“Everyone has a novel in them.”
But if that’s true, then so is this: not everyone has the grit to write a novel.
Just like, technically, anyone could complete a marathon if they wanted to. But most people won’t, because they don’t have the commitment to train for a run like that. (Including me!)
My point is, the difference between someone who actually writes the novel they want to write and someone who doesn’t is simply this: the person who got to the end didn’t quit.
And it’s kind of freeing, really. It’s not about talent, or having a great idea, or being blessed from above by some scriptorial muse. Whether or not you write your novel is entirely up to you. That’s empowering. That means you get to decide.
If you’re ready to write your book all the way to the end, here are some tips for not giving up:
Have a road map
Look, I get that some people love to outline and some people hate it. But having some sort of road map going in really helps, even just to create the illusion that you know where the story is going. (Even if you just know the event that’s going to get the story rolling and the event in the middle that’s going to change everything—like I usually do.)
Caveat: if you’re anything like me, your outline will change as you go. That’s okay. You can always go back to outlining or brainstorming if you get stuck. Which brings to me to…
Plan for getting stuck
Even if you outline extensively, you will probably get stuck, because everyone gets stuck.
Sometimes what you write in an outline doesn’t make sense once it’s in a story, or something magical happens in your draft (yay!) that changes everything (argh!). The trick here is not to panic. Like I said, it happens to pretty much everyone. If/when you get stuck, here are some things you can do:
Stop writing for an hour or a day and do something else. Go for a walk or swim in the sea. Talk to people. Stop thinking about the problem and let your subconscious figure it out.
Take a more active approach and brainstorm the problem out. Put your favourite music on, or go to your favourite coffee shop, and write yourself through the problem. Draw diagrams. Write lists. Ask yourself questions and answer them. Find connection points.
Know that you are going to feel like giving up…and that feeling like giving up does not = giving up
Read interviews with writers and you’ll see a common thread: every writer feels like giving up sometimes. When you feel like giving up, notice it, recognise it, be kind to yourself. Take a break if you need to. But don’t wait too long before you get back to work. Just recognise the uncomfortable feeling and keep going.
Get an accountability partner
Find a critique partner and plan to exchange chapters with them. Tell a friend you’re writing a book and you’re going to send it to them on X date. Join a class, or do NaNoWriMo. Writing a novel can be a lonely experience, and having an external deadline of some kind changes everything.
If you’re wondering where to find a critique partner, try Twitter, your local SCBWI chapter, Ladies Who Critique, or google “critique partner [your genre]” to find match ups.
Just decide that this time, things are going to be different
Life is short. If you want to write a book, then write your book. You are the only one who can decide whether you’re going to do it or not. So just decide. Start today. Take it one day at a time. And keep going.
It really is that simple.
Now you tell me: what do you do when you feel like giving up? Let me know in the comments and let’s encourage each other.