You’ve always wanted to write a novel, but you’ve never gotten around to actually, well, writing it.
Perhaps you even started writing, but after 10 pages or so, your car broke down, and then your friends decided to stay over unexpectedly, and then your mother called, and then your toilet sprang a leak, and then you…umm…forgot to continue.
You tell yourself there’s plenty of time to write later, like when your car is fixed, your loved ones are all taken care of, and your plumbing issues are resolved.
Or when you’re dead.
But the truth is that deep down, you haven’t yet written a novel because you’re not sure you can.
After all, only brilliant, imaginative people write novels. Or people with lots of time on their hands. And you secretly suspect that you are neither.
You CAN write a novel, and you can do it faster than you think, with the right system and proper tools.
The Problem With Writing a Novel (Especially When You’ve Never Done it Before)
Did you know…?
Gregg Hurwitz (New York Times Bestselling author, script writer and producer) has written a couple dozen novels, over a dozen comics, collaborated on multiple films with major studios.
Barbara Cartland wrote 720+ novels in her 80-year career (that’s 9 novels per year).
And author and professor Philip M. Parker has over 200 THOUSAND titles available on Amazon.
Of course, these people are (or were) professional writers, and you may not think you can ever replicate what they do.
Maybe that’s true.
But what if you could achieve a fraction of their output?
If you could write at a mere 11% of Cartland’s prolificacy, you’d finish an entire novel per year. (And if you keep up that pace, you’ll have 3 trilogies’ worth of novels in less than a decade!)
You can do it. Hands down. (And more, if you want). All you really need is the proper plan and a dash of perseverance.
Sounds easy, but then…why aren’t you writing a novel a year? (Or why haven’t you finished your first novel yet, given how many years it’s had to clunk around in your head?)
Obstacle #1: You think it’s easier than it is.
Writing a novel sounds like fun, and it is.
But when beginning writers first start out, they overestimate themselves. They think writing a whole 50-100,000 word novel is going to be a lot easier and more consistently enjoyable than it actually is.
It’s like the start of a romantic relationship: You expect roses and butterflies everywhere you turn, and at first, it does seem like everything is just peachy.
Your ideas are bursting to get out, you feel like you could write forever, you curse your teachers and family members and boss/coworkers for calling you in to regular boring everyday life and out of the fantastical, imaginative world in your head.
But the honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever.
Sometime around the end of chapter 3 or so, you’ll start to feel it set in. The slog. The boredom. The irresistible siren call of Netflix and Youtube…
It’s even worse if you start out with any amount of writing talent.
If you do, you’re used to being good enough at writing to coast through school and life, resting on your laurels. You think clearly, and your words flow smoothly enough when you write last-minute essays and memos, so why shouldn’t novel writing work the same way?
Unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Novel writing is another beast altogether, and it takes more effort to tackle it than it does to toss off a quick paper on Romeo and Juliet for your high school English teacher.
But that’s not all…
Obstacle #2: You think it’s harder than it is.
You may have not really dug into your novel writing because the thought is overwhelming. Tens of thousands of words…hundreds of pages…hours upon hours of writing and revision…who has the ability to do all that?!
Answer: You do.
If you know what you’re doing, why, and how.
Like many things, writing a novel is a process, and once you know the steps you have to take, what order they need to go in, and how to break them down and put them in your calendar in manageable chunks, you will get your novel written, guaranteed.
Sometimes writing a novel feels like a Sisyphean task–you keep pushing that boulder up the eternal mountain, with no (visible) progress. But believe you me, you ARE making progress. And before you know it, you will be DONE.
This is not an unending journey. Your career as a writer may last for the rest of your life, but writing your first (or second, or third, etc) novel doesn’t have to…in fact, it shouldn’t.
My philosophy when it comes to writing a novel is CONCENTRATION. And I’m not just talking about mental concentration.
I’m talking about concentrating the writing process into as small a time period as necessary for you to achieve quick wins without burning out. And based on experience, 3 months generally does the trick.
Another thing: Your first novel will not be as good as your later novels, which is another reason why you need to get it out of you as soon as possible.
After you’ve written your first novel, you might continue to work on it and polish it until it’s good enough to publish, or you might simply shelve it for a while or forever. It doesn’t matter. The point of writing your first (and sometimes second, third, etc) novel is to get practice working like a novelist.
Because once that is done, you’ll have learned the skills and earned the self-confidence to achieve more than you dreamed possible–the sky is the limit!
In 1911, two explorers set out to reach the South Pole.
One was a Norwegian named Roald Amundsen, another was a British adventurer, Robert Falcon Scott.
Both teams were fired up and ready. Scott and his team raced to the South Pole, pushing hard when the weather was relatively easy and hunkering down to wait it out when the storms blew in.
Amundsen, on the other hand, made his team cover a predetermined distance every day, no matter how fair or awful the weather.
In the end, Amundsen won the race. And, tragically, Scott and his men died on their trip.
So, what does this story teach us? Slow and steady wins the race?
Yes and no.
The thing is, STEADY wins the race. Speed is (mostly) irrelevant. You can start slow and end up going much faster and do much more than you think you can, if you approach any project from the right angle.
When it comes to writing a novel, that means you need to do the following:
- Break everything down: both word count and time
- Set a goal RANGE, not a definite number
- Stop before you want to stop so you still have some juice left to keep going
- Create adequate goalposts, rewards, and risks to maintain your motivation especially in the dangerous middle parts
Obviously, that’s not quite all there is to it…or at least, there’s more that needs to be said about each of these.
But this is enough for today. For now, just think about what you’ve just read, consider the novel ideas you have in your head, and focus on the #1 story that you want to bring into existence.
Why do you want to write this story? What does it mean to you? What would it be like if that book was finished and you could read it on your computer or hand it to a friend as a gift?
If you know the answer, feel free to email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow’s mini-course will cover these details in greater depth. Keep an eye out! 🙂