The Challenges of Writing a Book
Few people can sit down and write a book off the top of their head. If that’s you, then great! Way to go!! But for the rest of us, there are plenty of challenges that come with novel writing. The good news is, there are things you can do to eliminate those challenges and improve productivity. Here’s how!
Some of the challenges you face when writing a novel include:
- Daily distractions
- Limited time to write
Overcoming these is not easy and can’t be done overnight. But if you start to change small things on a daily basis, and if you’re motivated enough, you can boost your momentum and finish that book!
Let’s take a look at how you can overcome challenges in writing.
How to Avoid Distractions When Writing at Home
For most writers, working from home is the easiest option. Why pay for an office when you can work at a desk in your home and save money? All you need is a decent chair and a good computer, right?
Yes, working from home is great. But it’s also filled with distractions and reasons to procrastinate. Whether or not you’re writing full time, being surrounded by the familiar - your comfy couch, full fridge, pets, etc. - can lead to a lack of motivation and loss of momentum.
It’s so tempting not to set an alarm and wake up naturally, getting to your desk whenever you feel like it, check your email and Facebook, and maybe, eventually, start writing two hours later.
But then it’s more or less lunchtime, so you don’t get much done. Maybe the dog needs to go out, or the baby is awake, or your friend called to catch up. All of these things will start to take priority, and you might see your writing suffer.
So how do you deal with these distractions and actually get some work done? I’m so glad you asked!
How to Start a Daily Writing Habit
Starting a daily writing habit will help you avoid distractions and will improve your productivity so much. As I mentioned in Part One of my Novel Writing Tips for Beginners, there are a few ways to structure your book. But what about structuring your day?
Think about it: you hated getting up for school, but you did it, right? You set that alarm and got yourself into a routine. That’s the keyword here - routine! It’s going to become your best friend and writing ally.
It has been proven that having a daily routine can help you to feel more in control and give you the chance to make room for what is most important. And starting a daily writing habit doesn’t have to be scary. Follow these steps and make some small changes, and you’ll see results fast!
Step One - You Need a Workspace
You need a designated workspace, including a desk, a decent chair, and privacy. When writing from home, there is a big temptation to sit on the couch or at the kitchen table. This leaves you open to an array of distractions.
Instead, find a space that you can make your own. Maybe you have an office or a guest room that you can set up in. Either way, it really needs a door.
Make it your own - and only your own - by adding plants and making it a place you want to go. And don’t let others use it. It’s not the family homework/Facebook/zoom desk. It has to be reserved for you and your writing so that it will always be as you left it. Remember: routine is key.
Step Two - Set Yourself Goals
The issue with writing a novel is that there is little accountability for authors. If you’re lucky enough to have an agent asking for pages, that’s awesome! But for those of us writing without any contracts, we have nobody pushing.
Setting goals is essential to achieving milestones. If you just sit with the hopes of getting words on a page, chances are you’ll give up at the first sneaking sign of writer’s block. But if you sit down with the goal of wiring two chapters, you’re more likely to keep going, pushing yourself through any hard spots.
So, how do you set daily writing goals? For starters, they should be achievable!
- Look at the time you think you’ll have on a daily basis.
- Take note of how long it takes you to write a chapter or a specific number of words.
- Set an achievable goal - start low and work up to something higher.
If you can write 5,000 words without blinking…well, I’m jealous. For beginners, a more realistic goal might be 2,500 words. Once you’ve reached that for a few days, you’re going to start feeling good. You’ll see how a routine can be beneficial, and then you can start making those goals a little more difficult.
But the key to this is not to set yourself goals you know you can’t meet. This will only prove to create a negative space. Regardless of your word-count goal (it can be 500 words!), if you fail to meet it every day, you’re going to feel let down and like giving up. Whereas seeing goals met will improve productivity, positive energy and help with momentum.
Step Three - No Matter What, Make the Time to Write
This might actually be the most challenging part because we all have lives and family and friends. We all have people vying for our attention and responsibilities that can’t be ignored. But if you really want to write a novel, you need to make the time to write.
There are few of us blessed with the free time to write all day. Most of us work around full-time jobs and partners, and finding time to sit and write won’t always be easy.
That’s where that routine comes in again. Make writing part of your routine, and after a few days, it will be normal to go into your own little world for a few hours - don’t panic; it doesn’t have to be hours.
If you’re busy, even just devoting an hour a day will be super helpful with getting your manuscript finished. That might mean getting up early or staying up late. Maybe you need to cut back on TV-time or try meal-prepping, so you’re spending less tie in the kitchen. No matter what it takes, it’s up to you to find the time and stick to it.
Step Four - Writing Every Day Doesn’t Have to Mean Writing
Writing a novel is so much more than just typing a story and getting paid. It involves research, planning, and outlining your structure. So all of that should count towards your daily goals, right?
At the start of your novel writing journey, it is best to set goals in terms of time spent on the project or in milestones. For example, if you are just beginning and working through ideas, you might set the following for a week’s work.
How to Plan a Week of Novel Writing:
- Monday - Come up with general story ideas, including possible twists and ending.
- Tuesday - Think about the protagonist and their attributes, goals, and problems.
- Wednesday - What sets the protagonist on their journey? What are they trying to achieve?
- Thursday - What are the obstacles? Is there an antagonist working against the main character?
- Friday - Go back to the story outline with the new information and flesh it out.
As you can see, by the end of your first week, you should have a vague outline for the book, a solid idea of who the main character will be, and plans for obstacles and their journey to the climax.
Step Five - Reward Yourself
Writing can be an isolating job, and try as they might; your friends and family will never understand that feeling of joy you get when you finish that first draft.
It might sound silly, but it’s important to reward yourself for hitting milestones. I don’t mean to go for Starbuck after hitting each daily word-count. But treating yourself after five straight days of reaching your word-count is definitely a great way to keep the positive vibes going into the next week.
Step Six - Set Boundaries
For most writers, the biggest challenge they will face is distractions from family and friends. It is difficult for other people to appreciate the need for private time, and if you have kids in the house, it’s close to impossible to find time away.
The only way you’re going to be able to keep up a diary writing habit and routine is to set boundaries with your loved ones. Make it clear that your writing time is akin to work time. They wouldn’t call you if you were at the office, right?
Once they understand the importance of your being “offline” and unavailable, you will find it much easier to settle into a routine.
To be continued…