2013: the year of the novel

04Jan13

I am going to finish a novel this year.

I am. For real. No excuses, no chickening out. I’ve picked what I want to write, and I’m going to stick with it. (Hint: I’ve actually never finished a novel in my life, so this is really big for me).

I just have a feeling about this year. Even last year when I promised myself that I would finish a novel, I sort of knew that 2013 was going to be the year I actually did it (maybe because I was just waiting to make sure I survived the apocalypse…maybe not). I turn 21 in a month and while I always thought I’d have a novel completed by now, I’m realizing that before now I never really put in the time and effort it would take to actually finish something. Sure, I wrote a lot, but I always assumed that I would just finished when I finished. So I never finished. What I’ve learned is that if you really want to complete a novel, you have to give yourself a time limit, and you have to focus on running toward that goal so you can make it in that time.

Needless to say, after having all of these revelations, I’m very excited. And also very scared.

The bad news: I haven’t actually done any writing so far this year. I’ve done a lot of stressing about school (I go back and four days and I still haven’t got any of my books…facepalm), and a lot of moping around as a result of all that stress. But no real writing. Back in November when I was attempted nanowrimo for like a day, I managed to bang out the prologue to the story I’m going to write, which I’m, thankfully, still really liking. So I’m clinging to that for inspiration, but even though I know what’s supposed to happen after the prologue, I just can’t seem to bring myself to write it.

The good news: In December, I finally decided to embrace my approach to writing, accepting the fact that I am indeed a planner.. Last year I tried to pants several stories and every time I did it, it seemed like the worse decisions ever. It got to the point where I was asking my pantser friends HOW to pants and they just stared at me like I was crazy and told me you just DO IT. I could not. I just need to know where I’m going with a book or else my stress levels are through the roof and I will turn into the most miserable human on the planet. So finally I decided to stop trying to write how my other writer friends write and just do what’s most natural to me, which is to plan, and it has been wonderful. I managed to get through a lot of planning for this story near the end of December, though I still have an overwhelming amount of it that I still need to do. But I’m excited for it. It’s making the actual writing process look a lot less daunting, so at least I know I’m not exactly wasting my time.

Now I have some questions for you fellow writers out there. For those of you who have  finished a novel or two or three before (oh how I envy thee!), I would LOVE if you would give me some tips. What was hardest about finishing your first novel? Any tips on tackling your project? Tips on staying disciplined? I really need all the advice I can get. And to those of you who are like me and have yet to finish anything, are you working towards the same goal or something similar this year? How do you plan to tackle your project? I would love to hear from you guys! Come on. Help a girl out.

Happy writing!

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13 Responses to “2013: the year of the novel”

  1. I’m by no means an expert since I’ve only finished two novels. The first I pantsed, the second I pantsed until about chapter 17, at which point I outlined the rest. Turns out I far prefer outlining and was way more productive after that. So if you think planning is what’s best for you, definitely go with that.

    As for advice, I know what doesn’t work for me: the whole “write every day” adage. Some days you’re just not in that headspace, you know? Write when the words don’t want to be inside your head. BUT do make yourself a space for writing. Stephen King says in On Writing to make sure it’s a room with a door that can close. Shut everything out while you write. It helps, it really does. And the hardest part of finishing, for me, was starting. Once I wrote those first few words, there was no stopping.

    Good luck! I’m going to follow you, and I hope you make good progress. 🙂

    • It really is nice to finally find something that works for me; it’s certainly taken long enough! And the fact that I actually have fun doing all of the outlining is a nice bonus too. I’m not so sure I’m a ‘write everyday’ kind of girl either. I haven’t exactly tried it, but considering how much trouble I have when attempting it for Nanowrimo, I have a feeling that might not be my style either. And thanks for the advice! It’s definitely sound, especially considering I can barely even type out a short blog post with the TV on or my sister in the room. And I can only hope the words will flow once I begin (fingers crossed).

      Thanks a bunch for the follow and the advice! Good luck with your own writing! 🙂

  2. I’m a total Pantser in terms of plotting. That being said, there have many times I’ve let procrastination get the best of me and I’ve had to force myself to reach a certain daily word count that I track on a spreadsheet. Yeah, I’m a nerd, but having some accountability helps. Good luck finishing your novel.

    • Ooh, I’m totally jealous of you pantsers! I wish I could just force myself to relax and write a story that way, but I guess I’m just too neurotic for that. : P I may try that word count/spread sheet technique too, though I can only hope I’d have the discipline to actually benefit from it. Thanks for the follow and good luck to you as well!

      • I’m ashamed to admit the spreadsheet thing is from years of working in accounting. I only use the technique in short bursts, a month or two at a time. I’m not disciplined enough to stick to it for too long. Happy New Year!

  3. It is my goal to finish my novel this year too (this is my second one, but that’s not saying that the first one actually is published…yet). You’re already on the right track, in my opinion, in that you are embracing your own style and what works for you as you approach your writing. Go for it! And keep us posted!

    • Thanks a bunch! I certainly will keep updating ya’ll on how it’s going. 🙂 And good luck to you as well! Have you made any progress so far?

  4. I’ve found that works best for me is to just keep plowing on until I finish. I don’t focus as much on quality the first time. I mean, sure, I’d love to have a really awesome first draft, but the important thing to remember is that everyone’s first draft needs editing. Maybe this isn’t an issue for you, but I know it’s a huge issue for me. I think I was 21 or 22 before I finished my first novel (not counting novel-length fan fiction), and the reason for that was largely because I would start writing and then halfway through start realizing that it wasn’t turning out how I wanted it to, and I just gave up. Or I decided to start it over from a “better” perspective, and then I would just get stuck again. So I’ve learned to just keep going, even if I hate what I’m writing. I just try to write the first draft so fast that I don’t have time to stop and think about how crappy it might be. I also find that having an outline of all the major events helps.

    Of course, all that might just work for me. It might not work for you. I should probably also mention that my first drafts generally require huge rewrites and major editing (although my second drafts are usually pretty good). So, yeah, that might not be how you want to go about it, and it might not work for you, but I figured I’d mention some tips. 🙂 Good luck! I know you can do it!

    • Ah! Great advice. I find myself doing that often – starting a story, going through it, realizing something’s wrong, starting over and then running into the same problem. It’s gotta be some of my perfectionist tendencies; I always want to get the story right on the first try… but I suppose that’s just not possible. And I’ll try hard to make sure I have all the major plot points in mind before I go any further as well. Getting to a place where I have no clue what happens next is also another problem I tend to run into a lot… Anyway, thanks for the tips and encouragement! I definitely helps 🙂

  5. When I get really stressed out, it is easy for me to slip into thinking that I “have to” finish writing a novel or else something very bad will happen (failure, mostly). This leads to low motivation. Other times, when motivation is high, I may also feel that I “have to” finishing writing the novel, but it is a much different, more positive approach. It comes from finding a topic that I really respond well to and could explore endlessly. No matter what, make sure that you pick a topic that interests you. It does not have to interest anyone else but you, and so can be as crazy or weird or unconventional as you want. This is what will get you through all of the slumps and hardships that come along with writing a novel. If you feel that what you are writing is worth the time and energy that it takes, then it will be. And, if you decide to show it to an audience, readers will be able to tell your passion in the page. If you are interested, they will be, too. (If you weren’t interested, though, don’t expect them to be, either). Good luck.
    –JW

  6. I’m jealous of you plotters. Here’s my advice: 1.) Remember this is a draft, you can fix it afterwards. 2.) Give yourself a deadline. 3.) Skip around. If you’re stuck on a scene, skip to the next. This is especially true of plotter, when you know what scenes are next. Get to the end, even if your missing some scenes. That, I find to be the most useful part.

  7. I’m such a plotter. The only way I finished my first was to have every scene planned and then find the right time to write rather than “write every day all day” because I’m a student first. Find the time that works best for you, then do everything you can to eek out that time.

    Good luck!

  8. My biggest, best suggestion to you is to move forward at all times. Don’t go back to edit, just keep writing. It’s so easy to get bogged down in wanting to get it just right, but I find that I never get to the end if I do that. Besides, even as a plotter myself, I find that things sometimes change, that what seems right at the beginning ends up being different by the end. I prefer to do my editing with the whole picture, so I keep pushing forward until I’m done.

    That said, everyone is different and that means we all have different processes that work for us. So my only other advice is to keep track of what works for you and what doesn’t. Change what doesn’t, keep what seems to be working. In time, that will distill into a process that reliably gets you to the end.

    Good luck with your novel. I hope you reach that goal.


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