The most difficult challenges with writing a novel are overcoming obstacles that I created for myself while doing something I loved and getting out of my own way. I’ve had the idea for a novel puttering around in my brain for several years, ever since falling in love with the creations and characters I made up a long time ago during my time spent as an online RPer. But, it’s been a background thing and more of a pipe-dream really, until I decided I really do want to write and see this get done.
That was the first step: determining that fantasizing about having a book written wasn’t enough for me and coming to the decision that if I really wanted it, I was going to have to do it.
Oh, that sounds so pithy and simple, but it really isn’t. I loved the time spent creating in the various role-playing settings that I joined. But I realized when I stopped playing so frequently that while my creativity had exploded, my writing skills and technique had greatly diminished. I did gain a lot of practice with characterization and world-building. My strengths are solid in getting into a character’s thoughts and personality and being an online RPer helped with that since I literally spent hours a day in the mind of my characters. But, most of what I’d been writing in the RP settings was stuff that if I tried putting it into a book without doing HEAVY edits and revisions would be horrible. The style used for writing in that arena is different and has to meet different goals and agendas than writing a book. I had to retrain myself to write for a reader and not for a game. Blogging and doing articles helped with that, but I still struggle with not falling into those bad habits that I picked up in the chat rooms: overuse of descriptions and descriptive phrases, info-dumping, elaborate vocabulary and trying to find alternative words for nouns, and finding my own voice again. I actually realized while I was still actively RPing that my writing had gotten worse when I couldn’t switch out of that mode when I wanted to. I’m thankful that I recognized it then and that I’ve had the means to work on that now.
Writing is something that gets better or worse just like anything else depending on how you do it. I spent hours a day for several years writing in a particular style, and so that’s what my brain and fingers wanted to do. Now, I’ve been reworking that, and I can tell the difference.
The other part of writing a novel that I’ve had to push myself into doing is creating and sticking to a schedule. When I thought of just writing whenever I felt like it, or when the mood would hit, I found that I might get an hour or two of productivity. That’s why after three years of “working” on the book, I have little to show for it.
I was not happy about that.
So, I took my boyfriend’s advice when he said I should have a few hours a day that I just use for writing the book. That worked out for a while, but it still wasn’t enough for me. Having a few hours a day was helpful, but I could do better. So I created a schedule for myself and taped it up at my desk.
Now, I treat writing my book as a professional workday. It’s been very helpful to me and while I can’t always adhere to the schedule perfectly, having it is excellent and keeps me on track. I have scheduled days off for myself so that I am not burnt out and spend time doing other things and being with people. I do sort of cheat and work on my other writing projects (essays, articles, short stories, etc.) on days off, but only for a couple of hours. I also get caught up on my reading during those days, or try to. Reading has become a challenge since writing my novel, but I’ll talk about that in another blog article.
Organizing my time and allotting certain blocks to specific activities has been extremely helpful.
I am an information sponge and I found that I would spend a lot of time looking up information to use in my book that is necessary for realism, but I’d lose track of the time. I would start researching at 2:00, and then look at the clock again to realize three hours had passed and I hadn’t written anything. Setting up a certain time to research has helped curb that. I create a list of things I want to find information on, before I begin researching so that I stay on track. If I think of something else I want to look into, I make a note of it, then if I have time, I will look for that once I’ve done everything else on my list. If I don’t have time, I know what I will start with the next day for research.
For example, if I’m looking up horses, their care, and speed/strength attributes and then get the idea to research breeding and saddles, I’ll make a note of that to come back to it later. Until I had a schedule that allotted time for research, I would just follow wherever I felt like I needed to go and after hours of work, I’d still feel like nothing got accomplished. Now that’s not the case and I’m much happier with my goal of getting the book finished. It feels good.