Writing a book is a dream for many, but if it were so easy, many more of us would have become published authors. It is a feat not for the faint of heart. (Firstly, my first draft got the word “feat” as “feast”, but it depends on your perspective. You could treat writing as a feat or a feast! In fact I have written a book before, but it is for private circulation only and it is in Chinese *smirk*) Now, as National Novel Writing Month is in full swing, here are some tips for completing your book:
1) Write in stolen moments.
While riding on public transport or in a queue, you have the perfect opportunity to write. This is the time to notice your surroundings and reflect on things you’ve learnt and experienced.
Cut social media. I use several social media blocking tools such as SelfControl and RescueTime to help me focus on the tasks at hand. You’d be surprised how much free time you have once you lose every chance to procrastinate.
I always had some paper handy so that I could jot down ideas for my book easily. Now, since I carry my computer and mobile devices around, all I need is a few taps and I could record my thoughts. Do not let time pass by.
2) Write what you know. (Do I really have to say that?)
Sometimes you may be tempted to write things you don’t know well. This could lead to the “sagging middle”, which is when you find your story half-baked and the oven’s broken.
To avoid that, either make time to do research on the areas you don’t know too well, or start off by writing about the things you are familiar with. It’s a little like an examination skill: you do first the questions that have easy answers. That way, it boosts your confidence and keeps your momentum going.
But what if you really want to write a story set in unfamiliar settings? You can still find the time. Make regular trips to the library and don’t let your commitments get in the way. Take notes and make the most of each opportunity there. (If you’re Googling, focus on Googling and take as many notes as you can, too. Do it after work. It takes a lot of time.) Imagine characters in the settings you envision. Write or type as furiously as you can.
3) Believe in your story.
But if there’s one thing you must remember, it’s this: believe in your story. Believe that it has the power to inspire and tap into it. When you believe in your story, you will do everything to make it come alive in the pages.
Keep tinkering about and rewriting your story even when you’ve hit the 50,000 mark. Stories that don’t get a reworking are less worthwhile than those that eventually hit the shelves. Do not hesitate to invest in a professional writing coach if you lack the motivation to go on, because a good writing coach can tell you where you need improvement while showing you what you did well. For my current writing project, I was surprised that I didn’t give my main character her inner world, but my coach instead liked a minor character to whom I had given a voice. It’s a little the janitor who says “Welcome to my office!” in the washroom. Details make a difference.
You can expect to get so many rejection slips that you would be tempted to think about giving up. However, don’t forget that even the popular Harry Potter series was rejected by many publishers before it landed the right one. Believe in your story and you can surmount more obstacles than mere dreamers.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe in your story. Don’t worry; it’s fine for your story to change as you write it.
Never give up, whatever gets thrown your way. By making time to write, you are proving to yourself that you truly are a writer. By managing your time wisely, you also prove to yourself that you can control your destiny.