Starting a book is hard, sticking with it is difficult and finishing it can seem impossible. There are going to be times during the writing process where you think, I shouldn’t be a writer, I hate this book, I’m wasting my time.
If you can push through those negative thoughts and let someone else be the judge of your work then you will probably be pleasantly surprised. It’s natural to doubt your abilities and your work at different times – writing a novel is hard work, it’s tiring and it opens you up to public scrutiny. The closer you get to finishing a book, the more you will unfairly judge your work, in preparation for readers potentially doing the same.
In this post I hope to give budding author’s a few sanity-saving tips for limping through tough times so they can keep on keeping on.
Tip 1: Do not pour over words or paragraphs trying to make them perfect. They will never be perfect because perfection is in the eye of the beholder. Hopefully you will have many more eyes on your work in the near future. Worry about neatening up sentences and choosing more appropriate or interesting words during your editing phase.
Tip 2: Can’t think of a name, place or brand? Just move on. I like to mark places in my book that I need to revisit (maybe I want to do some research first or I have just got a complete mind-blank) with a double question mark (??). If you spend hours sitting there, not writing because you are trying to think of something that in the greater scheme of your novel is probably quite inconsequential, then you are not going to finish your novel in a reasonable timeframe. The longer you are writing a novel, the more worn down and exhausted you are going to become in the process, which leads into my next tip.
Tip 3: Stay positive. It is ok to criticize your work but ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what you think. What matters is what your readers think, so try and keep things light and upbeat in your head.
Tip 4: Worn out? Stressed? Beating yourself up for not getting enough done? Give yourself a break. Sometimes the best thing to do is to have some time off and give yourself permission not to think about your novel. Come back to it when you feel more refreshed. You’ll lose out on some quantity but you will win some quality.
Tip 5: Don’t take yourself too seriously. Hopefully you are writing a book because you enjoy it, not because you are desperate to be the next J.K Rowling. Take the pressure off and write for kicks!
Tip 6: Feedback is your friend. Get as much as possible. The best source of feedback is a good editor who can make plot line, POV and characterization suggestions. I think it’s best to get an editor looking at your work when you feel you are about 80% complete. I’d recommend letting a family member or good friend have a read of your first 4-5 chapters before then though. When it comes to feedback- the more the merrier, as long as you are not pandering to everyone’s suggestions and consequentially sacrificing your ideas or writing style. My rule of thumb is Editor = Obey, Friends/Family= Consider.
So I hope that helps a little. For those authors who are wallowing in the muddy mire of self doubt, writers block or burnout right now, I say- “keep going! You can do it! The result will be worth it!”