When it comes to writing, it’s one of your favorite things in the world. For as long as you can remember, you were always staying up late reading, and telling stories to your friends, one you made up as if they’d been pulled out of thin air. As you got older, you discovered that being a writer was something people actually did, and that it was something you could study. You learned about the struggles that novelists have faced throughout the ages, from Melville to Hemingway to J.K. Rowling, and the tales inspired you. You love reading, and you love writing, and now you’ve been thinking that you want to write your first novel.
Maybe you’ve started before, but gotten stuck. Maybe you’ve been too scared to start. Whatever your reason might be, it’s time to put that reason aside and start writing. Because if you use the right strategies, you can finally make your dream of writing a novel come true.
Have a plan
Writing a novel is a huge commitment. And like with any huge commitment, whether that’s a musician writing an entire album in a year or a web designer designing a video production company’s about us page along with the rest of their website, you need to plan ahead. If you’re going to write your novel in a year, you have to think about how long you want it to be, and how many words you’re going to be writing every week (approximately). Just like with any work, you have to plan days off, and you also have to make room for the inevitable days when you can’t seem to write, whether it’s because you’re too stressed or because you’re simply stuck.
Creating an actual calendar is a great start. Once you've done that, decide how you’re going to schedule your days around writing. Are you going to wake up at 5 a.m., write for an hour before heading off to work? Or do you prefer to go at the end of the day, after pumping up your endorphins at the gym? Whatever works, create a schedule and stick to it.
Remember, even George Lucas had a plan to back up his dream of writing the films that changed American culture. Not bad, considering that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the highest-grossing science fiction movie as of July 2018.
Create a writing routine
In addition to a set plan, you need a routine. By creating special habits--rituals, even--around your writing, you’ll get more inspired than you would otherwise. And when you’re writing day in and day out, that little extra bit of inspiration and permission to write makes a huge difference. For some writers, it can become almost an obsession. Here’s Maya Angelou’s routine , for example:
“I rent a hotel room for a few months, leave my home at six, and try to be at work by six-thirty. To write, I lie across the bed, so that this elbow is absolutely encrusted at the end, just so rough with callouses. I never allow the hotel people to change the bed, because I never sleep there… I insist that all things are taken off the walls. I don’t want anything in there. I go into the room and I feel as if all my beliefs are suspended. “
Now, not everyone can afford a hotel room, especially considering that the average rate of an NYC hotel room in the first quarter of 2017 was $257 a night . But a cheap alternative is visiting an art gallery before writing, or going for an inspiring walk listening to music that makes you think about your characters and setting. Rereading your favorite books, even just a couple pages before you start writing, is another great way to get inspired. That way, when you sit down at the same spot in that same cafe, you’ll be ready to tackle the work ahead.
Join a writing community
Once you’ve forced yourself to start writing at set hours, and created a ritual that gets you writing, it’s time to become part of the writing world. Because writing is such a solitary art form, it can be easy to forget why you got started in the first place. By subscribing to magazines like Poets & Writers, and joining a local writing workshop, you can start sharing your work with others. Even though you might not feel ready when you first start writing, by the time you’ve gotten to chapter 5, it can help to have a second reader.
You’ll also hold yourself accountable by having a writing a partner or joining a writing class. And you’ll also have the opportunity to have your work critiqued, which will help you master different elements of fiction and motivate you to improve.
Considering that US book sales rose 2.6 percent from 2016 to 2017, it’s a great time to get started. By using these strategies, you can finally write your first novel. It’s a challenge, but it’s one worth undertaking. What makes you most anxious about writing your first novel, and how do you plan to overcome these issues?