5 Tips To Get That Novel Written

June 08, 2011 2:00 AM

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“Every writer I know has trouble writing.” – Joseph Heller.

If the author of Catch 22 struggled with writing novels, all of us are at risk. Luckily there are lots of experts with great advice to get you started, keep you going, and help you cross the finish line with a bulky manuscript in hand. Here are 5 tips to help you put that masterpiece to paper.

1. Write What You Love
We’ve all heard it: “write what you know.” But for many people (myself included), that advice is a roadblock. Unless your life is marked by horrific tragedy or surprising comedy, turning it into interesting, compelling fiction can be difficult.

So don’t concentrate on what you know – instead, figure out what you love to read and write more of that. Austin Kleon says it brilliantly in this awesome blog post (Item #3): don’t write what you know, write what you love.

What entertains you? What’s your favourite book? What do you think about non-stop? Find the thing that makes you passionate, that grabs your brain and heart and won’t let go, and write it down.

2. Boil It Down
Novels are long, and it’s easy to get lost in the journey of writing them. Before you embark, make sure you’ve got the basics right. Blake Snyder, screenwriting guru, had a great technique for strengthening your story before you ever set pen to paper: put it into one sentence.

Boil your idea down until you can pitch it to anyone and grab their attention. For instance, Pretty Woman would be summed up like this: “A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend.” If the one-sentence pitch isn’t strong and clear, then the story won’t be either.

You may not be writing a romantic comedy, but if you can pitch the story of your masterful five-hundred-page novel in a single sentence, you’ll always have something to refer yourself back to when things go off the rails. And you’ll have an easier time at dinner parties.

3. Deadlines Are Lifelines
Too busy to write? No you’re not. You just need motivation.

Setting deadlines for yourself is the best way to make your goals and your plan clear. Making those deadlines public – and daring the people you love to force you to abide by them – will motivate you.

In his book No Plot? No Problem!, Chris Baty explains how to write a novel in a month: shut your inner critic away, forget about impossible, and get writing. Because you’re running out of time – you only have a month!

4. Close The Door
Stephen King and Virginia Woolf agree: if you want to be a writer, you’ll need a room of your own – and that room must include a door that you’re willing to shut.

Writing is solitary. This is not a bad or unreasonable thing. So be clear: tell your friends, your lover, and/or your kids that you care about them, and you’ll see them in an hour or two. But right now you’re making time to create.

You can’t open your creativity until you close the door.

5. Write On Schedule
And if you’re going to close the door, you need to decide when and for how long. In Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande suggests setting a time each day when you will write. Make it a matter of honour that you will arrive when promised, and write the whole time you’re there.

If all you can spare right now is twenty minutes a day, decide when that twenty minutes will be and show up with nothing other than writing in mind. Turn off your phone, your internet connection, and anything else that will come between you and your story. Write.

Make a commitment to yourself and honour it. Because you can get that novel written. It’ll take a lot of work and struggle, but the end result is worth the pain.

 

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