So, you want to write a novel or perhaps a screenplay, a book of poetry or a series of short stories. It’s January, you tell yourself, time for some writing resolutions, which means setting unattainable goals, which lead to despondency and disillusionment, come February.
I say, ditch the January resolutions and try these practical tips to get yourself writing in 2016.
- Break it down – Writing a novel is a big undertaking. You’ll think “can I really write 90,000 words?” Well, all stories begin with one word, followed by another and then that’s a sentence. Twenty or so words more and you may have a paragraph. A few paragraphs make a scene, which then becomes pages and they turn into chapters. Break it down. Don’t think about the big picture, just get one word down after another.
2. Commit to writing – If you want to write, then you actually have to write. Decide when you can write and sit down and do it. And do it every day. Tell your family that this is happening and hopefully, they’ll support you and give you the space. If not, take the space and write anyway.
3. Don’t feel guilty about writing – Writing guilt is something that particularly plagues women, as they think they should be looking after the kids or their spouses or tidying the house or preparing dinner. Writing is just an indulgence, the guilt-ridden writer thinks. But it’s not, writing is work, bloody hard work, so treat it like a job. If you want to write, you’ve got to ditch the guilt, otherwise it’ll never happen. Only you know how important writing is to you, so commit, tell your loved ones and write.
4. Create your own writing retreats – So, you’ve got past the guilt stage, now it’s the get it done stage. Writing retreats don’t have to take place in rural idylls or villas in Tuscany. Bake yourself some cakes, light the fire, grab a comfy seat and declare Sunday (other days are available) a writing retreat day.Create a target and remember to break it down. Writing a chapter? Break it into scenes and give each scene a time unit. Take 15 minute breaks every hour to recharge with cake and a drink, but don’t engage in household chores – set a timer and get back to your retreat.
5. Set attainable goals – Maybe you decide to write 2,000 words a day. That’s great, but by day three you’ve missed a day, meaning you’ve got 4,000 words to do, to stay on track. How about 500 words a day – Monday to Friday – meaning you can catch up on the weekends, if you miss a day? If word counts don’t work for you, try time. Maybe you want to do an hour a day or seven hours per week. Keep track of your goals and reward yourself, when you achieve them. Focus on the wins.
6. Finish something – You’re committed and you’ve set goals and it’s going well. Don’t let self-doubt or your inner editor start to undo all the good work. Don’t edit as you go because you may get stuck rewriting Chapter One forever. Just get to the end and then see what you’ve got. You can’t submit a third of a book, so get it written.
7. Use deadlines – We all struggle with staying self-motivated. A good way to beat procrastination is by setting or finding deadlines. If you’re going on holiday, aim to get to a certain point with your writing before you go. Or look for writing competitions and aim to enter a few. There are loads of first novel competitions, which look for the first 10 chapters or similar. Use these entry deadlines as an incentive to finish something. They’re usually annual, so if you don’t make it this year, there’s always next.
8. Write something else – When you get stuck on your novel, don’t stop writing. Start
something different. Try some poetry or a different genre or form, to give your subconscious a break from your W.I.P. This way, you can come back to your main project with a fresh pair of eyes, some new writing skills and hopefully, some inspiration. Remember, beating your head against a brick wall won’t help, so distract your mind with some other writing.
Tell us what you’re writing in 2016.
Don’t stop writing and don’t forget to celebrate, when you get to The End