Are you ready to be a novelist? Look at our checklist and some advice.
Is there a novel writer in you? Do you have what it takes? Literary talent is great – but it’s not the most important thing. You need to have the right kind of personality to be a novelist. In this article, we’ll talk about what it takes to accomplish a novel. This is a checklist that helps you get all the boxes checked!
Ready To Be A Novelist? A Checklist & Some Advice
Have you ever had a shiny new idea scare the living daylights out of you? Novel writing used to be that for me. I used to think writers have masses of talent, are brainy beyond belief, and speak only in elegant metaphors.
I started my novel anyway. It has been an incredible learning experience. In a nutshell, you need certain personal skills and characteristics to see this enormous undertaking through right to the end.
That personality needed is very different from the mythical novelist I originally had in mind. Remember: myths stand on pedestals, like those statues in museums. Life is different. Let’s do a reality check together. If you can’t check off one of these things just yet, follow the links given and you’ll find tons of helpful advice!
Every Myth Has A Kernel Of Truth
You do need a love of words and some literary talent. You do need to know many stories before you can write one of your own. This is where the myth of the novel writer is true.
But a writer is not a librarian. No need to have every book ever published at your command. No need to come from a long line of Pulitzer prize winners to write.
Writing is a process, an activity to enjoy, and a craft to practice. You’ll get better eventually. Yet, what makes you stick with this activity? You need to have the personality of a novel writer.
The Personality Of A Novel Writer
Writing a novel is not for the faint of heart. Anyone can start a novel, but here’s what you need to finish it.
- Do you have self-discipline? Discipline beats talent – every time! If you never show up to the page, you won’t write a single word. Don’t mistake discipline for motivation, though. Sure enough, you need to motivate yourself to keep going until the novel is finished (need some motivational quotes?). But you can’t rely on motivation. The first weeks will be a breeze because everything is exciting. But then it gets tedious. It becomes work. That’s when your self-discipline kicks in. Sit down and write even when you really don’t want to. When motivation is flagging, novel writers rely on discipline.
- Can you make time to write? My first draft took about a year. NaNoWriMo says you can do it in a month – but honestly, is this possible if you have a family and a job (and want to keep them)? Don’t get me wrong: NaNoWriMo is a great tool to propel a story forward (here’s our Guide To NaNoWriMo). But it deprives you of the thinking and learning process that comes with novel writing. Learning, however, requires time. So, organise your life to have the time. Here’s how 5 famous authors found the time for writing. It doesn’t have to be every day, but a little time every week is necessary, or you just won’t finish. Novelists need to stick to schedules.
- Is your writing practice a habit? Discipline paired with repetition becomes a writing habit. Writing routines can enhance your writing. They’re what enables you to reach the end. No matter when you sit down to write, or for how long, all that matters is that you do it regularly. Create that habit today. This habit needs to become such an integral part of you that when you sit down at your desk, you just write. For me, Sunday mornings are best. Come rain or shine, or holiday, I never miss out on a writing session. Novel writers don’t make excuses. Novel writers are consistent.
- Do you know how to tackle big projects? Because that’s what it is: a novel is a project, just like the ones at work. Writing is work! The same rules apply. Big projects seem overwhelming. You need to break them down into smaller chunks, decide what to do when (that’s a roadmap!), and stick to that. Smaller units of a novel are chapters and scenes. A year of 52 weeks could mean writing one scene a week (Our sister website Deadlines For Writers has created the 52 Scenes In 52 Weeks challenge to help you do just that). Now one scene a week, that’s something you can do, can’t you? Novel writers manage their writing like a project.
- Do you keep yourself accountable? Now that you’re managing your novel like a project, your roadmap will likely include plot points or even word counts as milestones. Add deadlines to your roadmap, and you have goals. Then, share your goals with a writing group and your family. They are your writing tribe. Why is that important? You’ll find out when you try to chicken out of a writing session. These people will then ask about you. They will care. And they will carry you through the process. Because you’re all committed to the same goal. So, include accountability into your routine with our Self-Accountability Tips For Writers. Why? Because accountability helps you to become more professional. Novelists turn a hobby into a commitment.
- How much theory do you know? You can start a novel without knowing any theory; it’ll probably be quite a mess. So, brush up on theory. Read as much as you deem necessary (Writers Write has many articles on this). Find a story structure that appeals to you (you could choose from these 6 Classic Story Structures). Remember, you’ve read plenty of books, so you’ve seen the theory in action. Create awesome characters (here’s our Quick Start Guide). Novel writers need to know their craft.
- Do ideas come easily? You’ll need tons of ideas for a novel. String them in ‘a series of escalating events’ (to quote writing teacher Mia Botha) and you have a plot. And that’s what keeps your reader going. Novelists string ideas into a plot.
- Do you know how to beat writer’s block? Writing such a long text, you’re bound to feel drained and uninspired sooner or later. For these days, you need a plan B. You need a technique to generate ideas. Have you tried prompts? Even if you think this word will never make sense in your text, somehow a prompt gets your creative juices flowing. Somehow, everything suddenly falls into place. Here are some ideas on how to include prompts in your writing practice. You can sign up for the Writers Write Newsletter to get a daily prompt. You can try out other techniques to get writing again, too. Novelists know how to write without their muse.
The Last Word
So, are you ready to be a novelist? Don’t worry if you didn’t get a perfect score yet. I didn’t have that when I started. The only thing I had was discipline and motivation. Those two pulled me through. Everything else I picked up on my writing journey. Writing my first novel shaped my personality. And I enjoyed that so much, I started to write the next novel. Happy writing!
By Susanne Bennett
Susanne is a German-American writer who is a journalist by trade and a writer by heart. After years of working at German public radio and an online news portal, she has decided to accept challenges by Deadlines for Writers. Currently she is writing her first novel with them. She is known for overweight purses and carrying a novel everywhere. Follow her on Facebook.
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