There are two general categories of writers: Planners and Pantsers
Keep in mind that these categories are broad and many writers fall somewhere in between.
Planners and Pantsers
Planners tend to plan ahead with world building and chapter outlines, while pantsers like to sit down and let the writing happen on its own. There are definitely people all over the spectrum when it comes to writing but this gives us a general idea of how a lot of people approach writing.
Some Problems I’ve seen with Planners
- Endless world building
- Endless planning, never happy with their plot
- Continuously changing their plot or characters
- Caught in an endless cycle of re-writing
Some Problems I’ve seen with Pantsers
- Never seem to find the time to sit down and write
- The story changes part way through
- Plot holes and lack of character development
- Oddly enough, similar to planners, an endless cycle of re-writing
All of that being said, rewrites are a part of writing and editing is a necessity, but before all of that, the rough draft has to be finished 😉
Planners and Pantser, Let’s Meet in the Middle
The number one thing I hear repeated by all of the successful authors and publishers I follow on Youtube, Twitter, and everywhere else is this: Treat writing like a job. This doesn’t mean making writing work, it means creating a goal (e.g. finishing your novel), and breaking it into smaller, more manageable goals, called objectives, to reach the main goal: a finished book.
When you look at writing a novel, it becomes this big, consuming project that almost seems impossible. How are you going to write a 50,000+ word novel when you have a job, school, a kid, or all of the above? It seems gigantic and hard to believe, and often causes us to procrastinate which is discouraging and can lead to things like depression or anxiety.
However, if we break up our novel into smaller, more obtainable objectives, we can reach our goal. Objectives gives us bench marks that let us know we’re making progress and give us a feeling of satisfaction, encouraging us to move forward.
For example, at present, I am running an Amazon ad, a Facebook ad, posting articles to my blog, doing weekly updates on Tapas (You can read more about publishing to Apps Here), all the while doing artwork, and keeping up with social media, my mailing list, and then everything else that has to happen in life; such as cooking, cleaning and spending time with my husband–and somehow I need to fit writing my next two novels in there.
With all of that in mind, I struggled to find time to write because I was so focused on my business surviving that I quickly spiraled into depression.
It wasn’t until I started to write the rough draft of a side novel that I realized I had no problem writing. I was making progress on my side novel every week, but somehow failing to make the same progress with my fourth novel in my main series.
The difference was that I was posting the side novel to an App that suggested a formula of writing 1,000-2,000 words in a chapter (or episode) and using that to update my story weekly. 1,000-2,000 words is extremely manageable and I had no problem meeting that deadline every week.
When I thought about writing my other novel, which I was writing in Word, it seemed like this huge chore and I didn’t look forward to it, but a quick 2,000 word update on an App? No problem.
When I finally realized what was happening, I was able to structure my week to make progress on both stories and felt the weight lift off my shoulders.
This sounds great for the Pantsers, but what about the Planners?
Same thing applies. When working on your outline for your novel, start out small and plan to sit down and work on one chapter per week. If you do more than that, you’ll feel awesome, but don’t require it. Set the objective to get one chapter outlined and ready to go each week until you’re done. Then it’s time to write.
What about endless world building?
For this, I recommend halting the world building and sitting down to write your story. In order to have a novel, you need a plot and characters, without that, you have a world that no one can reach. Once you set your objectives to write small sections each week and eventually finish your novel, that’s when you go back in and work in your world building. See where the world building is necessary for the story. That’s your priority. Once your novel is finished and published, you can go ahead and write a whole guide to your world, with all the interesting black weasels that eat a special fungus and birds that spit acid you can think of ❤
Ok, but I keep changing my novel or characters or both. I never seem happy.
The truth is, your first novel is never going to be perfect. Writing is an art form and the only way you’re going to get better at it is practice.
Rough drafts are the raw material and they are not supposed to be perfect. I see a lot of people who have been working on the same novel for years and a lot of the time it’s because they write the first couple of chapters, aren’t happy with them, and go back in to rewrite them over and over again.
A novel is something we pour our time and our souls into and I understand it can be hard to move past something that doesn’t seem perfect, but the rough draft is called rough for a reason. Try to let those first couple of chapters go and just write. Write until you get to the end and then go back to the beginning and start editing.
And editing is a must once you’ve finished. I’m looking at you, Pantsers. As I mentioned at the beginning, some books seem to change half-way through or don’t seem developed enough, and this is where, once your draft is written, that feedback from an author friend, beta reader, or editor will be crucial. It’s possible you may be in for some rewrites, but better that than a book readers can’t connect to.
For those of you who are unhappy regardless of any writing you do, I suggest talking to a professional to discuss any anxiety or fears surrounding your story and work through what might be holding you back. You don’t want to regret never finishing your novel.
More Tips and Tricks
For right-brainers like myself, it’s not easy to follow a schedule. I sit down and make schedules all the time but by nature, I break them; daily, weekly, every minute. What is a right-brainer like myself to do?
I give myself deadlines and wiggle room.
For example, on Tapas, the best days to update are Friday and Saturday. I make it an objective to update my story by Friday or Saturday.
I have one day that I am required to write every week and that’s Wednesday. I set time aside on Wednesday to write and I usually get my 1,000-2,000 words done on that day.
I tried to make an objective to have time to write every day and it just didn’t happen, things came up, I had other work that took up more time than I planned, and it ended up discouraging me, but scheduling in that one day was very manageable and allowed me to get writing done every week. When I write on a day other than Wednesday, I feel awesome and productive, if I don’t get that chance, no sweat, I know I still made some progress that week.
One last thing that seriously changed my week and helped me focus more on my business and writing was cooking all my meals, or at least prepping most of the meals, all in one day. I do this on Monday. It sets me up for quick meals the rest of the week, so I can focus on the things I want to achieve. Now this might be pushing it for the other right-brainers but for a right-brainer like myself, this has made a huge difference.
- Set yourself small, manageable, weekly objectives
- Schedule in at least one day a week where you write
- Write your rough draft, start to finish. Don’t go back and edit chapters until the entire manuscript is written.
- Set your world-building notes aside and establish your story line and characters, and then go back in and build.
- Once finished, it’s time for an editor or beta reader 🙂
Everyone works differently, but hopefully there’s something here for everyone to help finish their novel.