Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Long Haul (How to Stick to a Long Term Project)

Some people say that writing a novel is like running a marathon. Apart from the fact that both are long and arduous, they also both things that people dream about doing but allow the concept of to overwhelm them. As someone who will never run a marathon, I prefer the cosier analogy of doing a jigsaw puzzle – you add a piece at a time, you don’t complete it in one sitting and over time you see the big picture emerge. Today, I want to share with you some tips for when you engage in a big writing project that will help you to get to the end!
  • The best advice I can give you is to write a little each day. I wrote 500 words a day, to me that was both an ambitious but achievable target. Before I got into that practice, I would write sporadically, writing two thousand words one day and a mere ten the next. Having a modest and daily output makes you feel like you’re getting somewhere. This calm, consistent contribution will ground you and make it less likely that you’ll give up.
  • Writing a novel may take years. It’s a long term relationship and like any relationship the passion needs to be kept alive. Try to remember why you wanted to write what your writing. What image or issue spurred you on to create? Have this initial passion forever in your mind as you work. Keep being passionate about it.
  • Have a schedule to work with. At first I allowed myself to work on whatever part of the novel I felt like doing. As it I went on I would assign myself a particular chapter to work on which gave me some structure and focus.
  • Writers are all different and you may be the kind that likes to write freely, without knowing the entire story before you set out. I think all writers need to have a bit of this freedom but I also think everyone needs a little bit of a plan. This will help you to map out what you need to write next. Consider keeping a writing log to record what you’ve written in one day and what you want to work on the next.
  • Keep researching during the writing process. I think it’s a mistake to think of writing as being in stages of research, writing and editing. By researching a little alongside writing you’ll pick up little gems of information that may make a real difference.
  • Face your demons. What is it that blocks you from completing? Self-doubt? Lack of time? Lack of energy? In my case the idea of a long term project was too overwhelming. I liked to write in perfect, heavily edited instalments. This way of working was exhausting and therefore I would give up. I got over this by resisting the need to constantly retouch what I had just written. Think of your issues as a way of refining your process. Be imaginative about how to overcome them and you will.
  • Don’t be too rigid about what you envision your finished project to look like. Always be open to new ideas. Even as you approach the end of your project you may find that you’re impelled to add a new character or to change a key plot strand.
  • When your engaged in writing a big project keep your cards close to your chest. It’s like declaring to everyone you’re on a diet and then feeling double the pressure to stick to it. Have a few people you can talk through problems with though.
I’d love to hear about any big projects you are working on. Feel free to leave a comment below!


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