’ve talked to plenty of writers who get stuck in this stage and never get out, and blame it on extraneous factors. But quite often, the mire of stalling in draft stage is self-inflicted quicksand.
3.) Don’t apologize. This happens quite often with fiction that skitters along the fantasy, science fiction, or steampunk flavor: writers feel like they have to apologize for their interests. This is deadly poison. The moment you start apologizing for what you like or what you like to write, you immediately discredit yourself to whoever it is your talking to, and to yourself. Writing takes confidence, and any crack can cause serious stress points in the whole structure.
4.) Get over the hard work factor. For the vast majority of writers out there, writing a novel is damn hard work. It’s harder, too, when you have a real job, a family, and a life outside. Making writing a priority is no small task. I’ve been setting word goals for myself. i.e.: no surfing the internet until I’ve hit another 1,000 words. And then, only for a few minutes. You can’t sit and say, “Ugh! This is so hard!” because you could be writing instead of complaining. If you’re dedicated to getting it finished, then you just have to do it. No publisher in their right minds will take an unfinished novel! We all have ideas, after all. It’s the work in between that distinguishes a novel from an idea.
5.) Keep finding inspiration. Whether it’s movies, music, other books, or pieces of art, we all have points of inspiration when it comes to writing. Don’t get so wrapped up in your book that you forget to absorb; be a sponge! Writing takes momentum, and it’s much easier to maintain it than to lose it and start from scratch again.
6.) Figure out why you write. Ask yourself the question, and examine the answer. Think about it. If the answer is acceptable for you, something you can live by, great. But if you’re not finding success writing, maybe your heart’s not in it for the right reasons.