I spent a good 13 years claiming that I was a writer, and yet I had never actually completed a rough draft of a novel. I had countless half written novels saved to a file on my computer titled, 'Writing', because somewhere along the way my dedication and ambition had fizzled out and all that was left were half-hearted attempts at stories that had once seemed so grand in my head.
So then one day I deleted that entire file folder and everything in it and started a new folder titled, 'A New Chapter', which was my way of dramatically symbolizing that I was going to start fresh, and finally complete a draft.
And it worked! In that file folder, alongside six unfinished books are two complete scripts, and one complete novel, and one completed draft of a novel. And today, I am going to give you some very solid, very concrete advice on how I did it.
Research Some Writing Tips
People have been writing books since the dawn of time, and so there are plenty of other helpful articles, just like mine, about how to sit down, and write a book. I encourage you to read as many as possible. Don't stop after this post, keep searching in every nook and cranny you can find, and write down the tips and tricks that really speak to you. For an extra boost, try finding articles or quotes about writing books by your favorite authors. The one quote that has always stuck with me is by Stephen King, and it says, "The first draft of a book — even a long one — should take no more than three months, the length of a season."
Find a Good Planning System
Every story starts with a plan. Whether that plan is a sentence quote you saw on tumblr that inspired a whole world inside your head, or a free app you downloaded on you phone, a plan is necessary. It helps you keep track of things so that you don't get so jumbled up and lost in writing your story that you sit back to read it and none of it makes sense. 100% of my unfinished drafts remain unfinished because I had a faulty plan going into them. I lost track of the plot and the characters and where both of those things were going, and I sat in front of my computer and cried because I was so frustrated by the absolute nonsense that sat in front of me. So make a plan that is easy for you to understand and will work for your story. I like to number my major plot points and then use bullet points underneath to explain them in further detail. I also like using notecards to write down the major personality traits of my characters (the notecards make them easy to access and refer to when I'm writing). I also write down the themes and morals of my story at the very top of my plan, so that if I ever get lost I can direct myself back on the right path by returning to the main reason I'm writing this story.
There are so many quotes out there about how as a writer you can't sit around and wait for your muse to show up, you just have to keep working. This is very true, and if you get yourself into a mindset that you'll only write when you feel inspired, you'll just end up never ever finishing your draft. However, writing while inspired is a beautiful thing, and writing while you're uninspired is a total train wreck. So my advice is to find ways to keep yourself inspired, so on those days when you don't feel up to the challenge of writing, you can get yourself back into the right mindset. I recommend creating a playlist that reminds you of your novel, or one that fires you up to be productive. Start a tumblr page where you collect images and quotes that remind you of your novel. At the current moment I have a tumblr page that is totally dedicated to the main character of my story, and I find it super easy to get into her head whenever I need too. Keep a notebook or a file on your phone or computer that is dedicated to those spur of the moment ideas for your stories. Constantly be looking at the world around you and trying to find inspiration for where to go next. Read books that are similar to the tone of voice you want to be using in your own writing. For my current novel, my tone inspiration is entirely from The Messy Heads' blog, and so I read one of their blog posts every time I sit down to write. There are a million ways to stay inspired about your story, so don't fall into the pattern of making excuses and leaving your story unfinished.
Write With a Purpose In Mind
I said earlier that I write out the themes and morals of my novel at the very top of my planning page, and I refer back to it anytime I get lost or discouraged. Having a purpose, one that goes beyond the simple telling of a story, is the best way to keep you inspired and encouraged to write a story. If you have a deep passion for social justice issues, write a book about it. If the thought of global warming keeps you up at night, write a book about it. If you want to share your religion with those around you in a relatable and kind way, write a book about it. If you long to travel the world and go on adventures, write about it. Once you connect your novel writing to a movement or a passion you feel very strongly about, you'll have an endless supply of motivation to keep on writing. A story's most profound gift is its ability to share experiences and encourage understanding between people who may be very different. When you start looking at your story as a gateway to peace and an end to ignorance, the task of sitting down and writing doesn't seem so daunting.
For all those writers who have been fruitlessly trying to finish their novel drafts, I hope this post helped you a little bit, and I hope you're able to write a book that you feel passionate and connected too. The world needs your stories, don't let procrastination, frustration, and the sense of hopelessness get in the way of letting your voice be heard. And for those of you who aren't writers, I hope this post has inspired you to try your hand at storytelling. Everyone has something to say, you just need to sit down and say it.
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