Writers struggle to complete projects. In this post, we share four novel-writing resolutions to keep. They will help you write your story.
If you’re anything like most writers, the thing you struggle with most is completing writing projects.
I know I have!
But why is that? There must be some underlying issue that makes finishing projects a consistent problem for so many writers.
Well, today, we’re going to explore that question and see if we can come up with some potential fixes.
4 Novel-Writing Resolutions To Keep
1. Don’t Wait For The Muse
The Myth of the Muse
I used to believe that all great art (especially writing) happened via some kind of divine inspiration—inspiration from the Muse. You just kind of wait around for a divine bolt, hope you have a pen and paper handy when it arrives, and write like mad until the moment passes. Many famous writers will try to convince you this is how they write, and thus, it’s the only legitimate way.
The truth is every full-time author I’ve met has a consistent writing routine. They set aside a specific time, or a specific amount of time each day, where they force themselves to sit down and write, inspiration be damned.
Try giving yourself a word count goal and a deadline; keep a journal of how much you’ve written each day and for how long. You might even enlist a writing friend to give you an assignment and help keep you accountable.
Writing is a craft first and an art second. If we want to become artists, we must first put in the challenging work of practising our craft.
The Muse? Well, it’s a fickle friend.
That said, I haven’t completely lost faith. Rather, I’ve found that—if I show up and consistently work at my craft, the Muse is more likely to show up too.
This is one of the easiest novel-writing resolutions to keep.
2. Don’t Get Lost or Run Out of Gas–Use an Outline!
Sometimes the difficulty with forcing yourself to just sit down and write is the overwhelming sense of possibilities. You could write about anything. And isn’t it true that, with the freedom to do anything, more often we choose to do nothing.
Many writers balk at plotting and outlining as hackwork—they fear it sucks all the creativity out of writing, but I’ve never found this to be the case. No matter how meticulously I outline a piece, when I actually write it, it comes out much differently than I planned. I’m always surprised by the way the piece turns in new and unexpected directions!
Really, an outline is like a roadmap with pit stops marked along the way. All it does is keep you on track, help you arrive on time and in one piece, and make sure you don’t run out of gas.
It would be silly to refuse to use a map or GPS because it might spoil the trip, right? Adventure (an inconvenience properly considered, according to Chesterton) happens no matter our plans.
Try outlining with this mindset, and you might find you don’t kick against the idea as much. Remember—structure doesn’t limit art, but gives it shape—even inspires creativity!
3. Accept The Terrible First Draft
Guess what? I’ve found the same to be true of every single thing I’ve written– all my first drafts are terrible. My workshop mates have all found it true of their work. And my writing teachers/mentors all assure me the same is true of their work too.
This is as it should be. Writing truly is rewriting. So, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to create a masterwork in the first draft. Make peace with the reality of the terrible first draft and it will come much more easily.
4. Just Put Sand In The Sandbox
This is the advice that changed my life as a writer. (It’s one of the best novel-writing resolutions.)
A dear friend, writing mentor, and ersatz editor was encouraging me to finish a draft so I could get it to her in time for her to annotate it. I was submitting it to a writing competition, and I knew I needed another set of eyes to look over it in revision. I told her I was struggling to get anything down and she said, ‘Just put the sand in the sandbox—you can’t make a sandcastle until you do.’
Finally, it clicked.
The first draft of a work of writing is like putting the sand, the raw material, into the sandbox. It’s only after the material is there that the piece can take shape, that you can begin to construct your sandcastle.
An idea alone isn’t worth much. It’s only once you get it down into a draft that you can work with it; you can shape it into something substantive—even beautiful!
A Quick Recap:
To get a leg up on your writing resolutions this New Years, try these actionable items:
- Create a writing routine: write at the same time each day for a specific amount of time with a word count in mind. Try keeping a journal of your progress.
- Give yourself a clear, precise concrete goal. For instance: I will finish a draft of my novel in 90 days. To make this more manageable, create smaller milestones, like completing a chapter per week. Maybe even ask a writing buddy to help keep you accountable!
- Make peace with the fact that your drafts won’t be good, and that this is natural and normal. Take the pressure off yourself of trying to create a masterpiece on the first go. All you see from your favourite authors is the finished product, but I promise you—those early drafts were a mess!
- Just put sand in the sandbox. Just get it down. You can’t make anything without gathering the raw material for your art—and the draft is that raw material!
We hope these novel-writing resolutions help you start and finish your story.
by Oliver Fox
Oliver earned his BFA from the University of Memphis (2015). After graduation, he worked as an editorial assistant for The Pinch (’16). Currently, he works as a manuscript analyst and is an MFA candidate at the University of New Orleans. He is the author of The Fantasy Workbook.
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