Editors Blog

5 Things to Stop Doing (If You Really Want to Finish Writing Your Novel)

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Your novel isn’t going to write itself (I mean, if it were, it probably would have finished itself a long time ago!). Here are the five things you need to stop doing immediately if you want turn yourself into someone who stops asking questions about how to write a manuscript and starts bragging to friends about how you completed your manuscript.

1. Nix the excuses.

We get it, life is busy and writing is hard work sometimes. Still, excuses never changed anything, never inspired anybody, and never made any dreams a reality. Goals like writing a novel don’t die on their own. We suffocate them with our excuses.

2. Stop trying.

Your novel needs less “trying” and more “doing” from you. Like Yoda said, Do or do not. There is no try.

3. Stop the Inner Critic’s crazy rants.

Shut it down. Duct tape its mouth. Stand on its neck. Whatever you do, don’t let the Inner Critic make you doubt yourself. There’s no reason to. This is open range and there are no rules, no right and wrong. You can do Whatever. You. Want.

4. Don’t overdose on caffeine.

Seriously. I’m sorry, but it has to be said. Call it tough love if you want, but more writers go stark raving mad in espresso-fueled rages than any other artists (with the exception of polka musicians, for obvious reasons).

Trust me on this. You don’t want your neighbors finding you crawling through their pet door at 3am in search of more coffee because you ran out at your house two hours earlier. Not that that’s happened to me. I’ve just heard stories.

5. Stop thinking it should be easier.

That’s like hoping gravity will get less gravity … er … ish. Less gravity like. OK, poor choice of words. You know what I mean. Bottom line: writing is what it is. Sometimes it’s easier than at other times. Expect it to be work and you’ll be thrilled when it doesn’t feel that way.

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Guest column by Kevin Kaiser, who is the author of @WriMo: A 30-Day Survival Guide for Writers, the profits of which go to support the future of NaNoWriMo. He blogs about how to write for a living without losing your soul. Follow @KevinSKaiser on Twitter.

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14 thoughts on “5 Things to Stop Doing (If You Really Want to Finish Writing Your Novel)

  1. atwhatcost

    But…but…but I can lick the gravity problem if IjusthaveMOREcaffeine!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    :p

    My number one problem right now is trying to squish so much stuff happening into as few words as possible, but without it feeling like it’s rushed. lol

  2. jotokai

    Little known fact: Yoda’s advice, as on-point as it is, may be as much inspired by Chinese syntax as by philosophy. From what I’ve read, in Chinese, you don’t say, “Are you going to do it?” they say, “You do not do it?” So it’s probably more obvious to Chinese that “try” is a stupid mindset!
    When you try to do something, you’ve probably decided to fail — or at least come up against a lot of resistance on the way to squeaking by. Not a success-oriented mindset! Certainly, “I’ll try,” is not an expression of Emmerson’s ‘engine of success- enthusiasm.

    And ease up, people! He’s not denying us our Caffeine boost, he’s just saying, try to keep it to less than 90% of your blood. Or whatever is natural to your species of writer.

    Meanwhile, I’ve got to try… writing again. Actually, I think it’s “Whenever you’re tempted to try to write, instead, try writing.”

  3. plumage

    I’ve started using the website chains.cc to become more consistent. The site allows you to build a habit via Seinfeld like chains in a group and thereby hold yourself accountable. I’m using it to diet as well and it really helps.
    It has been said before, but I’ll say it again, do not underestimate the value of writing the worst garbage to meet your word deadlines. You can bang out stuff at speed in 15 minutes which you think you will throw entirely away- but you will find that your novel progresses ideas come up in these sessions that you can use. The zero draft is just like trying to remember the movie of the book, it isn’t like trying to write it. It it isn’t even as coherent as thinking out loud, more like scattered daydreaming.

  4. Fadhil Qaradaghi

    Very nice! Reading this article while drinking the fifth or the sixth cup of tea (caffeine). I had barrels of tea, and yet, with no need to crawl, could finish my latest novel. Excluding the caffeine; can we say that all the other 4 thing are tributaries of the main river: write and write and don’t stop writing?

  5. rampmg

    Thank you Jedi Writer. I will heed your advice and become the master of my novel. I shall use my light sabre…er computer to slay the dark side of procrastination and excessive research.

  6. Julie Luek

    It seems like fairly straight forward, simple advice to follow, and yet… (I don’t know though, that caffeine thing is stepping on my toes a bit.) I’d have to add, “quit checking email every five minutes” and “stop feeling compelled to read twitter and blogs, even if they are about writing”. There really is an element of fear in so many of our stall tactics, or at least mine.

    Muppet wisdom… I don’t know. It might be reaching…

  7. The Wired Journal

    Sticky Note 1… Print out these suggestions and tape on desk top….
    Sticky Note 2… Sticky Note 1 are not suggestion they are commandments…
    Sticky Note 3… Stop writing Sticky Note’s and start writing…
    (20 minutes latter)….Sticky Note 45….Delete previous 44 Sticky Notes and stat writing…
    (15 minutes later…Mental thought)…stop analyzing Yoda’s great wisdom and trying to figure out how to apply it.
    (30 minutes later {returning to desk with fresh cup of coffee}) Sticky Note 159…. Make sticky note to post on coffee maker…”Stop making coffee and go do some writing….
    (five minutes later {returning to desk after posting sticky note on coffee maker [after making one final pot of coffee of course]})….Sticky note 160….Stop writing this comment, just post the dam thing and start writing and working on the novel…..

  8. paula

    First of all, I LOVE that this post includes a quote from Yoda : )
    His wisdom is beyond that of a muppet, I guess he’s more Jedi than muppet…
    But this is excellent advice, and I seriously DO appreciate the quote from Star Wars about not saying “I’ll try to finish blah blah…”- Just do it!

    Thanks for another great post!

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