Wednesday, July 25, 2018
You won’t live forever, so write your novel today.
Novelists, I have a proposition. It’s time to write your book.
Something that someone said to me recently made me think about the limited time I have here on earth. I’m just brushing up on 30. I may get one more day of life, or I may get sixty. Who knows! But whatever my lifespan is, it is limited. There is a finite number of books I will be able to write! This is both terrifying and thrilling. I have a ton of stories I want to share with the world...and the only thing really holding me back is...ME!
We authors are quite often procrastinators. And why wouldn’t we be? Writing is hard. There is always something simpler to do that is either more fun or pays more bills.
And yet we’re not going to live forever (unless you’re secretly an Elf and totally holding out on me). Did you know that you can easily write the first draft of a novel in one year? 10,000 words a month (that’s 500 a day on a normal workweek schedule) will get you to 120,000 in a year, which is a good length for a fantasy novel and too long for just about any other genre—which means you can take some vacation days and still hit that deadline. Or write 20,000 words a month for five or six months, spend another six or seven months editing, and maybe take off December to give your brain a break.
Think about that. Each year that novel doesn’t get written is a year that one of your stories hasn’t been told. Sure, you may eventually get this novel written, but what about the five, ten, or fifteen other novels you could have written in the years that you haven’t been making your writing a top priority.
Now, I’m not unsympathetic. Life happens! Some years you just can’t write very much. There are births, deaths, crazy work deadlines, relationship crisis’s, etc. When there’s a really big thing going on, cut yourself some slack. But otherwise? If you want to be a published novelist, then write.
I really struggled the year I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. Fibro fog made writing hard, let alone the editing that I needed to do for "The Mermaid and the Unicorn." But I keep praying and persevering and guess what? Eight months after I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, my first novel was published.
(This was the same year we bought our first house, I started my first garden, and we adopted a puppy. Also publishing a book should NOT have been possible. But before you think I'm Wonder Woman... I have to give a lot of credit to God because each of those things came about from his direct intervention in our lives.)
You want to know something encouraging? Writing is like a muscle: the more you write, the faster you get! So maybe at first it takes you three hours to crank out 1000 words. That’s a lot of time! But keep doing it, and eventually you’ll get that number way down. Maybe you’ll find you can write 1000 words twice a week, or maybe you write 500 words a day, four days a week, or maybe you just carve out a four-hour marathon time each week and pound out 2000 words. Any one of those schedules will get you 8000 words a month, which is still right on track to get a first draft done in a year (unless you’re doing a REALLY epic fantasy book…but honestly, for a first time author, you probably shouldn’t shoot for anything over 115,000, even in the fantasy genre).
Does wordcount scare you? Then ignore that. Set a timer and write for at least 20 minutes a day. Some days, the writing juices will flow, and you’ll churn out more than 20 minutes. Other days? If you’re still stuck at minute 20, move on. You’ve only spent 20 minutes of your day on this, and most of us probably spend three times that on social media. Maybe you don’t get the first draft done in quite one year, but you ought to have it knocked out in two, no biggie.
Can't cope with numbers? I have a friend who would just use an hourglass. If he got distracted while writing, he had to flip the hourglass over and keep writing until the sand ran out. You could also use background music (write through a playlist), or a fun treat (write until your triple chocolate frappe is gone--or your pot of Earl Gray if you want to avoid diabetes), or even just a bottle of water. I used #hydrateandwrite as my own personal writing challange for one week this summer when I realized I needed both more water and more writing motivation.
If you implement any of these things and build up your writing muscles this year, then next year you’ll probably be able to write more, faster! This will free up time for editing that first draft even while you’re writing the first draft of your next book!
“But WAIT,” you say. “I hit a MAJOR PLOT PROBLEM IN MY BOOK. I can’t keep writing!” Fair enough! Take some time away, stew over it, but don’t stop writing! Pull out another story idea and work on that. Every now and then you might end up with a partial draft that you really cannot figure out how to finish; keep going back and reading them when you’re in a lull space, and you’ll probably find that with time, many problems find solutions, just from having further life and writing experience.
Also, it’s okay if your first novel, or even your second one, doesn’t get published. This is not uncommon, and it’s not wasted time. Consider the first full length novel you write to be your master-course in novel-writing, the final step before going on to the real thing.
Now is the day, now is the hour. Seize it. Tell us your story. And then the next one.