How to Write a Novel (Without Going Insane)

You want to write a novel, right? Easy, you think. I’ll just sit down and write whatever comes into my head. But then you get stuck, so you look up some blog posts for help. They suggest you read ‘this’ book or ‘that’ book on the technical aspects of writing. Suddenly, you find you not only need to enroll in classes, but you’d better get yourself to Conferences and join things like NaNoWriMo! Meanwhile, your book isn’t written and you now have the mindset that you’ll never be a writer until you’re published and that you can’t be published for at least ten years, if you are to believe everything you’ve read about finding an agent/publisher!

So you stop writing your novel. *Sigh*

I hear you. When you first get the idea to write a book, it seems so easy! Then you start the process and find that it’s actually complicated, and your first instinct is to give up.

But please don’t!

Read this post first, and if you still decide that writing that book of yours isn’t worth your time, then go enjoy what truly burns deep in your heart. But don’t walk away from your dream of writing a book just from what you’ve discovered as you began the daunting task of putting pen to paper.

Here are a few thoughts on How to Write Your Novel (Without Going Insane) 

1. Read books in your genre. This is probably the best piece of advice you will get, when it comes to writing your own novel. Whatever your genre is, be sure you’re reading what others have written. No, it won’t bias your own writing–your ‘voice’ is yours. But it will help you keep up with the latest trends that publishers are looking for and it will keep your brain focused on what you want to write. When you’re not writing, read. 

2. Read blogs and books on the technical parts of writing. And then stop worrying about all the technical parts of writing! Learning the proper parts of grammar and sentence structure is important–yes. And even learning the basics of how to plot, set scenes, develop your characters–that’s important, too. But the more you read, the more it will be ingrained in your head and you won’t have to dwell on it. One downfall for writers is that they feel they will never be ‘good enough’ and that they haven’t ‘learned enough’ about the craft of writing to do it. If you want to get better at writing, then write! Don’t get too hung up on where those commas go, or if you have a run-on sentence. That’s where critique partners come in.

3. Get yourself critique partners! Meet with others who write in your same genre and get your work out there! Yes, it’s scary having someone else read your ‘baby’, I get it. But you will only ever get better by hearing what others have to say about your work, and listening to the critiques of other writers’ works, as well. (This last part is key–don’t always take. Be a giver, too!) Just because someone else says something negative about your piece doesn’t mean you have to change it. You do want to strive to keep you ‘voice’ (or style) in your work. But if multiple people say the same thing, you should probably listen up. It will only help your writing. Promise! 

4. Ignore the Elitists. Yes, as you read blogs and books, you will run across those writers that have been ‘writing for 30 plus years’ and have taught at ‘such-and-such school’. And maybe they are great writers. Yay for them. But don’t take everything they say as Gospel. I’ve read some horrific blog posts from seasoned writers who claim it’s “impossible for someone who writes as a ‘Pantser’ to have a solid plot in their published novel.” (That’s just plain Bantha fodder!) And what of those writers who swear that the “‘Plotters’ have no hope of having deep, emotional characters.” (The nerve!) (I know some writers who publish 4 books per year, but others who swear you can’t possibly publish more than 1 ‘good’ book in that time!) All I’m saying is, hearing advice from other writers is great, but don’t base your entire existence on what they say. We are all individuals, which means no-two of us will ever have the exact same writing style or process as another. Just because yours is different, doesn’t make you wrong or a bad writer.

You can do all the research and studying that you want, but in the end no one else will be able to write your novel the same way as you! No amount of memorizing plot structure or attending conferences will write your novel. You just need to write! Sit down and write a few words a day, if that’s all you can manage. Don’t worry that it’s not good enough. Don’t worry that you didn’t revise it fifteen times (because that’s what ‘that’ writing coach said had to be done if it was going to be any good.) Don’t worry that someone else wrote a story with a similar plot as yours!

Just write.

Come on guys! It’s a new year. You can start a-fresh. This is your time.

Sit and write. You’ll be so happy you did.

Happy writing, friends!

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Photo credit Unsplash by Daniel McCullough

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2 thoughts on “How to Write a Novel (Without Going Insane)

  1. I love all your points! The ones that resonated with me the most were #1 and #4. #1 because I actually encountered that problem when I started writing about an idea that I was super excited about, only to stop because I could think of three other works that it reminded me of. But I still love the idea and might revisit it in the future. And #4 because I never thought of myself as a writer because I hadn’t been writing for years or studied it. Luckily I had awesome people that I shared stories that I thought were silly little pieces of writing and they loved it and encouraged me! Now I want to write and write and then write some more! Thank you so much for the added encouragement!!!

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