Write That Novel!

This question is from a writer who follows my Facebook business page. I have permission to use her question as a blog post:

I like to write, but am racked with doubt so I quit. How do you motivate your writers to finish?

I would say to set a goal. Look at your schedule. How many words do you think you can write in a day? If you write 1000 words a day, you will have the first draft of a novel in three months. A thousand words adds up to four pages. That’s it! Most people can write four pages a day. But if you truly can’t, go for 500 words, or two pages, a day. Writing a novel in six months is still a respectable pace. Write something, even if you know you’ll have to edit and revise. In fact, I worry about any writer who doesn’t revise — oh wait. I don’t know any. The point is, get something on paper so you will have material to work with. Some writers tell me they enjoy editing more than the initial writing.

If you want to move even faster and write within a community, note that November is National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo has the goal of encouraging writers to complete a novel in a month. Here is a link to a site written at the end of last year’s event with a lot of tools to help you participate.

Another way to kick start yourself is to schedule traveling to a conference. Many are inexpensive, one-day events but knowing you will need ideas to present to editors and agents should be enough to motivate you to write. The conference-imposed deadline will keep you on track, too.

The bills in the daily mail can be a huge motivator. We just received notice that our daughter has been accepted to college. The letter said, in essence, “Congratulations! Don’t blow off your senior year. Send money.” Perhaps you have a similar motivator in your stack of mail. Why not get started today?

Happy writing!

Your turn:

What are your writing goals?

Can you give us some tips and tricks on how you meet your writing goals?

What is the biggest obstacle for you in meeting your goals?

28 Responses to Write That Novel!

  1. Avatar
    Anne Love October 25, 2012 at 4:15 am #

    Great advice Tamela. I didn’t realize I was impacting my son, who is a junior in HS, with my writing. But last night he told me that he has been working with a partner for a writing project in English class. He said, mom I had to keep telling my partner just what you always say–just get something on the page, we’ll fix it later. It kept their work flow going and he said it worked. I was so proud! :o)

    • Avatar
      Lisa October 25, 2012 at 5:42 am #

      I love this. Sometimes my kids bring me something to ‘contribute’ to my blog. I love that our work can be a good example to our kids. You should be very proud! 🙂

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray October 25, 2012 at 8:38 am #

      Anne, you certainly should be proud! That’s awesome!

  2. Avatar
    Kathryn Elliott October 25, 2012 at 5:28 am #

    Encouraging post! My first goal; turn out the best possible work, second; cry less. One VERY helpful hint a friend offered up recently – when writing (fiction in particular), TURN OFF the internet connection! Less time sucking social media –more creativity.

  3. Avatar
    Laurie Alice Eakes October 25, 2012 at 5:32 am #

    Not sure to whom to attribute this statement, and it is some of the best writing advice anyone ever gave me:

    You can’t fix a blank page.

    Even if it doesn’t make sense, the practice of words on the page gets one in the habit of putting words on the page. I also find being accountable to others helps, not necessarily critiques, but just announcing you intend to write for 30 minutes and then saying you did or having to explain why you did not.

    It’s just a commitment plain and simple. One doesn’t get good without practice at a piano, so why would writing be any different?

  4. Avatar
    Lisa October 25, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    I sometimes feel tempted to give up, because I feel doubt about my own abilities. But, I can’t stop myself from writing, it’s just something that’s a part of me. That helps me remember that God places these dreams on our hearts for a reason.

    Thanks for the encouragement to keep going.

  5. Avatar
    Diana Harkness October 25, 2012 at 5:41 am #

    Write those doubts into the novel. You have doubts? So do your characters. Write anything, but write your doubts. You don’t know which way to turn? Neither does your protagonist. Write it. You are lost? So is your protagonist. Find a way out together.

  6. Avatar
    Jeanne October 25, 2012 at 5:49 am #

    Loved this, Tamela. As a plotter, I knew most of my scenes going into writing my fast draft. But I had a few scenes that refused to word themselves out onto the page. So, I found that writing my idea for them and moving onto the next scene helped me a lot. Then, I went back and re-wrote or deleted in my next pass on the story.

    I wrote a couple of scenes that stank, were boring, because I wasn’t sure how to add the tension. I talked it out with a friend, which helped me to come back to it with fresh ideas. But, I put something down and moved on. That helped me a lot.

  7. Avatar
    Liz Tolsma October 25, 2012 at 6:04 am #

    I set a goal of 2000 words a day for myself. I turn off the internet (we have the wireless router plugged into a Christmas light remote thing) and don’t allow myself to turn it on until I have those 2000 words on paper.
    The other day, I couldn’t seem to write anything other than cliches. I figured a bad day writing cliches was better than a day of writing nothing. I just kept on writing and before I knew it, I had 3000 words.

  8. Avatar
    Mike Manto October 25, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    Thanks Tamela. Your advice fits well with my own experience. I’ve been writing seriously for 5 years now. I work full time. We have 6 kids and 1 grandchild and all the busy family stuff that goes with that. And I’m also the home handyman, keeping our house fixed up and doing renovations. With all that, I set what I felt to be a realisitc goal of 500 words a day. I’ve been writing with that goal for a few years now. I average better than that, and usually finish a novel within 6 months. I have to get up at 5 AM to do it, when no one else is awake yet, but if you are willing to make the time, it can be done.

  9. Avatar
    Debby Mayne October 25, 2012 at 6:09 am #

    Great advice as always, Tamela! I’m motivated by a natural sense of urgency that won’t let me quit until I finish a task. I think it’s genetic.

  10. Avatar
    Penny McGinnis October 25, 2012 at 6:16 am #

    I try to do something writing related everyday at lunch and for an hour in the evening. As I wrote my manuscript, (it took 2 years) I got discouraged from time to time because life happened and my hour was devoured. When I wanted to give up, I reminded myself that God put this task before me and I needed to finish, no matter how I felt. As a result, I finished the book and am now editing almost every day for at least a half hour. Keep plugging away, the reward outweighs the discouragement.

  11. Avatar
    Carrie Fancett Pagels October 25, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Accountability partners.

  12. Avatar
    Robin Patchen October 25, 2012 at 7:06 am #

    I participated in NaNoWriMo last year for the first time. It was the worst possible month to do it, too, because my father visited for a long weekend, and my in-laws visited for a week, and neither of those visits coincided with Thanksgiving–which I host for my extended family. So writing 50,000 words seemed impossible. But I broke it down: 50,000 words over 20 days is 2500 words per day. I figured 20 days, knowing I wouldn’t work when I had company, nor would I work on Thanksgiving. I got behind after my in-laws visited, but I was determined to do it, and I did! I got all 50k words written, and I’d finished the novel by the first of the year. Was it perfect. Far, far from it. But it’s down. Love the quote above: You can’t fix a blank page. That’s so true. You just have to do your best the first time around, knowing you’ll come back to it again.

    • Avatar
      Meghan Carver October 25, 2012 at 7:55 am #

      That’s a great breakdown. I think I could do 2500 words per day, with my family’s help. Thanks, Robin, for making it sound do-able.

    • Avatar
      Jeanne October 25, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      I did NaNoWriMo for the first time too last year, Robin. Don’t laugh, but I did the exact same thing–breaking down my goal into the number of days I thought I could write. It worked. I’m glad I’m not the only one who does this. 🙂

  13. Avatar
    Kathleen L. Maher October 25, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    I’ll be doing Nanowrimo again this year. Last year was the first I’ve skipped in five years, due to heavy edits on an old project. I have a big idea this year, and have it mostly plotted out, so I am very excited! Bring on November! (and turn on the answering machine! Almost all calls can wait for an hour or two while the words are flowing)

  14. Avatar
    Rick Barry October 25, 2012 at 7:16 am #

    A daily goal is so crucial. Add at the very least a few new sentences to keep your brain engaged and to keep pushing the story forward. Sure, a lot of those sentences will need the hammer and chisel later, but you can always polish rough drafts. Blank Word docs can never be re-shaped into anything.

    Even though I’ve freelanced hundreds of articles and short stories and authored a couple YA novels, this is a mantra I need to keep repeating: “At least one more paragraph today.”

  15. Avatar
    Meghan Carver October 25, 2012 at 8:02 am #

    Thanks, Tamela, for that link. My primary writing time is nap time. On days when I know it will be either interrupted or non-existent, I try to brainstorm through the day. When I have an idea, I’ll run to the computer, telling my children that “I just need to make a note.” If it really flows, my “note” can turn into a few hundred words.

  16. Avatar
    Lindsay Harrel October 25, 2012 at 8:31 am #

    Accountability is huge for me! Get someone who knows what you’re going through (a fellow author), tell them your goals, and tell them when you’re struggling. My critique partner is that person for me, and she’s helped me to stop from jumping off a ledge more than once.

  17. Avatar
    Patrick E. Craig October 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm #

    I have a full-time job and a three-book contract,so I have to be very conscious of my writing schedule. My goal is two chapters a week (about 5000 to 6000 words.) I get up very early on Saturday and Sunday and write for three to four hours. My wife does the initial proofing on week nights and I follow right along with revisions and edits. That, along with taking care of my place and relating to my kids and grandkids pretty much does in my schedule.

  18. Avatar
    Carrie Turansky October 25, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    I like setting weekly goals. That keeps me on track but also gives me a little flexibility if life happens and a day gets away from me. Thanks for sharing these helpful ideas!

  19. Avatar
    Peter DeHaan October 25, 2012 at 2:46 pm #

    Tamela, congratulations on having a college student next year. If this will be your first, it will be an exciting new phase in your life (and one of the more expensive ones).

  20. Avatar
    Joy Avery Melville November 14, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    If I were to attribute one specific thing that got me writing and writing steadily it was a Bible study by Marlene Bagnull – WRITE HIS ANSWER –
    The Holy Spirit tripped my writing/goal setting trigger with that study and I wrote my second novel from April 2 – Jun 25 with several days out to write and instruct workshops (3) in that same time period with a five day stay with another writer and her family where I did nothing but brainstorm on and critique.
    I am looking forward to doing the second book of that trilogy in the same way. Setting goals for a two-year period has been a blessing and God has guided me step-by-step.
    I even took in an extra state conference last month and pitched the trilogy (unexpectedly) to an agent and editor who both asked for proposals – PRAISE THE LORD for Marlene and her study.

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