My Two-Step Method For Finishing Your Novel
Finishing your novel can be tough work.
After all, writing a novel isn't just something that you can check off a daily to-do list. It takes months, if not years, of hard work to see a single novel come to completion. When we writers choose to write, we truly do take on a marathon of the mind.
No matter how in love you are with your story, finishing your novel can seem like an unattainable goal. Life happens. Chaos ensues. We get caught up in the things that consume our daily lives, and most days we'd rather come home and take a nap instead of set to work on our novel projects.
Life is exhausting! You shouldn't feel ashamed if you often prefer watching television over picking up the pen. But if you ever want to see your novel journey through, you're going to have to push through the chaos and put a plan into place.
Luckily for you, through years of trial and error I have discovered a fantastic two-step method that motivates me to get the job done. I can't guarantee that this method will be your golden ticket to success (everyone operates a little differently), but I do believe that you can take this method and adapt it to suit your own lifestyle.
With that disclosure out of the way, are you ready to get started with the #WriteBoss method of finishing your novel?
Let's Start Setting Some Long-Term Goals
The #WriteBoss method is all about being your own boss, about treating your work with the professionalism it deserves and being a bit strict on yourself when circumstances require it.
But don't think that this method puts you and your writing in a stuffy old cubicle. Being a #WriteBoss is also about killing it in an unexpected fashion, about fearlessly chasing down your dreams.
And to see that through, you're going to need to employ two steps, the first of which is to set long-term goals for each of the major tasks you must complete to see your manuscript published.
The long-term goals you choose to set may vary depending on your project, but the general goals include:
- Finishing the first draft.
- Making revisions.
- Making line edits.
- Polishing the manuscript.
- Finding an agent (for those planning to publish traditionally).
- Publishing the novel (for those planning to self-publish).
You may also set long-term goals concerning your research, world-building, sequel or series planning, and any other tasks that pertain to your particular novel project.
As you set these long-term goals, you'll also want to create tentative deadlines for each. It may seem scary to set a date for finding an agent when you haven't even completed the first draft, but writing these deadlines down will help you take your writing seriously.
Remember, these deadlines aren't set in stone. You should purposely be crafting flexible dates like "by the end of summer" or "before my birthday" so that, should life get in the way, you can easily adjust your deadlines to accommodate for your circumstances.
And who knows, you may even surprise yourself by finishing your goal before its deadline.
However, if you do end up going into overtime, don't doubt yourself or your work. Life does happen, and it's okay if you fall behind. To get back on track, evaluate where you stand. How far away are you from completing your goal? How much longer will it take for you to see your goal through?
Once you have that established, simply set a new deadline and get back to work. Just don't forget to adjust the deadlines for the rest of your long-term goals to compensate.
If you're not sure how long it will take you to complete each goal, start by laying out some numbers. Let's use the goal of completing your first draft as an example. Ask yourself:
- How many words to I intend to write for my first draft?
- How many words can I write each day I work on my project?
- How many days a week do I plan to work on my project?
Once you have these numbers laid out, you should be able to calculate an exact deadline for your goal. If you're optimistic like me, I highly recommend tacking an extra week or two onto that goal as a cushion. That way, if you fall a bit behind in step two of the #WriteBoss method, you won't be cursing yourself for failing.
Moving on to Short-Term Goals
Step two of the #WriteBoss Method of completing your novel is to set short-term goals.
Once you have long-term goals set in place, you'll want to break them down into short-term goals. I like to call these short-term goals "actionable steps", meaning these goals are actually tasks you can routinely complete to work towards achieving your long-term goals.
Continuing on with our example goal, think about what actionable steps you can take to finish your first draft.
- How much research do I need to do?
- How many words can I write each time I work on my project?
- Do I need to outline my plot ahead of time and/or create character sketches?
Consider these questions and any others you brainstorm, and then create an action plan for your novel. Not sure what I'm talking about?
An action plan is a document that lays out the steps you will take to complete your major goals. Think of it like a long-term schedule. Here's an example of an action plan entry for our example goal:
- Goal: Finish the first draft. Deadline: October 2015. The estimated word count for my first draft is 70,000 words. In order to complete this goal by October 2015, I will write 500 words every day. I will also spend one day a week researching my story's topic for half an hour.
So, let's review! The #WriteBoss Method to finishing your novel is a two-step method that encourages you to be your own boss and to fearlessly take on the challenge of treating your writing with the professionalism it deserves.
Step one is to set long-term goals and deadlines for the major tasks involved in completing your novel. Step two is to break down those long-term goals into actionable steps that you can record in an action plan.
Don't settle for less than success.
While the #WriteBoss Method can be quite effective on it's own, there are a few things that you can do to bolster your chances of success.
Create a writing routine. Writing a novel requires endurance, and endurance requires focus. In order to stay focused while you write, you need to create a writing routine that works for you. Here's a previous post that I wrote on this subject.
I highly recommend exploring a daily writing routine.
Writing every day may sound crazy, but as little as ten minutes of work each day can drastically change the way you write. By writing every day, even if you can only manage a few minutes, you are building upon the work you did the day before to subconsciously improve your skills as a writer.
If writing every day doesn't work well for your process (e.g. if you have trouble getting into the "writing zone" if you don't work for at least half an hour), just make sure you're still writing several times a week.
Consistency is key to progress, my friends.
Create a writing retreat. I talk a bit about this in my post on creating a writing routine, but having your own writing space is the key to getting in the writing zone. You need to create a comfortable and quiet place to get your work done, and if you make it a habit to work in this writing retreat every day, you'll notice that your brain will automatically switch into writing mode when you sit down.
I don't know about you, but that's a huge weight off of my shoulders!
Get organized. The longer you work on a project, the more resources you collect. Research, story ideas, character sketches, outlines...it's easy for all of these notes to become scattered among your digital files and physical notebooks.
But being disorganized is a huge time-waster. Rather than getting on with your writing, you'll spend your precious time looking for a note that you haphazardly scribbled in the margins of a shopping list three weeks back. And that's no bueño, my friends!
So stop wasting your time, and get organized. Use the Evernote app to save notes and websites, record your story ideas and research in Scrivener, and always, always, always backup your work at the end of the day.
My Personal Novel Action Plan
Want to see the #WriteBoss Method in action?
Here's a look at my action plan for my current WIP, The Dark Between. I'm currently 25,000 words into my first round of revisions, so that's where I'll start.
Goal: Finish first round of revisions. Deadline: Mid-October 2015 My first round of revisions is actually more of a full rewrite. I plan on completing this goal by writing 1,200 words everyday. So far, so good!
Goal: Finish second round of revisions. Deadline: By May 2016 This is going to be my most time-intensive round of revisions. In order to complete this goal, I will need to reread my novel for plot holes, inconsistencies, and filler content; rewrite scenes that aren't working; and edit good scenes line-by-line.
I plan to spend 2-3 weeks rereading, 2-3 weeks rewriting scenes, and the remaining time editing. How many words I will edit per day depends on the final word count of my first round of revisions. After this round, I plan to send my novel out to beta-readers.
Goal: Complete a third round of revisions. Deadline: End of summer 2016. After I receive feedback from beta-readers, I plan to complete a third round of revisions based on their critiques. What this involves will depend on their feedback, but I'm hoping that I can complete any changes over the short summer months.
Goal: Find an agent. Deadline: By the end of 2016. I plan on going the traditional publishing route, and I would love to find an agent by the end of next year. In order to make this happen, I'll need to research potential agents, write personalized query letters, and pray to God that one of them will love my novel.
This goal is much more touch-and-go than the others. My success highly depends on what agents think of my work. Once my work gets into the hands of a professional editor, I'm sure I'll have more goals to set. I'll definitely be creating a new action plan when that time comes.
But for now, I'm going to focus on actually finishing my novel, and I hope you will do the same.
Do you like the #WriteBoss Method for finishing your novel? If you create an action plan for your work, make sure to tweet me a peek at your goals. I'd love to be your cheerleader as you go and conquer the world!