2. Look over your shoulder.

The great pitcher Satchel Paige said, “Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”

It’s good life advice, but in order to not write your novel, you must ignore it.

To not write your novel, constantly worry about how bad your book might turn out to be. Pause every thousand words or so and think, This is about the worst piece of crud known to man. Where did I put the bourbon?

This is sometimes known as the “inner critic,” and he’s your best friend.

If you think about those doubts long enough, you can even develop them into fears. Jack Bickham, a novelist who was even better known for his books on the craft, put it this way:

“All of us are scared: of looking dumb, of running out of ideas, of never selling our copy, of not getting noticed.
We fiction writers make a business of being scared, and not just of looking dumb. Some of these fears may never go away, and we may just have to learn to live with them.”

Of course, some writers learn not only to live with doubt and fear, but to defeat them. How do they do that? I shouldn’t tell you, because it’s counterproductive to not writing your novel. But mostly they simply pound away at the keyboard.

They concentrate on the words in front of them and kick that inner critic to the curb.

They train themselves to do this via writing exercises, such as:

  • The Five-Minute Nonstop. Write for five minutes, first thing in the morning if possible, without stopping to think about what you’re writing. No correcting. Just write.
  • The Page-Long Sentence. Choose something to describe (a room or a character) and write a page-long sentence about it, not pausing to edit and instead going on whatever tangents present themselves.
  • The List Maker. Whenever you’re stuck for an idea to pursue, make a list. Brainstorm ideas without assessing them. Turn off your filter. Get lots of ideas, then pick the best one.

Writers who have dulled the inner critic don’t worry about getting the words right. The only thing they worry about is getting the words written.

They really have not got this not writing a novel thing down at all.

 

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