For years, I was one of those writers.
You know what I’m talking about.
You get a great story idea. You become enthralled. You plan, plan, plan, on a wave of supernatural inspiration. Everything feels possible! Then you sit down to start writing…only to abandon the manuscript a few chapters in.
Somewhere between character sketching and making it to chapter five, things kind of run out of steam. The excitement is gone. Your energy is gone. This brilliant story idea has become an odious chore. And so, you quit.
This was me.
For a long time I was stuck in the endless cycle of abandonment.
Would writing ever be more than a passing fancy? Something I could take seriously? Would I ever really finish a novel?
The answer was yes. I did finish a novel. I did start to take my writing seriously. And I believe you can, too! You can escape the endless cycle of abandonment and write something brilliant. If you’ve been feeling like one of those writers, here are the three things that broke me out of the cycle and helped me complete my first novel:
1. Plot your story
Looking back, the biggest mistake I used to make with my writing was getting really excited about the characters, setting, and premise of my book but failing to plot out the book.
This go-with-the-flow model might work for some people, but for me it was shooting myself in the foot. It’s easy to write an introduction, to craft the first few chapters. It’s hard to keep the momentum going in the meat of your novel when you don’t even have a plan for how novel is going to go.
With the first book I actually finished, I knew ahead of time what was going to happen to every character, in every chapter. There were exciting things and new developments happening every few chapters, and knowing those things ahead of time made it possible to keep the momentum. Sure, the details of each chapter happened as I wrote them, but I came into writing with a map, and that map kept me on course for the entire book.
Now, when I write, I create a good plot map first. With that structure in place, I can have more fun crafting each chapter. When each writing session doesn’t involve wondering if you’re moving at the right pace or including the right things or even going in the right direction, sitting down to write the words is a whole lot easier (and more enjoyable!).
2. Create a writing plan
When I was in the habit of abandoning my writing, time was always an excuse. There was never enough. When I did have time, I was tired. I would tell myself that I could just wait until summer break and then I would write my novel…but summer break came and went and still I didn’t have progress. Why?
Because I didn’t have a plan.
Once the plot of your story is in place, the next step is to create a writing plan. This involves planning ahead for the times you are going to write, and then sticking to it. Look ahead at your week: when do you have some extra time? When can you make some extra time? When are you choosing to watch TV or get lost on Pinterest instead of writing? Can you wake up a little earlier to get some words on paper while the house is still quiet?
If you keep waiting for the magic writing time when lack of stress, extra time, and inspiration all align, you’ll never write a book. When I decided to actually complete my book, I set aside time each week when I committed to do nothing but write. I had a packed schedule, but I still honored that time, and lo and behold, I finished the book!
3. Get some accountability
The best way to fail at your writing plan is to not tell anyone else about your plan.
Is there someone in your life who is interested in your writing and will keep you accountable for your writing times? If so, let them in on your plan.
When I wrote my first novel, a friend of mine also committed to writing a novel. We actually read each other’s work-in-progress as it was being written, sending each other the latest addition to our book at the end of every week. And you know what?
It worked like magic.
Suddenly, having someone else waiting for me to deliver at the end of the week made me unwilling to skimp on my weekly writing times. Having someone else invested in my storymade me even more excited to write my story. Knowing I had the next chapter or two of hers to read over the weekend made me determined to produce the next chapter or two of my work.
You don’t have to set up a model like this, but if you have someone you trust to keep you accountable for your writing, let them into your writing world and tell them your plan. The accountability might make all the difference.
I think of writing a novel like taking a backpacking trip.
If you start on a hiking trip alone, with no map and no plan, you’re going to become disenchanted pretty fast. But if you have a map, create a plan for how far you will go each day, and bring an awesome friend along with you, you will have a completely different experience.
Plan your journey well.
What problems have you encountered with persevering in your writing? What’s helped you? What changes do you think you will make to your plan?