One Opinion On How To Keep On With That Novel

See the first instalment, One Opinion On How To Start That Novel, here. This edition details how to keep writing a novel once you’ve started.

Stay focused: 

To be honest, I obsess. I’m anal too. This might be a bad thing for mental health but it’s great for writing. Maintain your own interest in your novel-in-progress by regularly musing on it, scrawling notes at dawn, brainstorming at fruitful times. (I do this when I’m half-asleep, annoyingly, when beefier ideas surface.) During ‘dead-time’ (bathing, day-job, breakfast) catch up on inspiring literature – magazines, fiction, articles – anything that activates your imagination. Keep on writing throughout.

Read stuff: 

Does this go without saying? I’ve been guilty of lengthy barren phases when I just can’t read. Illness, depression, laziness – many tedious reasons. But my writing always suffers. So perhaps it’s true what they say – read widely. Or just read. I find that consuming fiction I love nicely primes my creative muscles for action. Conversely, reading crap might inspire you to do better. So it should be a win-win situation.

Ask for feedback: 

This is a funny one. I’m a perfectionist so I don’t hand work over easily – apart from Abnormal online, of course, released during a show of madness. But I think most writers are similar. I gave novels to my mum at first (many drafts in) unaware of my own hidden motivations. Are you seeking constructive criticism or are you really after praise and approval? Showing off, even? I’ve learned it’s better to exchange pieces with other writers. They’re much more likely to be agonisingly brutal. And they’ll do it as a reader and a writer, which is endlessly useful. If you feel properly ready for abuse, fork out for a professional critique. I found this to be worth the pain.

Limit time on Social Media: 

I think I mentioned this in my last piece but it’s probably worth repeating. Everyone knows you can waste a tonne of time online – whether you’re a writer or not. But I think it’s worse for writers because we employ / justify all manner of excuses for watching cats all day on Facebook. I’m researching the novel! I’m tweeting about grammar! Didn’t you learn your craft through Pinterest? Reward yourself instead. Browse only once you’ve hit your target word count. You’ll be amazed at how self-righteous you’ll feel. And then you can look at cats all night ☺

Tell people you’re writing a novel: 

Yes, go against the grain, go against your better instincts. Tell everyone you meet that you’re writing a novel. They’ll be surprised, impressed and expectant. They’ll religiously ask you, year after year, if you’ve finished the book (or even if you’ve started it.) With the best of intentions they will plague you with questions that will make you squirm. What’s it about? What the hell makes you write about that? How far have you got? Are you insane? Smile at them and nod sagely. Then rush home to blow the dust off the laptop. Have answers for the nice people next time.


Guest post by Sara Jane Sheikh/Potter. Sara Jane Sheikh

I’ve been writing forever; amassing four and a half novels and one novella. I’ve had interest from agents and two small publishers, mainly for my latest book that I penned, live, online. I’m still editing Abnormal now. I’m thinking that you sometimes have to kiss a lot of frogs (novels) – whilst finding your voice – before you meet your perfect prince (publisher).

Twitter: @sarajanesheikh

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