People ask me all the time. How did you do it? How'd you finish your novel and get it on the conveyor-belt for publishing?
I could answer that question, but more importantly, I'm going to tell you how to NOT do it. After all, I have a lot of experience of NOT finishing a novel too, you know. I spent about four years beating my head against proverbial and literal walls, and have now earned what amounts to about 50 cents an hour on my work. So I'm a pro at not finishing, too.
So, are you ready? PAY ATTENTION GUYS, THIS IS INTERNET GOLD. Here's how to not finish your novel (or anything significant for that matter).
1. Listen to the editor's voice in your head before it's time to edit.
If you ever want to finish your novel, you need to stop editing yourself before you've written a full-length work. Yes. That means names will change halfway through the manuscript. The plot will be confusing. There will be massive gaping holes in the thing. What makes you think that's NOT normal? Tell the editor in your head that she is going to be quite helpful when the time comes, but she's not needed yet. And to please, kindly, shut up.
2. Start over. Again.
I can't tell you how many times I started Beyond the Point over again. There were timelines for my timelines. I so badly wanted my Chapter One to sing... that I wrote it about sixteen different versions, neglecting all the chapters that needed to come afterwards. I promise you. Put the pedal to the metal and drive. The beginning will reveal itself in the end.
3. Worry about how many followers you (don't) have.
Social media is a death trap for creativity. I know, I know, I know, Michael Hyatt and Seth Godin keep telling you to build your platform. But I can't stress this enough: WORRYING ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWING WILL SLOW YOU DOWN AND MAKE YOU ANXIOUS. Do the work. Trust that the readers will come. (And PLEASE for the LOVE... don't say followers, okay? If you're a writer, you have readers. The only person deserving of followers is Jesus and I'm pretty sure he doesn't trust Instagram to keep count.)
4. Second guess your instincts.
Writing is an isolating process. It's important to remember what they said in school: more often than not, your gut instinct is right. So go with it. You will become a better writer as time goes on — but what gets better is your instincts. If you're always questioning your instincts, you'll never have the joy of seeing them improve.
5. Write some blog posts.
Assuming that it will help you build a "platform" that will eventually help you "sell" your "book" (that doesn't exist yet), a lot of people will tell you to go write some blog posts or get a by-line. But that is not how you finish a novel. You finish a novel by sitting down and writing. Every day. Sure, no one will read it or "like" it yet. But it's the only way to finish.
6. Take six months off to, "work on it in your subconscious."
I can't tell you how many times people told me that when I wasn't working on the book, that I was probably working on it somewhere in the back of my mind. That all that time off would help me finish it when I sat back down to the page. This is some bull-$&* that people tell you because they don't know what else to say and they're too afraid to say, "you know what, I bet if you just push through and keep writing, the answer will come to you." That's the hard truth. The only way to write a book is to sit down and write a book.
7. Rent a cabin in the woods.
In 2013, I rented a cabin on VRBO and packed a bottle of bourbon and some food and drove off by myself to "finish my novel!" Instead, I spent the weekend staring at the computer screen, freaking out that I was hearing noises in the woods, and watching old episodes of Law and Order SVU on Netflix. It was a waste of $700, three days, and a good bottle of bourbon. Honestly, there are SO MANY CUTE cabins to rent where you won't finish your novel.
What did work for me was coming up with a sustainable routine at home. Get up at 7 a.m., get dressed (see #8), go to my favorite coffee shop where there's spotty WiFi (who needs it?), outlets to recharge my computer, $2.50 coffee—and write for 2-3 hours. Leave. Do other stuff. Get up the next morning and do it again.
8. Wear only sweatpants/workout gear.
I think my favorite quote this year came from my friend Laura, who one day looked at me and said, "Claire, you're always so dressed!" I think she meant it as a compliment (?), but whatever it was, I nodded and said, "you're right!" Fellow writers, it's time to dress the part. Just because you don't have an office to go to, doesn't mean that you're not a professional. Put on legitimate clothes. Wear a little mascara if you dare. Dress like you have a meeting -- because you do. You have a meeting with your novel's characters and they expect you to take them places.
9. Worry about how you're going to get an agent.
The agent process is scary, I won't lie to you. But anticipating impending rejection will stall your work. Rather than finishing the thing, you'll spend hours in the library reading the Writer's Digest Guide to Literary Agents, or querying people with an unfinished manuscript (which is the WORST possible thing you can do, and something I DEFINITELY did, and it didn't work out). Don't worry about the future. Write.
10. Read blog posts about how to finish your novel.
Yeah, you probably should stop reading this now. Just go write. And then get up tomorrow and write again.