Simple ideas to help you write a novel

Lightbulb moment seeking  attractive writing practice.

Lightbulb moment seeking attractive writing practice.

I have a wonderful idea for a novel.   I often talk about it, do internet surfing about it, or wonder what pen name I should use, but actual butt-in-seat writing on a daily basis still eludes me.   If I haven’t written on my novel for a while, it takes me extra time just to get back into its flow and the feeling of the characters.  But a few new habits I’ve recently established have me excited about a (near) daily practice.  If you are looking for ways to get started, you might try these too.

One is writing for fifteen minutes in the early mornings and the other is using an online tool called  At 750, I love seeing the word count automatically move upwards as I write.  I often don’t type the full 750 word count, but I like the effort of trying and I like the reminder email I get called the Daily Nudge.  750 words is about three pages of writing.  Write enough days and you’ll get to the novel length of 250-300 pages.  On the website, once you’ve written for a few days in a row, you can earn a badge/sticker and look at a fun analysis of your mood while writing.  I can see that other logged on writers are also trying to reach the same goal.   Of course, sometimes writing is just thinking, so word count isn’t my only motivator.

Set for 15 minutes

Set for 15 minutes

The reward for writing fifteen minutes a day as early in the day as possible is the awesome sense of relief from writer’s guilt.  That’s the guilt when you make yourself feel bad for not writing on your novel.  Fifteen minutes with a timer tricks me into just doing a little bit.   Maybe I think it has to be perfect, or maybe I think it is too hard to write a good novel, but once I’ve started, those fears and resistances melt away.  The amazingly good feeling of having done those fifteen minutes propels me through the day, and I find that the novel stays alive in my mind and prompts me to do more later.  Many people recommend doing your writing before tasks and obligations take a person so into the world that it becomes hard to stop and return to writing.  Of course, I also know of several writers that enjoy writing late into the night, for the same feeling of peace and no other pressures.

I also recently stumbled upon a blog called  The bloggers there are pledging to write 20 minutes a day for 365 days.  They are working on that idea that a little every day will build up to be a substantial written piece.

Lots of writers lighting up the internet

Lots of writers lighting up the internet

What happens though, when no ideas are coming?   While I belong to a stellar writing group, the friends I can turn to at any hour, are the books on writing next to my desk.    When I’m stuck, I turn to one of them.  A favorite one to dip into is “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler.  This is all about plotting and how to structure your novel based on mythological story structures.  It takes movies for examples and deconstructs them with an eye to the role of characters like mentors and the significance of different plot points.  It is a fun read and a helpful guide.

A book like “Goal, Motivation and Conflict, the building blocks of good fiction” by Debra Dixon, can help me get a grip on what I’m going for with my character.  Things change while writing, so when some idea I’m following doesn’t pan out, I can go back to the questions in this book and get some footing.  It helps me to remember what my character is going for.

I like to keep one or two books by my favorite authors to dip into, to re-sample the flow of an author’s voice that I like.  Sometimes I’ll read a few pages to help me begin writing a scene.

Finally, I’ve developed a slogan to remind me what I want my book to do.  A slogan can keep you on track.  After I’d written a few chapters recently, I started to get bogged down in story possibilities and details.  Some ideas that seemed to be compliant with “compelling” and “gripping” plot lines were leading me away from what I want to really write about.   It helped me to turn to some of my favorite novels, the ones that I treasured for the feelings they gave me,  and decide what it is that made them be so special.

My slogan

My slogan

I wrote a mini-summary of two or three and then looked at the idea I was developing.  I wondered why my novel didn’t have that “inspiring” factor that I loved so much in other novels.  I decided that what the novels I love have, is an “ah” factor.  A winning combination of romantic locations and main characters redesigning their lives.  Now I’m going to put a reminder post-it saying “ah factor” on my writing desk and on my desktop folder so I always know the feeling that I’m going for.  Maybe there should also be a post-it that says, fifteen minutes.

Routines, a web of friends, good writing advice books, and a personal slogan can get any novel perking along.  I hope that these ideas will turn my novel idea into a novel I can hold in my hands.

What tools and routines do you use to make your words become writing?

By Janis Wildy


About writeinseattle

Two Seattle writers examining the writer's life.
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