How To Write A Novel-Part 4: Just Write

Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on. _ Louis L'Amour

Yes, folks.

Just write.

That’s how a novel gets written.

It’s as simple as that.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it. For most people, myself included, writing is the hardest part of the whole process. I’ve only written short stories. Writing a novel is overwhelming, and that’s one reason why I’ve never come close to completing a novel. Self-doubt is the other reason my goal has yet to be reached.

What if I suck? What if my novel is the biggest piece of crap ever written?

In all likelihood, I will suck and, I hate to say it, you probably will, too. The first draft of anything almost always sucks. Accepting this fact is the key to pushing forward on those days where the words aren’t flowing or every sentence that you’ve written sounds like garbage.

What if it takes years to finish my novel?

If you really want to write a novel, it shouldn’t matter how long it takes. If you have a story in you, get it down on paper. No matter how bad your writing sounds, it’s only a draft and it can be fixed later. Stop reading about writing. Stop thinking about writing. Stop talking about writing and just sit down and write.  Set aside time every day, even if it’s only ten or fifteen minutes. No matter how you do it, get that story out of your system and keep going until you reach the end.

As for me, I think it’s time I take my own advice and just write.

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How To Write A Novel-Part 3: The Outline

PlannersgonnaPlan

I’m a planner. My house is littered with five million notebooks filled with lists and snippets of ideas – weekly menus, shopping lists, to do lists, story ideas. I jot things down as a way to organize my thoughts, as well as to help guide me in a particular direction.

When it comes to writing stories, I’m a person who prefers to know where the story is going before I begin writing.

There are plenty of ways to go about outlining a novel. If you’re a minimalist, a simple one-page bullet list of key scenes might be enough to get you started. There are some writers who create complex, detail-oriented outlines that are fifty or more pages long. Personally, I’m looking for an outlining method somewhere in between. It’s very easy for me to linger far too long in the planning stages of a story. I think it’s just my way of avoiding the inevitable – writing the draft.

Here are a few articles I’ve found explaining different ways you can outline your next novel:

For me, the outlining process is a way of fleshing out the original idea and figuring out if I can form that idea into a full-fledged story. I think it’s where I’m the most creative in the whole writing process because the ideas just seem to continually flow.

Knowing ahead of time where the story is going gives me a much needed boost of confidence that moves me from the plotting phase to writing that first draft.

 

The First Draft

Time For A Little Refocusing On February 24th, I started writing the first draft of my first novel. This isn’t the first time I’ve started the first draft of my so-called first novel. I’ve developed–and perfected–a start/stop method of writing, where I plan and plan and plan, then after spending waayyyy too much time in the planning phase, I will finally take the plunge and start writing the opening scene.

During the summer, I wrote three or four opening scenes and decided they sucked. I went back to my outline and delved a little deeper, and again got too comfortable staying in the planning phase. Then I got to thinking about what exactly was stifling my progress. Why the hell can’t I just sit down and start writing? Why can’t I get it right???

I reminded myself that I’m a novel-writing newbie. It’s not going to be easy. But realizing that wasn’t enough to get me writing that first scene again. So I turned to my Kindle copy of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and read the chapters entitled Shitty First Drafts and Perfectionism. I read them over several times, highlighting things that really resonated with me, such as

Almost all good writing begins with terrible first efforts.

The first draft is the down draft–you just get it down. The second draft is the up draft–you fix it up.

Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.

That last statement was my Aha moment. My pursuit of perfectionism was holding me back from starting the first draft. I kept starting and stopping because what I was writing was not perfect.

From that moment I said screw it. Enough with the planning. Enough with the stalling and waiting for perfect prose to flow through my fingers. I’m going to write the shittiest first draft ever written.

So I sat down that day and I started typing, and believe it or not the story started to flow. It’s clunky and full of holes, but I let go of trying to be perfect and allowed my self to start writing my shitty draft, which I will continue to work on until I reach the end.