How to Write a Novel Without Winning the Lottery in 9 Simple Steps

Here are 9 things you can reasonably do to write your novel without quitting your day job.
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Have you always wanted to write a book but can't afford to quit your day job?

Well, my friend, today is your lucky day. I am going to show you how to achieve your dream in two simple steps.

  • Number one: sit down.
  • Number two: write words.

Repeat these steps in this order for about one year and ta-da...you have a book! Sounds simple enough, right? Then why is it so hard to do?

This guest post is by Sandra Block. Block graduated from college at Harvard, then returned to her native land of Buffalo, New York, for medical training and never left. She is a practicing neurologist and proud Sabres fan and lives at home with her husband, two children, and their impetuous yellow lab, Delilah. She has been published in both medical and poetry journals. Her new novel, The Girl Without a Name, was published by Grand Central Publishing in 2015.

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Visit Sandra’s Website, sandraablock.com, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter @block_sandra. (Photo by Brian Block.)

We all have good excuses and better intentions, and I should know. I was the queen of them before I finally wrote my own book. The biggest challenge by far? Time. Most of us are too damn busy. Maybe it's a stressful job, night school, elderly parents, or challenging kids. Between the laundry, the dance recital, and the client project due yesterday, we barely have any time. This is reality, and yet, it's also not entirely true. There is time out there, hours and hours of it, but you have to look for it.

As a full time neurologist with two kids and a very needy dog, I'm well versed in the time crunch concept. It takes some creativity to get it all done. So, because I'm a very kind person (and incidentally trying to advertise my psychological thriller), I have assembled a list of nine "real life" tips for writing a novel while still earning a paycheck.

1. Wake up an hour earlier.

Even a half hour earlier. If you write for a half-hour every morning, that's nearly four hours per week. Multiply that by 52 weeks, and you have…a lot of hours! (Okay, I'm not terrific at math.) This precious hour before everyone else wakes up is crucial. And don't worry about your muse not being up yet. Once you have this routine in place, the words will come. As Anne Tyler said, "If I waited until I felt like writing, I'd never write at all."

2. Make yourself portable.

You don't have to be cordoned in an office to write. This takes the whole "my family needs me" excuse out of the equation. You can be hanging out in the family room while tapping away at your masterpiece. I have an iPad with a keyboard, and I take that sucker everywhere. A child's swim lesson, a half hour in a waiting room, an airplane ride all are opportunities to write. [Like this quote? Click here to Tweet and share it!] As I said, there is time, but you need to be greedy with it.

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3. Write 500 words a day.

But, don't be too hard on yourself. If you miss a day, don't sweat it. If you miss two days, don't sweat it. If you write only one paragraph, that's better than a blank page.

4. Read books on writing.

This can save you from a lot of beginners' mistakes. Don't assume because you're really smart and were an English major that you know how to write a novel. Writing is a craft. There are tricks, such as pulling the reader in with sensory details, mixing active and passive voice, starting and ending each chapter with a hook. Read up; you can learn a lot.

5. That's all, just read.

Sometimes, you will get specific ideas for your genre. You might say, wow, that was a tricky way to hide a villain. Or, gee, that pacing really didn't work there. But more than that, you will also gain through osmosis. On an unconscious level, you will start to feel the rhythm of writing and find your own voice.

[Want to Be a Writer? It's Time to Act Like a Writer (must read for all writers)]

6. Take a shower.

Sometimes, you need to take a break to let your characters breathe. Do yoga, take a walk, or go for ice cream. You may be fretting over a false scene or a plot hole, and suddenly, just when you're not thinking about it, the answer pops up for you. Have faith; it will happen.

7. Seek other writers.

The writing world can be downright lonely at times, and full with self-doubt. Search out other #amwriting tweets. Believe me, you will find support among your angst-ridden, quirky writing buddies.

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8. Practice good writing karma.

If you love a book, leave a 5-star review. Email an author. Like their Facebook Tell another friend about the book. You will help fellow writers, and some day, they will do the same for you.

9. Don't wait to win the lottery to write your book.

It's not going to happen. I mean, it might happen, but then you have to figure out lump sum vs. monthly payments, everyone wants you to pay for dinner, your Ferrari will get scratched etc. So, let's just assume: you aren't going to win the lottery. You can still write your book!

Remember, step one, step two, and repeat. It is that easy. You have the time, right now. Don't wait for the perfect moment to start living your dreams.

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Brian A. Klems is the editor of this blog, online editor of Writer's Digest and author of the popular gift bookOh Boy, You're Having a Girl: A Dad's Survival Guide to Raising Daughters.

Follow Brian on Twitter: @BrianKlems
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