“It’s a job, not a hobby. You don’t write the way you build a model airplane. You have to sit down and work, to schedule your time and stick with it. Even if it’s just for an hour or so each day, you have to get a babysitter and make the time. If you’re going to make writing succeed, you have to approach it as a job.”
So you’re ready to write your novel? You’ve got an idea burning away at the back of your mind that you can’t get rid of. Characters keep popping up, talking to you, urging you to write their story. But the notebook’s blank, the computer screen‘s white. You’re hesitating over that first line. How do you get prepared?
Well, that rather depends on whether you’re a plotter or a pantster!
If you’re a plotter, like me, you like to have that security of knowing where you’re going with your writing from the outset. I like to write a simple plan, listing my characters, and a simple timeline of what’s going to happen. I then go back over the plan, filling in more details, random thoughts and ideas, and anything that occurs to me that might be useful. This doesn’t mean it’s set in stone. Characters and situations have a funny way of evolving when you’re writing in ways you don’t expect. But a plan gives me something to turn to if I’m stuck or if a scene isn’t working. The plan sometimes acts to kickstart the writing, or allows me to jump ahead to a later scene while the tricky scene is working itself out in the back of my head.
If you’re a pantster, then you write ‘by the seat of your pants’, that is, you start writing without a plan, letting the words flow as they happen. Of course, you have an idea of what you’re going to write about, a situation, a couple of characters. You start writing and see what happens.
In reality of course, most writers are a combination of the two. When you start to pigeonhole a person, or a process, you usually find that most people don’t conform to a particular definition. And whatever works for you, works. But whether you’re a plotter or a pantster, there are some things you can do to prepare yourself for writing your novel:
- Read as much in your chosen genre as you can. In a saturated market, think what your book can add to the genre. What could be its Unique Selling Point?
- Even if you’re not planning your book – plan your time. If you’re writing something that requires a lot of research factor that in. Now plan when your writing time will be. First thing in the morning? A couple of hours in the evening? Plan it and stick to it. In a busy world with busy lives, writing can often be seen as unimportant, not a priority, but you need to be strong about this. Plan your time and use your time.
- Set yourself some goals and write them down. This can be a simple as ‘I’ll have written five thousand words by the end of the month’ or ‘’I’ll have finished my research by …’ Having your goals written somewhere you can see them reinforces them all the time, keeping them to the front of your mid.
- Prepare a space to write. It doesn’t have to be a great big desk in an office just for you. It can be a corner with a laptop. But make it a dedicated writing space. This helps you to get into the right mind set. When you’re in your writing space, you’re there to write. Incidentally, writing at the same time every day can also reinforce this – after a little while, if you sit down in your writing space at the same time (your writing time) you easily slip into writing mode (works for me anyway!).
Now you just need to get writing.