Get a life if you want to write a novel. Have a schedule and be passionately engaged in physical activities. Writing a novel is hard work, and it’s going to take time and effort, but you also can’t live in a bubble. Your imaginative mind must have time to decompress and getting your blood flowing is the way to do it.
I. GET A SCHEDULE
“I want to write a novel.” How many times have you said this to yourself or others in the last year? Have you been thinking it for more than a decade? Be honest. When you turned 30, did you say, I’m really going to do it this time? But when you woke up with a hangover the morning after your 33 birthday you still had nothing to show for it. Sure you’d read Twilight or The Lord of the Rings for the 50-ith time, but you haven’t put two words together on your novel.
It ain’t going to write itself, believe me. You have to ask yourself, “How bad do I want to write a novel? “DO NOT TELL YOURSELF THAT YOU CANNOT WRITE A NOVEL BECAUSE YOU HAVE A JOB OR A FAMILY – UTTER NONSENSE! Are you willing to wake up at 4:30 am and write? Are you willing to go to a coffee shop alone with your laptop instead of the gym for 6 to 9 months? Are you willing to quit drinking alcohol? Time to get serious! Make some sacrifices! Tell yourself that you can do this! You can write a novel!
Of all the steps of the Mimbrez How to Write a Novel, having a schedule may be the most important (next to getting some chutzpah). So here’s what you need to do:
1. QUIT DRINKING ALCOHOL (AT LEAST UNTIL THE BOOK IS FINISHED)
If you don’t drink, skip this. But so many of my intellectual, book loving, reading and writing maniacs enjoy a glass of glass or chardonnay or IPA from time to time. The problem with alcohol is that you’re pretty much useless to writing as soon as you’ve had one drink, and you sure as shinola aren’t going to get up before dawn to write after drinking the night before. And don’t try to compare yourself to Hemingway. You’re not him. And frankly, he probably would have been better if he’d given up wine.
2. TAKE INVENTORY OF YOUR SCHEDULE AND CUT SOMETHING OUT
You may think that you’re just too busy to write a book, but the truth is that nobody is that important. You have the time. You just need to weed some things out.
For example, cut out some sleep. (Hello! We’re serious here! Didn’t you read Part 1??? You’re engaging in one of the most important endeavors since the lunar landing! So make a real commitment!) YES – CUT OUT SOME OF YOUR SLEEP TIME. One of the best ways to do this is by waking up at about 4:00 am and dragging your butt directly (well, okay you can make coffee first) to your writing desk. Once there, start writing immediately. Do not check or email or Instagram accounts. Do not feed the cat, fetch the paper, or peek In on your children sleeping. This is the best time of all to write because most sane people are sleeping. They will not bother you. So take advantage of this secret vortex of solitude and weave your tales of wonder.
Get ready for a struggle. Unless you’re a Marine or possibly mentally deranged (if the latter let’s compare notes), waking up at 4:00 am is going to suck at first. Just do it, is all I can say. Once you do it a few times, you’re going to realize just how much time you’ve wasted with alcohol because there’s no way you’d ever do this otherwise.
Now you may be a letter carrier or a brain surgeon on call at 4:00 am; writing before dawn may not be an option for you. Take a look at your typical schedule, though. Do you go to the gym? Do you go to church? Do you cook at home? Give something up for 9 months. Stop going to the gym, stop cooking for your family, give up Sunday school, or cut out Rotary Club for heaven’s sake. Go to a library and write instead of wasting time on the tread mill. Write a few paragraphs and take your family out for dinner. Just do whatever it takes to spent time writing and working on your book.
3. WRITE OUT YOUR SCHEDULE AND STICK TO IT
Once you’ve figured out when you’re going to write, stick to it like a fanatic. Treat it like it’s something that must be done NO MATTER WHAT. Like Pavlov’s dog, when it’s 4 am you should wake up automatically with a burning need to create!
II. GET SOME EXERCISE
Now I know you’re already making some sacrifices just putting some time aside. You may even be thinking, “What the hell? Didn’t you just say give up the gym so I can write?” Yes, and frankly, if you’re so busy that just having an extra hour is like pulling teeth as it is, then okay, you can skip this part. But I still think it’s nearly critical to keep your creative brain flexible and in shape by moving your body.
Your brain becomes compressed when you engage in the creative process of writing. Your consciousness goes away to another world, one that you are creating out of nothing. You’re not a deity, but remember even God took a rest after the sixth day of creating the universe and all that. You, too, are creating, and you need to decompress. Get some space between you and the imaginary world that’s flowing from you. When you do this, you will have a new perspective on your creative work. New ideas will come and you’ll also notice some things in the story that need to be fixed.
How do you decompress? Get a hobby. When I was writing The Morning Tree, the main characters were studying Kendo. I’d studied Muay Thai and Kali when I was younger, but never Kendo. So I joined a local dojo. Pretty soon, I was attending regular classes, and have now been studying Kendo for 3 and ½ years at the time of this writing. It has kept a fresh perspective for me and my mind has stayed engaged. You may do other things such as taking long walks, going to the gym, working on puzzles, bicycling, yoga, gardening, overhauling a transmission, and so on. Whatever it is, do something else besides writing that gets the blood flowing and the mind distracted.
III. ALTERNATIVELY – GET A HOBBY
I realize not everyone can make it to the gym. When I was 15, I had Guillain-Barré Syndrome, which partially paralyzed me. After two years of physical therapy and effort I recovered. Not everyone has the luxury (and it is a luxury) to run, life weights, do martial arts, or even mow the lawn. But if you cannot engage in physical activity much, then I would suggest unplugging with something like sewing, drawing, model building and the like. By the way, mindless activies like watching TV or fooling around on an iPad do NOT count. We’re talking about using your mind here, just not creating through writing. You need to unplug from writing and let your mind wander with some other activity to give room for the creative side of your brain to heal, like a runner needs time to recover after a marathon.
Whatever you do, STAY COMMITTED, FOLLOW YOUR SCHEDULE, DON’T GIVE UP, AND BEFORE LONG, YOU’LL HAVE THE FIRST DRAFT OF YOUR BOOK.
YOU CAN DO IT!
Next we’ll discuss how to organize your plot and characters.
Copyright (c) 2016 Austin Reams – All Rights Reserved.