Finding the motivation to write a full-length novel can be the toughest part of the novel writing process. I’ve compiled a short and sweet list of ways to get that novel going!
1.) Outline, Outline, Outline! (aka storyboard)
So you know a big battle will take place in a castle, and you know the good guys will win. . . but what specifically happens during the fight?
With really anything you want to write (even school essays), outlining is such an overlooked, super important step that makes actually writing something a heck of a lot easier. Outlining – aka storyboarding in terms of fiction writing – for me takes the form of a bulleted list. For each chapter, I have a list of all the big events I want to occur, with little bullets outlining each important detail included. Not only does this help me organize my thoughts before returning to a scary blank page, but it also keeps me from forgetting my ideas!
2. Set easy goals
It’s probably impossible to write an entire novel in one night. Please don’t try it. But it’s sometimes also just as difficult to open a blank Word document and expect to write until you give up. Setting a goal for how much/how long you want to write at a time will not only give you a clear idea of what you need to do, but it will also feel much more rewarding at the end of your little writing session. If you’re really struggling with motivation, set the bar really low. A chapter a day might be too much. A page a day might be too much. Start small – start off with just 15 minutes a day, or maybe a paragraph a day. Whatever is easy and comfortable for you. Gradually bump up your goal.
Many people use NanoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month – to motivate them to write their first draft. The goal is 50k words in the month of November. Learn more about it here: https://nanowrimo.org/
3. Write the fun scenes first!
Exposition can be really dry to write, especially in a first draft. It often sucks to be stuck on exposition, especially when you know the next chapter will be an action-packed battle scene that you already have a vivid picture of in your head. Oftentimes in my first drafts, I’ll leave a one to two sentence note about what a scene should be and come back to it later, then go on to writing the stuff I know how it’ll play out. Like with my outlining process, it also keeps me from forgetting a fresh idea. Once you have the stuff you know down, you can go back and find ways to make those duller scenes just as fun.
4. Write about something meaningful to you
It’s simple. If you don’t care about what you’re writing, you’re not going to want to write it. Think of a topic that’s interesting to you: whether it’s something as serious as racial injustice or abuse of any kind, or a funny childhood memory, find a way to tie it into your story. It can be the overarching theme or even just a little plot point or character detail. The more personal a story is to you, the more you will enjoy creating it.
5. Find readers
Having an audience, even if it’s just one or two friends to start, is always a big help for me. Writing for just myself can go pretty slow since I already know in my head how the story goes – I don’t really feel the need to write it down. But when I have a buddy or two excited for my next chapter or short story, I can’t stand to leave them hanging! Plus it’s a great self-esteem booster to know people enjoy your work.
Joining a local writer group or an online group for sharing your work is another great way to keep the wheels moving. Especially when you have specific meeting dates, having a set deadline will automatically push you to prepare a little something. Getting feedback and pointers from people you don’t know too well can also be a big help since their opinions are unbiased.
Most importantly, accept that all first drafts are awkward and clunky. Behind every best-seller is a mountain of marked-up, crappy drafts. Expecting your first draft to be a masterpiece is both discouraging and unrealistic. It’s okay if your story is rough and bumpy at first – juicy meat needs a skeleton to stick to!
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Any tips you’d like to add? Feel free to drop a message in the comments!