So, you’re through with the procrastination phase – try not to go back there.
It’s very easy to slip back and stay there for a very long time. Just ask any writer, successful or not. It’s something we all do. I’m terrible for it, especially as I do like writing a list and the more I procrastinate, the more lists I write. The other half was reading over my shoulder the other day and said “you’ve written a list of your different lists .” Guilty as charged!
I’ve read a number of ‘how to’ books on novel writing and there is no one size fits all approach, yet I found one bit of advice invaluable in getting both my novels off the runway. It’s simple – start writing and don’t stop.
That’s it. You have your end, beginning and middle (always start with the end when planning), your character bios and chapter plan, so just start writing. The level of detail on this will depend on how much of a planner you are. I like to have a loose structure, but not too rigid so the writing doesn’t feel too constrained, but others will need that structure to ensure they don’t wander off track too much.
The most important piece of advice I can give is that when you start writing, do not review as you go or you will just end up reviewing the same bit over and over again trying to perfect it. That isn’t writing, it’s procrastinating. A novel is a lot of words. You can easily bash out a first draft of a 3,000 word short story on a wet afternoon. You can’t do this with a novel. Just keep going until the end. Set yourself daily, or weekly word count targets. This approach works for me.
My first novel took me four months to complete a first draft. The second novel took me half that when I stopped procrastinating and listened to my own advice. Nobody else is going to see this draft other than you. If you have your chapter plan, you won’t need to review the work you did yesterday, or last weekend. I find it easier to write in chapter blocks, so I can end on a good hook and it motivates me to pick it back up and start the next chapter.
So the acceleration phase is simple – write and don’t stop. There is one final twist though. It’s something that is very hard to do, yet it is an absolute must before you move on to the consolidation phase. When you get to the end, the emotions are overwhelming. It’s such an amazing feeling and there will be a desperate temptation to share your accomplishment with the world and start knocking your novel into shape.
DO NOT DO THIS!
You’ve finished, well done. Have a drink, or ten and take your novel and put it in the metaphorical drawer and do not look at it again for at least one month.
Go on a holiday, see sunlight again, show friends that you are still alive, or even write something else. Remember that short story which sparked in your mind whilst you were writing your novel? You know, that story idea you just jotted down and didn’t start writing as a way of procrastinating from the job in hand.
Trust me on this, leave it well alone and in a month (or longer if you need it) you’ll be ready for The Consolidation Phase.