On Writing

Sticking with the Novel

This is not a “find it within yourself to stick to your dream” motivational or Zen or advice masquerading as bragging post. Nor am I going to tell you how to write or make a schedule, because I’m sure you’re a freaking adult with your own priorities and complications. This isn’t about making time to write either; I’ve had my fill of that stuff, too: “write 15 minutes as often as you can,” “go on a weekend retreat,” and btw make sure to floss. I’ll spare you.

I used to flit from story idea to story idea like a stereotypical player hooking up with the next tight-skirted, doe-eyed co-ed who flirted by. Like a player-turned-hero in a romance novel, I think I was waiting for that one special woman (idea) to grab my attention and hold onto it. True, I needed a story worthy of committing to, but I also needed to keep myself focused when the next dragon-rider daydream made my eyes goggle.

Now, instead of working on a new story every week or so, I have written over 70K on my book in the last couple of months. The word count isn’t all that impressive, but for me having stuck with this book is. Feeling a bit like an addict trying to break a habit, I employed several tricks to hold myself accountable and stay focused:

  1. Join a writing critique group and attend regularly. Needing to write a new chunk of writing to present each week is like having homework. Not to mention, the book will now have fans who look forward to its next installment.
    Not only do I appreciate the criticism of the other writers, some who are regulars like me and some who come every once and a while, it’s been nice to hear how much they like the story and look forward to hearing more. Admittedly, I’m also a bit competitive, and I feel like I need to keep making progress or lose face.
  2. Tell someone in an authoritative or mentoring position about the book. Their support and encouragement will mean more than peers’ and friends’. The prospect of disappointing the mentor discourages failure or procrastination.
    I emailed my favorite writing professor from college about my book (and she’s excited about it!). As I stay in touch with her every few months, I better have progress to report. Besides, it’s kind of like having an assignment again.
  3. Create an “inspirational” poster display for the novel. Place it somewhere prominent, perhaps in the bedroom, to wake up to each morning, or in a high-traffic area, or on prominent proud display in a main living area.
    My display includes print outs of art that reminds me of my story and some handwritten notes and excerpts I’ve now typed up. I try not to put too much energy into it because I could get carried away when I really should be writing the damn book.
  4. Meet regularly with friends or other writers to write together. Inviting some of the members from the writing critique group is a great place to start. Make time every week or so to write for a few hours in a coffee shop, cafe, library, etc.
    I actually host bi-weekly “write-meets” at a local coffee shop. Because I host these meetings I can’t bail because of scheduling or tiredness or some other excuse. Several of the attendees are from my writing critique group, and they know what story I’ve been working on.



1 thought on “Sticking with the Novel”

  1. I love this post. One thing I always appreciate, are writing tips that actually include real tips. While I like an inspiration kick in the pants every now and then, for the most part, I want tricks and tips that I can actually apply toward something (I say this with a hint of irony, because I’ve generate a few “reach for the stars and dare to dream” posts before…).

    While all of your steps are super solid pieces of advice, step three was the one I really felt most aligned with personally. I know when the cover art for my book was finished, my writing speed increased. I tossed that beauty up as a computer background and said, “Corey, you’ve paid for cover art, you can’t not finish this book now.”

    For accountability (and marketing) I also do a post every Wednesday talking about what’s going on with the book. It offers little sneak peaks, but also constantly reminds me that my work isn’t finished. While the first draft is complete, rewrites are coming hard and fast here in a month

    Again, great post! Best of luck with your book moving forward. I’ll be sure to swing by more often!


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