How to Prepare for Writing a Novel
It’s all in your mind: you’ve got the perfect setting, plots are unfolding, and characters are begging to be born. It’s time to set them free. Change them from jumbled thoughts in your brain to words on paper. Whether it’s your first novel or your twentieth, writing can be daunting, rewarding, frustrating, and thrilling. It’ll most likely be all of those during the journey from first to final page. Fear not, Grammarly’s here to help!
As you know, November marks the return of many scribophiles’ favorite celebration—NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). Here’s a list of best practices for surviving the most anxiety-inducing part of the writing process—getting started.
Tip #1: Get Organized.
It’s tempting to jump right in and start typing, but that’s like going hiking without a map. Preparing to write is as important as what you write. These tips are a great way to start:
Create a Sacred Space: Determine whether you want to work from a home-office with neatly stacked Moleskins and fresh sticky notes or sprawled out surrounded by your favorite books, scraps of research scribbled on napkins, and a plate of cookies. Whatever your style, indulge in creating your space; you’ll need these comforts to unlock your creativity.
Write an Outline: You might not stick to it, but you need to have a plan for your plot. There are several plot structure templates you can lean on, but in order to make it past 1000 words, make sure your idea has room to grow. Fleshing out ideas also decreases the risk of burnout, so do the same for your characters—give them a backstory before you give them your story.
Tip #2: Stay Motivated.
Some days you’ll do anything to avoid writing: chores, taxes, even reading articles about how to write. Try these methods to avoid productive procrastination:
Find a Community: Either online or in person, talk to people about your book. Doing so provides opportunities for characters and themes to grow. Talk about your writing struggles with a group of writers or with close friends and family, and don’t forget to listen to your community when they don’t understand a character’s motivation or can’t follow a scene. They’re your primary readers, and their input is important.
Listen to Music: Science has proven that music helps concentration, and with the advent of music streaming services, it’s never been easier to find music that’s enjoyable and motivational. Looking for the perfect playlist? Try this one; it’s perfect for fall.
Exercise: Sitting in a chair all day will wreak havoc on your body, and if you aren’t disciplined, the stress of writing might lead you down the sugary path of gummies, pastries, and confections. Unfortunately, this lifestyle can lead to depression and writer’s block, so it’s important to get moving. This keeps your body healthy and stimulates brain activity. During moderate aerobic activity such as a brisk hike or an indoor cycling class, people become more relaxed and hone critical thinking skills.
Tip #3: Meeting Expectations.
Expectations are not requirements. While important, they may change over time. Nevertheless, if you ever want to manage expectations and finish your novel, try these:
Set Small Deadlines: For NaNoWriMo, writers have thirty days to complete manuscripts, which can seem Herculean without setting small, attainable goals. Whether using an electronic calendar, or a giant desk calendar that sits under your laptop, setting reasonable dates for smaller tasks will aid in your progress and motivation. Try setting a daily word count, for example.
Let Go of Perfection: Let’s face it, no author is 100 percent satisfied with her finished product. How could she be? A long-term, creative project involves so much learning and growing that a writer is undoubtedly transformed by it. Therefore, to make it to the end, a writer must suffer through those less-than-brilliant moments. Every writer struggles; even Elie Wiesel once said, “It would be simple and comfortable to play with words and win; all it takes is to play the game and practice a bit of self-delusion.”
Whether you create an hour-by-hour schedule, play perfect music, or eat the best foods, you’ll eventually need to write and rewrite, then revise and write some more. The first 250 words might take longer to compose than the following 250 pages, but they all need to be written—so go grab some coffee, let loose the lingering souls in your mind, and WRITE!