What Writers Can Do When Reality Bites - Writers Write

Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 23: Reality Bites

Goal setting

  1. Continue writing the scenes or chapters of your novel.

Breaking it down

Bad writing happens – but it’s better than no writing

This week I was looking at reviews of some of my favourite titles on Goodreads. Some reviews are full of praise, some are more balanced – calling out the good and bad aspects of a book – and some are downright vicious.

The truth is that not everyone is going to love your novel, or your style, or your subject matter, or even your characters. So why should you be judging your own writing? And why judge it while you’re still writing the first draft?

This weekend I wrote a scene in my novel – quite an important scene, in fact – and as I sat there, I was thinking, ‘This is bad. This bad with an extra order of fries.’  But I kept on pounding the keyboard – see there, ‘pounding the keyboard’ – that’s not original is it? – hoping it would get better.

The bad news is that it didn’t get better. The good news (well, sort of) is that I finished the damn scene. For now, that’s all that matters – I made some clumsy laps, nearly drowned, felt foolish, but I made it to the other side.

I’m not going to re-read that scene, or go back to it and agonise over it. I’m going to move on to the next one. There’s this wonderful trick a writer can use when they’ve finished their book. It’s called editing.

Focus Pocus

Writers must live part of their day – sometimes part of their life – in solitude.  During that time, you have to be able to focus – on the scene you’re writing, your characters’ motivation, on what you want to achieve in the time you’ve set yourself.

This isn’t easy. Life is full of distractions, and chores, and people and, of course, Facebook and Game of Thrones. It’s hard to find those two or three hours to lock yourself away behind your study door, or plug in your earphones, shut the world away, and pound away on your laptop. (There’s the word ‘pound’ again – it’s not so bad, is it?) And it’s even harder to stay focused on a single project, like your novel, for months and months at a time.

But we have to teach ourselves to focus. Some of us can sit still for five hours – others can barely stay still for a few minutes.  While I know I have to learn to be more focused, to find that deep quiet for more than two hours, I have learned something.

Pay attention to how long you can sit there and write – just write – without getting up for a cappuccino, a cigarette, another stroll over to the fridge or to pat the dog sleeping in the sun.  Time yourself. And then, each time you sit down to write, try to push yourself for five or ten minutes longer.

It’s easy to get up and brood and stomp around when your writing is driving you crazy or you’re avoiding a difficult scene in the story – but we must learn to be a little more comfortable with the uncomfortable moments. 

You’re going to be published – you’re not (necessarily) going to be famous

On the other side of the coin, you get writers who rush through their first draft with a lot of excitement and very little common sense. They want to get their book out there – they want the picture of themselves holding their book in their favourite book store, the reviews on Amazon, the moment of glory a talk show’s coach.

I think we all secretly want these things. I think the writer who doesn’t want these things is probably lying. It’s not a bad thing to want to be famous. But our desire should be for writing – not fame.

What readers respond to is a good story. That’s your only job as a novelist – to tell the story as best you can. You have to keep your reader close – he or she is your audience.  When you set yourself the goal to write a novel that reader – the one parting with his hard-earned money to buy your book and then taking the time to read it – should be the only person keeping you going. Not your own ego.

Timelock — 2.5 to 5 hours

Write for a half-hour or full-hour every week day.

5 Quick Hacks

  1. Limit your distractions. If possible, buy another computer with no Internet or Wireless. Clean out a room or corner that can be just yours to write.
  2. If you’re going to surf the net, make it productive – read articles, blogs, or posts that are related to your novel in some way.
  3. Shake up your routine. Try writing standing up, or dictating into a recording device, or writing in bed.
  4. Read interviews or articles on other writers. What is their routine? Daily word count? What can you learn from them?
  5. Don’t put off writing for any longer than you have to on any given day – if you’ve made the commitment, stick to it. (And don’t worry about the bad writing)

Pin it, quote it, believe it:

‘A day of bad writing is always better than a day of no writing’ — Don Roff

Look out for next week’s instalment of Write Your Novel In A Year!

Top Tip: If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg or sign up for our online course.

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 22: Making Your Scenes Work for You
  2. Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 21: All About Character
  3. Write Your Novel In A Year – Week 20: Getting To The Heart Of The Story