Open up that Word document and let’s start writing!
I should make a note here to any of those who are still doing it old school. I used to write my novels in Mead notebooks. It was easy enough to carry one of those around in high school and when I didn’t bother to pay attention it simply looked like I was taking notes.
BUT! At some point you are going to have to translate that from paper to digital format. Might as well get used to the idea of writing on a computer unless you like torturing yourself, or if you need to learn how to type. (Worked for me, haha! But seriously, make the conversion, you’ll be glad you did.)
If you still swear you can’t think on screen, get over it, you will. It does take some getting used to, but it takes little time at all and then you’ll be in the digital age with the rest of us.
Now, hopefully most of you are attached to keyboards already. Grab your outline, or put your scene you’re going to test out in your mind, write CHAPTER ONE at the top of the page and begin!
When you finally finish your manuscript and have edited it a bajillion times with every person you could think of giving you feedback and want to send it in to an agent, there is an expected format.
I would stick to the classic 12-point Times New Roman font, double-spaced with 1″ margins all around. Some people will tell you Courier, and if an agent specifies a certain font, go with that, but since we’re all used to reading almost everything in a Times New Roman type font, use that. Don’t go smaller than 12-point to save space, that’s why they ask for a word count upfront. I’m telling you this at the beginning so you can get used to formatting it the right way.
You don’t need to put anything about copyrights on your stuff, the moment you write it you’ve copyrighted it. If you want to this early in the game, stick in the header your name, the title, and the page number, like this: Smith/The Matrix/9.
Use tabs when you start a new paragraph. For a more in-depth look at proper novel grammar and use of punctuation, go here.
Set yourself a writing goal. Whether 2 hours a day, one full day, or 30 minutes in the morning and evening, find one that works for you and stick to it.
I personally try to cram in 1.5 to 2 hours every morning before work. On Saturdays I try for at least 2 hours, but on any writing day if I’ve got more time I’ll take it. Just make sure you stick to your goal. Even if you woke up late and only have half an hour of your 1.5 hours, put in that time. It doesn’t matter if you write 30 words or 3,000 in your session, the point is to just write.
For me there are days when I have to ponder a lot and get very little written and other days when the creative juice is just flowing and I’m plowing through pages. Creativity ebbs and flows just like the tide. Don’t worry if your day wasn’t as productive as you wanted, it was still productive.
There are several options to help you stick to writing and finish your novel. You can do one, multiple, or all of these, just find what works best for you.
Deadlines. You can set yourself some deadlines. After all, when you become a published author you’ll have to work with them. You may as well start training yourself now. You could say you’re going to complete X number of chapters by the end of the month. Or perhaps in 4 months you can plan to be halfway through your novel. Whatever works for you.
Writers Groups. Find a local writers group or start one of your own. Tell your fellow writers you plan to have a chapter ready for the next month’s meeting, then stick to it. I find sometimes if other people are expecting me to meet a certain goal I reach it better than if it’s only me I’m accountable to. Plus writers groups are a fantastic way to meet other people like you. I’ve found them to be very supportive and you can use them to gain that precious feedback on your work to make you a stronger writer.
Blogs. Many of you probably have blogs. You can hold yourself accountable to the blogosphere that you will have a certain amount of pages or chapters done by a date of your choosing. Post updates to your blog on how you’re progressing. It gives you a chance to be accountable to someone, which gives you a reason to finish your goal.
Twitter. If you want a lot of support from writers, Twitter has a fabulous community of writers under different groups categorized by hashtags or #. If you’re not familiar with Twitter, there’s no time like the present. Sign up, get your handle and get on. Visit TweetDeck and use the add column feature to add the following hashtags:
- #wordmongering Visit this site for more information, but essentially you start on the hour :00 and write until the :30 when you report in with a word count. You’re likely to find other writers to join you. This morning I did some #wordmongering with a fellow Tweep. I found it invigorating, as though we were taking our writing journeys together. You can also use #editmongering in the same fashion.
- #WIP You can let other people who are also working on their Works In Progress how you’re coming along and meet other authors to network with.
- #Row80 I admit I haven’t used this one yet, but I really like the idea. (Unfortunately I missed this current round, but I’m hoping to jump in on the next one). It can be any kind of goal you like, it just has to measurable. You have 80 days to meet this goal. You’ll get encouragement from others, and again it’s accountability which means you’re more likely to meet your goal. Click here for more info.
- #MyWANA If you haven’t heard about this, consider your writing life forever changed starting at this moment. MyWANA is the brainchild of Kristen Lamb, WANA standing for We Are Not Alone. This is a great community to meet fellow bloggers, writers, dreamers—the energy is crazy awesome. Plus Kristen’s blog has tons of awesome tips on everything to do with the business, whether using social media to help promote yourself or network and of course helpful writing tips.
- #amwriting Another one a lot of writers use. You can use this tag when you’re working on something or if you have something to share with your Tweeps.
Honestly, if you’re not part of the community, you’re missing out! And most importantly, it helps you stay motivated.
Living in this age, we writers are truly blessed with a wealth of resources, especially for staying motivated. There’s no reason you can’t be successful, it just takes time, a lot of crazy hard work, and most importantly a willingness to learn and grow. So please, keep on writing!
Now it’s your turn. What do you do to stay motivated? What tips would you offer to writers struggling to get the ball rolling? What is one thing you wish everyone knew about writing? Let us all know in the comments below.
And just as an FYI, the How to Write a Novel series Pt 6 will be posted on Tuesday. I’m taking me a break from all this labor. See you Tuesday.