When we call novel writing a labor of love, we all know that there is sometimes way more labor involved than happy good feelings. Here, I have compiled five tips based on my own experiences and observations of other writers to try to take a little bit of the pain out of writing.
1. Plan into your next scene.
Whether you’re an avid outliner or you’re devoted to writing by the seat of your pants, anyone can get stuck when they finish an important scene and have to think of the best way to move to the next important plot point. To solve this conundrum, I’ve started making a habit of loosely planning scenes right in the same document I’m writing my novel in.
When I’m writing a specific scene, my brain often wanders to the next important actions necessary to make the plot progress. Before I lose those ideas, I jot them down quickly in parenthesis, usually about a few inches below the scene I’m currently writing. That way, I have some notes for where to take the action next, and I’ll have a point of entry into the story once I finish the scene I was working on.
I’ve found that it’s an awesome way to end a good writing session, so that I have some ideas waiting for me the next time I sit down to write. Try it when you’re having a good writing day, and see if it helps you start your next writing session with motivation.
2. Don’t revise prematurely.
Okay, it’s not the end of the world if you do revise a little as you’re working on your first draft; I’ve done it and it has produced more dynamic scenes as I’m writing forward. But really, try to avoid revising as much as possible, because you can get wrapped up in making your writing perfect instead of focusing on the bigger picture—getting the accursed thing written! You can’t possibly know where the story is going to go if you don’t finish your draft first, and it might make all that premature revising futile.
3. Don’t delete.
Ah, deleting unnecessary scenes, another temptation. Sometimes I’ll catch myself five pages into writing the most rambling, unnecessary exposition, and I have to walk away before I do something dumb, like delete 5,000 words off my word count and restart that scene from scratch. While it can be frustrating to recognize areas in major need of revision while you’re in the process of writing, you’ll really hinder your progress if you make a habit of deleting these scenes. Instead, try to highlight words or make little notes in the margins reminding yourself to revisit these areas in revision.
For all of you who can’t stop yourselves from deleting on occasion (myself included), I offer a compromise. Create a separate Word document titled “Novel purgatory” or something similarly amusing to denote that your deleted scenes now live in this file. You may find that the scene where your antagonist was rambling on and on and on about their love for the French countryside may come in handy later.
Moral of the story: Avoid deleting and revising early as much as possible, and try to just stay excited about actually writing.
4. Write in whatever order keeps you excited!
Again, everyone writes differently. I’m a chronological writer—I usually outline my stories to give myself a roadmap, but a lot of the details usually aren’t ironed out yet. I confuse myself if I write out of order. That being said, I sometimes get bored and need to move to a more exciting plot point to stay motivated.
Plenty of writers are only able to stay motivated by jumping around from scene to scene. I even have friends who stay motivated by jumping between projects! As someone who only has a good story idea when a bell is struck during a Blood Moon on a rainy night in October, I’m in awe of these writers, who then lament to me that they wish they didn’t feel compelled to start a new project every time they brush their teeth.
We all have our quirks and foibles, but the important thing is to try to work the way that feels best to you, so you can make the best art that you can. If that means starting your novel by writing the ending first? Do it.
5. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice as absolute.
I want to point out that there’s a lot of advice from writers great and small who say that you Absolutely Must carve out time every day to write a certain number of words, and various other lifestyle “necessities” to be a successful writer.
It’s easy to get into a panicked mentality about not being able to commit X amount of hours each day to being a Real Writer, or read X number of books in X genres, or take X writing classes, or have X world experiences. The insistence that everyone should write a certain way is like saying every shape should fit into a square shaped hole.
So, please, don’t take anyone’s advice, least of all my advice, as an absolute. Writing advice is supposed to help you, and if it doesn’t, toss it out the window, roll up your sleeves, and find another way to keep yourself moving forward.
About Lauren Kalt
Lauren is a writer, freelance editor, and book blogger based in Phoenix, Arizona. She’s passionate about the magic of storytelling and helping others with their writing. When she’s not reading, writing, or editing, she spends her time drawing, mumbling to her dogs in French, and binge-watching Netflix shows. You can find information on her editing services as well as her writing and book blog at her website HERE. She can be found nerding out on Twitter at @LaurenMKalt.
Say hello to Lauren on Lauren’s member profile page on the 85K Writing Challenge.