7 Things That Will Doom Your Novel (& How to Avoid Them)

  1. Wait for inspiration.

Go to your favorite writing spot with your laptop or pad. Perhaps your location of choice is a Starbucks. Sit down with a cup of coffee and hold it with both hands. Sip it slowly. Do not put your fingers anywhere near the keyboard. Glance out a window if one is available. Wait for a skein of geese flying in V formation. If no window is available, simply observe the other patrons and make sure they can see your expression of other-worldly concentration.

You are waiting for inspiration. It must come from on high and fill you like fire.

Until then, do not write a word. If you’re tempted to start working without it, open up Spider Solitaire immediately. Tell yourself this will relax your mind so inspiration can pour in.

Of course, those who think it wise to finish their novels do things backwards. They don’t wait for inspiration. They go after it, as Jack London said he did, “with a club.” They follow the advice of Peter De Vries, who said, “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.”

These poor souls think the secret to writing a novel is to write, and work through minor problems quickly, and major ones after the first draft is done.

They do things like this:

  • Establish a writing quota. The quota is based not on how much time they spend thinking about writing, but on how many words they get down. Some do a daily quota, others do it by the week. But they figure out what they can comfortably get done and set a quota about 10 percent above that as a goal.
  • Review the previous day’s writing and move on. By looking at what they wrote the day before, they get back into the flow of their story. They fix little things, spelling and style mostly, but then get on with the day’s work.

And one day they look up and see a finished manuscript. They have lost sight of how not to write a novel.

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