write that novel!

It’s said that everyone has at least one novel in them, but only very few take the plunge and begin to actually write that novel. Even less people manage to finish it.

Inspired by the Novel Push Initiative, I’ve set a deadline for the novel I’ve been on-and-off writing for the last year or so: September 1 2009, or 121 days.

It is now day 18. I have written 8,930 words so far (total word count: 26,930), averaging at 470 words per day. So far, so good.

Here is some advice to other novel-writers:

1. Plan your novel.
It doesn’t have to be a set-in-stone outline, but knowing the rough plot of your novel will help you write a well-paced and coherent story.
I particularly like the roadmap technique. Take a blank piece of paper and write a phrase summarizing the first main event. Draw an arrow, and then describe what happens next. Another arrow, another phrase, and so on. Your roadmap may have forks and question marks, but should roughly lead you from start to finish.

2. Keep a small notebook and a pen with you at all times.
Whenever you have a free moment, scribble something down. Is there an odd man sitting across you on the train? Describe him. Is there a couple arguing next to you? Write down their conversation as accurately as you can. Use your environment as a prompt to get writing.

3. Work on your novel every day.
If you wait for inspiration to strike you, you may be waiting forever. Set a feasible daily target (mine is 250 words) and stick to it. Use your notebook scribbles to inspire you. Even a sentence here and there will eventually add up! Regularly achieving that target is a powerful motivator and, ironically, will inspire you to write more.

4. Set aside specific time to write.
This relates to #3, but make sure you set aside some time each day to write. Tell loved ones to leave you alone for that period. Turn off your phone. Do whatever it takes to give yourself the space to write uninterrupted.
Some days you may be uninspired, angry, or bored, and having a set pattern will help you keep working.

5. Don’t worry about mistakes.
This is only your first draft. Get the novel written, then think about editing and rewriting. Focusing too much on technique, style, language, and so on will probably slow you down.

Do you have any other tips to add to the list?

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About A.M. Harte

A.M. Harte writes twisted speculative fiction, such as the post-apocalyptic Above Ground and the zombie love anthology Hungry For You. She is excellent at missing deadlines, has long forgotten what ‘free time’ means, and is utterly addicted to chocolate.
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