Finish that Novel!

Eternal pen

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Like many authors, I’ve spent the past many months staring at my computer, crying, drinking coffee, with flying fingers on good days and grudging words on bad days. I’d breathed, slept, and ate my novel, and learning to do so was the longest lesson I ever had in motivation.

So it was a bit of a shock when I recently met a kindly gentleman. He asked me what I did for a living, and I told him, “I’m writing a novel.”

He laughed, clapped me on the back, and told me, “Aren’t we all?”

Almost everybody wants to write a novel. The desire is out there, clogging the internet particles with wishes and hopes. Yet desire alone can’t do the weeks and months of hard work that are an innate part of the writing process.

We’re all familiar with the procrastination dance.  Job, boyfriend, spouse, children, sleep, fun, games, ah one-two-three ah one-two-three. But to actually finish a novel, we need motivation.

Motivation is often the hardest part of writing, and many successful writers are merely experts at coaxing your ideas away from their security blankets and onto your page.

  1. Find a daily pattern that works for you. If you need variety, change the pattern a bit every day. Experiment until you find the best time of day for writing.
  2. Train your brain to focus using environment “signals” (a certain smell, a type of food, or even music). My own brain is trained with coffee, and now even the smell makes me ponder my story.
  3. Identify mantras that relate to your personal struggles and post it near to your writing area. (Tip credit to one of my personal idols, Connie Willis)
  4. Identify a support system – or several support systems – that work for you. I recommend Twitter, full of friendly writers who also live on their computers just like you do. Be cautious, however, and use the system with judiciousness; turn it off when it’s time to really focus on your writing!

Use these tips or comment with more ideas, I’d love to hear from you. Tell me how they work!


4 thoughts on “Finish that Novel!

  1. I think I’ll use chocolate for my signal, and I think I need to be signaled all day long. 🙂 Great post, Valerie. I do have a set schedule for writing. I spend 90 min in the morning sorting through emails and responding to them and twitter messages. Then I write until I hit 2000 words. Evening is blogging time and more social media stuff. In between I play with my husband. It works for me!

  2. Stopped to visit your blog since we have coffee and Twitter in common. Great post. I only wish most of my time wasn’t occupied by a full time copywriting job and a 3-year old. Why is sleep essential?

  3. Valerie,

    Nice post. Great advice. As writers, we all need to find the “process” that works best for us. I enjoyed this post and several of your previous posts. I, too, blog about the writer’s life at as you mention in your related articles above.

    Nice work. Keep writing and encouraging writers.


  4. Pingback: On the Unknown with Kathleen Norris & the New Year: Day 1 of Project 365 « Writer's Code

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