Without doubt, writing can be both the best and worst thing in the world. The feverish force of creation can pull at you, power you – and, just as easily, petrify you like Medusa.
When gripped by that glorious sense that you could write forever, and what you are writing is good, there is nothing better. A shame then that this occurs so rarely! Whether you are a seasoned writer or just starting out, there are so many things that seem to want to trip you up. Writer’s block, procrastination, imposter syndrome…these can so easily affect all of us.
I am by no means an expert, and the advice I will share here is merely a mishmash of other, wiser people’s words, but it helped me immensely when writing my first novel (The Hellion – now almost funded through Unbound publishers! You can still preorder now).
1. Just get started
I am certainly guilty of this. Finally getting the idea for a novel and being unable to start until the plot is perfect and all research has been completed. The problem is, no matter what your novel is about, research can never be finished! There is always something more you can learn. So, when you get that idea, start writing. The plot and research can happen alongside, but get some words on the paper first. Then you’ll learn whether this really excites you, or whether it feels like too much of a chore (notice I say too much – however much you enjoy writing, there can often be times when it feels like a chore).
2. Don’t feel that you always have to write your best work
You wanted to write a chapter today but, on sitting down at your laptop, you discover that you have lost the ability to string a sentence together. No matter how many times you try to form the words, it sounds clunky and trite. Don’t worry! Just leave the sentence as it is and keep writing. Get that chapter down. It doesn’t have to be the best thing you’ve ever written – not even close. You can go back and edit it later.
3. Be your own cheerleader
Who here is their own worst critic? Who thinks that everything they write is terrible, and can’t muster the courage to show it to anyone else? It is difficult to change that mindset, but it is important to. Reward yourself when you’ve written a set number of words or pages – it’s an amazing achievement! Think of the advice runners are always given – no matter where you place in a race, you have beaten all of the people on the sidelines or tucked up in bed at home. Everything you write hones your skill. Celebrate it. Be proud.
4. Find a schedule that works for you BUT don’t beat yourself up when it fails
For too long, I thought that if I wasn’t writing every day then there was no point in doing any at all. If I was tired when I got home from work and chose not to write – well, that would be it for the next few months. The chain of writing every day was broken, so I might as well stop forever. Totally wrong! It’s just that I hadn’t found the way I best write yet. It was only when I tried NaNoWriMo that I found what suits me – high volume, short time – a month of writing 1500+ words a day. The ridiculously high target forced the words out of me. This is how I’ll write (or at least finish) all of my future novels; no slow burn here. But the important thing – I didn’t actually write the target of 50,000 words in my NaNoWriMo months, more like 25,000-30,000. Is this a failure? No! I was way further on than I had been at the start of the month. That is a win.
5. Procrastinate less
This is the most difficult one for me. I am a master procrastinator. I find starting hard, so I set myself a time in my head. At 6pm, I’m going to start writing. In the half an hour until then I can do what I like, browse the internet, cook tea, dust the shelves, but I’m starting my writing at 6pm. If I get the urge to stop and do something else while I’m writing, I do. I let myself take little breaks. As long as I’ve started, I can feel good about my progress.
What do you struggle with when you’re writing? Share in the comments below!