How the F*** Do You Write A Novel?

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Originally published February 10th, 2019

Question: how the fuck do you write a novel?

I’ve found myself pondering this question a lot lately. It floats into my mind when I’m reading other people’s novels; it persists when I try to sit down and write, but find myself creatively exhausted. In my frequent crises of confidence, I start to wonder if I actually can write a novel; maybe I’m just not good enough.

In theory, thrashing out a novel seems pretty straightforward. You research it, you plan it, and you write it. Simple, right? Well… Not exactly. That little thing called “real life” can get in the way sometimes. I desperately want to write a book, and I’ve got several ideas waiting on the back burner.

However, that’s precisely where they’ve had to stay: at the back of my mind. When I get home from work, I’m way too exhausted to sit down and write for fun. If I do decide to sit down and take the plunge, I’m crippled by self-doubt and anxiety. Why should I even bother penning a novel when nobody wants to hear what I have to say? It’d probably be crap anyway.

That lack of confidence is something that I have to overcome on my own. I’m working on it, I promise! However, when it comes to finding the energy to write when you have a full-time job, I’ve had some constructive advice from fellow writers. I’m certainly not the first person to be in this position, and I won’t be the last, so I figured it would be worth asking the Twitter writing community for some tips on overcoming this particular stumbling block. Here are just some of the very useful ideas they sent my way:

  • Write in the morning, before the exhaustion of work has had time to settle in
  • Be strict with yourself; schedule time for writing as you would schedule something like a workout
  • Take mini writing breaks during the working day
  • Write at weekends
  • Write flash fiction or short stories for now – it’s much less pressure than writing a novel
  • Just keep on going – every word you manage to get down counts

I’m definitely going to heed this advice and make some changes to my creative process. I’m going to make more time to focus on planning and writing a novel, rather than just whining about my lack of progress on the Internet. However, I’m also not going to beat myself up about not writing for fun too much these days. Work is intense at the moment, but that won’t last forever. There will be a time when I can make real progress on a novel without burning myself out.

If anyone else out there has any tips on novel-writing, please, send them my way! I need all the help I can get. And if there are any more writers out there struggling with burnout, or time constraints, or stresses of any kind really – just know that you’re not alone.

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