Novel Writing for Beginners - Part Three

The Challenges of Writing a Book (Continued)

In Novel Writing for Beginners - Part Two, we talked about some of the challenges of writing a book. We went over the kinds of distractions we can face as writers and how starting a daily writing habit can benefit your progress.

Here’s a quick recap:

  1. Most writers tend to work from home, where we’re surrounded by the familiar.
  2. It’s so easy to procrastinate when your family, friends, or pets are home.
  3. Working to a daily routine can be super helpful if you struggle to get to work in the morning.
  4. You need a designated workspace that is just for you and is preferably private.
  5. Achievable daily goals are key to keeping up the momentum.
  6. Even in a busy life, if you really want to write a novel, you need to make the time to write - even if it means getting up early or skipping that third episode of Bridgerton.
  7. Reward yourself for reaching milestones.
  8. Set boundaries so your family and friends understand they can’t call and interrupt when you’re writing. 

If you’ve managed to put all of this into action, way to go! Unfortunately, there are a few more distractions and challenges we writers face. So let’s dive in!

How to Find the Time to Write

This might be the most formidable challenge you’ll face, wondering just how to start writing a book when you’re already swamped with other obligations. So few of us are able to write full-time, and it’s often done alongside work and family responsibilities. We’re parents, teachers, and worker-bees first, and our writing is rarely allowed to come first.

So how do you find the time to write when you have a full-time job and a family?

Even if you don’t have a family, your job is important and takes priority, as does your health and your relationships. You shouldn’t be locking yourself away for months on end just to finish your manuscript.

It’s all a balancing act, and finding the time to write will often mean changing up your everyday routine. Here are some examples of small changes that might make a big difference:

  • Get up an hour earlier and try to write for at least 45 minutes.
  • Rather than reaching for your phone to spend your lunch hour on TikTok, try to get in 30 minutes of writing instead. 
  • Instead of binge-watching six episodes of The Office (again), spend that time on your manuscript.
  • Try meal-prepping a few days of food at once, so you have the free time through the week to write instead of cook.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Whether it’s with the kids or around the house, having a helping hand will make such a difference. 
  • Try dictating ideas and rough drafts onto your phone or to your computer while you do other things. Text-to-speech isn’t perfect, but it’s a great way to get ideas down while you fold laundry or spend 30 minutes on the treadmill.

How to Know If Your Writing is Good Enough

Good enough for who? That’s the big question because it really should be just good enough for you. Do you like it? If not, why not?

And I know we all want to be published and make money and get praise! But is it worth it if you don’t like what you write?

Did you know that Thomas Harris, author of Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal Lector’s creator, only wrote Hannibal Rising because he was basically forced to? They told him that if he didn’t write another, they would find someone else.

Have you read Hannibal Rising? Not so great. In fact, it was terrible. He came up with a story that neither he nor the readers were too happy with because it wasn’t something he wanted to write.

With all that being said, there’s a lot of bad writing out there, and the truth is, yours might be included there. I’m referring to repetitive, poorly written stories full of typos and grammatical mistakes - hello, Fifty Shades of Grey!

But then, what do I know. That book sold over 100 million copies despite the horrific and repetitive writing. I’m not going to go into the story’s problematic themes because that’s a whole other article. Let’s just say that it should never have been published in the state it was. The editor and publisher really dropped the ball.

So, maybe your writing isn’t fantastic. If you’re really worried, try some of the following:

  • Work on it and keep working on it
  • Read and write every chance you get
  • Be willing to take constructive criticism
  • Join writing groups and share your work
  • Take a class on writing

The critical thing to remember is why you’re writing and to just keep practicing. Remember that you’re never going to please everyone - 100 million copies of Fifty Shades sold, and they made it into a movie! Someone had to like it, right?

Are You Writing For the Wrong Reasons?

Almost all writers want to see their books succeed. We want the best-seller lists and the spots on TV or Reese Witherspoon’s book club. It’s a dream that we should all keep striving for. But if that’s the only reason you’re writing, chances are you’re going to be disappointed.

Earning enough to become a full-time writer is something few authors achieve. It takes years of work, rejections, and, let’s face it, a lot of luck. Those fortunate few found the right editor or agent or genre just at the right time. But given that most editors receive thousands of submissions a year and only take on a few, the chances of it happening for most of us are slim.

But don’t be discouraged!

Write because you love to write. You love to tell stories and makeup fantasy worlds. Do it because you want to, and it will make you happy. Whereas doing it to make a buck will leave you with a sour taste in your mouth.

How to Deal With Rejections

This might be the worst part of being an author. You spend so long working on a manuscript, perfecting it to the point you think it’s a best-seller, only to be turned down by agent after agent.

We’ve all read about J.K. Rowling and how she received countless rejections before getting picked up. And yes, those editors are probably pretty upset about that. But the truth is, they likely make the right decision at the time,

Literary agents are bombarded with submissions. Many of which are likely excellent and many of which are probably terrible. They also pass on great manuscripts because of typos!

How you deal with the rejection is up to you because you will get rejected in this industry. Unless you’re a unicorn (good for you), you will get far more rejections than you do agent requests.

Knowing that is half the battle. Keep your expectations realistic, and don’t take rejections as a personal slight. It doesn’t mean your book is terrible. It just means it wasn’t what they were looking for.

One rejection I got for my first novel Lightborn was hard to read:

I was intrigued by the concept so I’ve been taking a look at this and I’ve enjoyed reading. However, I don’t want to keep you on tenterhooks so I will say straight away that I didn’t absolutely fall in love with the story and therefore I’m afraid I don’t feel it would be right for us to take this further.

So, she wanted to keep reading, but something just didn’t sit right with her. Most agents will only take on manuscripts of the work that moves them, which they can get behind whole-heartedly. Anything else wouldn’t be fair to them or us.

The best way to deal with rejections on your novel is to read them carefully, take in any advice they may give, and move on. You took your shot, and it fell short—time to reevaluate and try again with someone new.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or fifteenth novel; there will always be bumps in the road. They might be from working in the house or not knowing exactly where to begin, but every author will face them at some point.

The key to overcoming these challenges is to prepare yourself for them. If writing is something you want to do, make the time. Turn off the TV, set the alarm, and set boundaries with the ones you love. From there, it’s just a matter of working on your craft and knowing that success isn’t always measured in book sales.