You’re writing a novel. Everything’s fine. It’s going well.
Then suddenly you realize it’s three days since you worked on the novel; you’ve been busy. After telling yourself that you’ll work on it after the kids are in bed, you stream a movie instead.
Another few days pass. Then a week… And you’re still not writing your novel.
You’re stuck. You’ve completely lost your inspiration and you’d rather eat dirt than look at the novel again. Don’t despair. You’ll get stuck at least once on every novel.
Welcome to the novelist’s life.
Everyone gets stuck.
When you’re writing a novel, you’ll get stuck
Not only will you get stuck, you may get stuck more than once.
Please stop conducting a postmortem on your (seemingly) dead novel, right now.
Please do this:
- Open your novel in Scrivener, MS Word, or whatever app you’re using.
- Read the first couple of chapters.
- Open a new file.
- Start writing…
- IMPORTANT: write.
Write anything at all.
Maybe you’ll get inspired: you’re magically unstuck and are happily writing your novel. On the other hand, you might write how much you hate the novel, that your characters are a bunch of no-hopers and that in your next scene you’ll have them all join hands and leap off The Gap.
Here’s the truth: it doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you keep writing.
Keep writing: set a daily word count, and write
Keep writing. Set yourself a daily word count, and produce. Every day. To repeat: it truly doesn’t matter what you write, as long as you keep writing.
The biggest mistake I see all writers making—both fiction and nonfiction, is that they don’t write. Keep a journal. Write. Let your writing be what it wants to be.
Over time, you’ll start to trust yourself. You will know that even on your worst day you can write, and that your writing will take you where you want to go.
Before too many days have passed, you’ll be back to writing your novel.
Or not. Sometimes a novel dies. When that happens, it’s best to accept that that bunch of words will never become a novel. So, transform the words into something else.
Read over what you have.
Save the best bits and cobble a short story together, then publish the short story.
The good news: whenever you get stuck, you learn something.
Stuck? When you’re writing a novel, getting stuck is a good thing
Over the years, I’ve coached many authors who were stuck. Sometimes you can point to a reason: you managed to write 25,000 words in which nothing much happens. You finally realized your main character has zero goals; nothing’s at stake in the novel and the novel is dead, dead, dead.
Seriously, it is.
You’ll never make that mistake again. In future, the stakes will be high in every novel you write. You’ll write suspenseful novels—all because of those 25,000 words. Writing those words was worth it. You’re a better novelist now.
Keep writing. 🙂
Sell more books: develop your self-publishing strategy for fiction
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If you think you can't outline, you're wrong. You can create wonderful outlines which work for you: write more, and publish more.
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.