There are many steps to writing and publishing a novel. The first step is the outline, which you can read about in last week’s post. This second step of actually writing the novel is by far the most enjoyable. It’s the step where your imagination gets to take flight and come alive. So sit your butt down and write! But first, here are a few things you can do to stay on track and keep motivated.
Set Writing Goals
Write up a document that establishes your goals. Start with a broad goal, such as “I will finish this novel by April 1st”. Then break the goal down into parts. Ask yourself, “When will I write?”, “Where will I write?”, “How many days a week will I write?”, and “What times will I write?”. Finally, set milestones. You can aim for words per week or day, or pages or chapters per week.
One thing about goals is to remember they are flexible. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t reach a goal. Life happens. If you don’t make a deadline, it’s not a big deal if you push back the timeline. Or if your initial plan was too ambitious, it’s okay to make a new plan that gives yourself room to breathe. Remember, you only fail if you give up.
Some people are good at accountability while others need help. If you’re someone who does better when you have to answer to someone, consider these options:
- Tell your friends and ask them to follow up with you once in a while.
- Join NaNoWriMo.org and find writers in your community. It’s free! I love the NaNoWriMo team in my community. Every November, we prepare to write 50,000 words. We communicate online and we gather one to two times a week to check in with one another and write together.
- Sign up for the 100 Day Book program on The Write Practice. This program gives you and other writers the challenge of writing a novel in 100 days. Every week, you have to check-in and let everyone know if you met your goals. This program costs, but you get a monetary reward at the end if you succeed.
- Find another online group that can encourage you and gives you a sense of accountability.
- Join a writer’s circle in your community.
Establish Rewards and Consequences
Do you think you will be better motivated by rewards? Consider your guilty pleasures—the things you don’t get very often but enjoy. Those things can be food, drinks, material things, or activities.
- A food reward might be as simple as a candy bar to as extravagant as a dinner at your favorite restaurant.
- Drink rewards can be one of those expensive coffee drinks from your favorite coffee shop, a deluxe smoothie or milkshake, or an expensive bottle of alcohol (like wine or Crown Royal).
- Material things can be a new video game for your PS4, a dragon figurine to add to your collection, a new writing journal, and so on.
- Activities can be a night at the movies, a pedicure, a massage, a day at the museum or art gallery, a day at the lake or beach, or even an out-of-town stay (like a camping trip or hotel stay in a tourist town).
Base rewards on your level of achievement. A candy bar might be rewarded for reaching 5,000 words while dinner at your favorite restaurant might be when you reach 25,000 words. The more you’re motivated by rewards, the more reward milestones you should select.
Consider the consequences of not achieving your goals. Let’s say you didn’t write as much because you spent too much time playing a video game or watching Netflix. Grounding yourself from those things are excellent consequences. If you’re not reaching your goals because of work, school, or family, do not ground yourself from those! Rather than establish a consequence for normal life things that keep you from writing, re-align your goals to be more realistic instead.
There are several ways to maintain inspiration. The number one thing I like to do is review why I want to write in the first place. I write because I want to get the story out of my head, because I like the feeling of achieving something worthwhile because I like the escape that writing offers, etc. Other inspirations can be searching for inspirational quotes from your fellow social media writers, creating a Pinterest board of images that relate to the story you’re writing, watching a movie or television show that inspired your story, and more.
This first draft of your novel is not supposed to be perfect. Don’t get too fixated on editing typos or grammar, or even wording. Just write and get your ideas out. My rough drafts are so rough that I talk to myself in my writing. For example, I might type:
Okay, I might have a plot issue here. I realized that I forgot all about the clue I planted back in chapter two. Review this and consider either deleting the clue-plant or implementing its reveal.
I usually put these blurbs in the document with parenthesis around them and in red-colored text so they stand out. If your writing goal is based on the number of words, it’s up to you whether you want to count these blurbs. Personally, I count them because they are still related to my story.
Writing a novel is not easy. You might see a lot of people in your writing groups who want to write a novel, but most of them don’t get beyond the first draft. So if you can finish the first draft of your novel, congratulate yourself on beating the average. What have you done to keep yourself motivated to write? Are you goal-oriented or do you need outside encouragement? Are you motivated more by rewards or consequences? Explore the many possibilities!