5 tips for completing a novel (or small project)
Whether it's writing a novel or cleaning out the pantry, I tend to do things in an unconventional way. I chock it up to my right leaning brain.
Set a goal then, if necessary, quickly scale it back. Aside from these odd COVID-19 days, our schedules are normally jam-packed. As a wife, mother of three, and active member of my local church, it is unlikely that I will be able to find a chunk of time every day that I can devote to any project. Early on in my writing career I was given the advice that I needed to write every day. EVERY. DAY. Because if I didn't then I wouldn't grow, I wouldn't learn, I wouldn't become better at the skill. So I set that goal. Write every day. (This was several years ago when I had two very small children.) I almost killed myself waking up at 4:30 am in order to work out, shower, and write before my children woke up. The only problem was, my children didn't often sleep through the night so not only was I not getting a full night's rest, but half the time my children would decide that they wanted to wake up with me at 4:30 am. Because why not? Well, anyone can imagine that the lack of sleep combined with the constant demand on myself resulted in none other than Monster Mom unleashed, and my creativity had died along with my eight hours of nightly sleep. After some rough months, I realized that I did not have to adopt and adhere to the advice to write every day. I can see the value in it and I think it is good advice for some people. But it was not for me at that time in my life. So I changed my goal to accommodate what was realistic for me: Write every day...that you can.
Keep an open-mind. As with any project we usually have a vision of what we want the end result to be. I still dream of my novels climbing to the top of the NYT bestseller's list. I also dream of my pantry looking like something out of a Joanna Gaines kitchen. I am all for having big dreams!! But we need to keep our minds open to alternate endings that can oftentimes be better suited to our lives (and timelines) than we ever imagined.
Perfectionism can be deadly. I am not a perfectionist in most things so this is easy for me to say. BUT when it comes to my author career I have realized that if I want to see any sort of success I can't spend years and years editing and tweaking and fixing and rewriting. I could literally spend the rest of my life trying to make a single novel perfect in every way and I still would not achieve it. I have no doubt that there would still be a typo that eluded me and not only that, someone somewhere would find fault in it along with a reason to give a one-star review on Good Reads. Bottom line, take life (and writing) as it is: NEVER perfect.
Allow creativity a rest. Just like a fine steak, projects need time to rest. Why? Because it allows us the chance to come back to our project with fresh eyes. This is one piece of advice that I've seen floating around out there but ironically I figured it out on my own. After finishing my first novel, I spent nearly three years away from it - babies are demanding! (I wouldn't suggest going quite that long.) When I came back to it I had really grown in my writing ability. I didn't realize just how much until I started scouring through those clumsy sentences that read more like a transcript than a fictional story. It was painful to realize that I had spent so much time on something that would ultimately end up in a drawer with nowhere to go. However, I don't see it as a loss of time anymore. In fact, I now refer to it as my 'learning book' since it taught me so much about what it takes to be a writer.
Find a friend! Hands down the most motivating aspect of my writing career are the people around me. I kept my writing a secret for a looooong time. I did that for two reasons. One, I didn't feel like I could call myself a writer until I had a published novel (this is complete idiocy and everyone in the writing industry will tell you so). And two, I was afraid of what people would think of me. When I came clean (that sounds weird) I found it to be one of the most rewarding things I had ever done. I received so much support, even from people I never would have expected. And from that transparency, close connections led me to my two writing partners who have become integral in keeping my writing legs pumping.
You might wonder how I've completed a novel at all what with my scaled back goals and resting of creativity. Well, ironically, it is those tempering moments that allow me to really push forward in a realistic way and that has given me longevity. I'm coming on a decade since I've started this writing thing and I don't perceive any end to it. Truthfully, I see myself as an old lady writing historical romance novels that are steamy enough to keep a reader turning pages but clean enough for my grandchildren to read.