We recently asked the members of BuzzFeed Community to tell us how they stay on track when they're working on a novel. These are the handy writing tips they shared.
1. No cute coffee shop with notebook for me. It's all about snuggling up in bed with the laptop, a cup of tea and SoundCloud drip-feeding me music with the perfect ambience for the mood of the story.
And when I need to get out of my bubble, I go to literary events where authors talk about their writing and publication journeys. That always has me rushing back home abuzz with dreams and new inspiration.
— Chantal Lyons (Facebook)
2. Make a playlist that makes you think about the characters and the story, that way it keeps you motivated and fresh.
— Sol Fischer (Facebook).
3. Two words: Movie soundtracks! Star Wars for action scenes, Lord of the Rings for drama and so on. Works like a charm to keep me focused!
4. I write first thing in the morning, before I go to work. If I don't put my writing first - literally and figuratively - something else will inevitably steal my time and attention.
5. Exercise regularly - ideally go for a run! It's like a detangler for your mind!
— Chantal Lyons (Facebook)
6. I use a Pinterest board of song lyrics and quotes I love, plus amazing scenery, clothes, settings etc. to help me build the world. Also going for a walk in the morning and a nice strong coffee and a little Ben Howard works wonders.
— Kelly Beestone (Facebook)
7. Novels are overwhelming. I can't sit down and write 80,000 words. But I can sit down and write 600. Breaking the whole into manageable chunks, and watching those chunks slowly add up is the only way I can cope.
I usually write for 30 mins, stretch my legs, and write for another 30. And I give myself a day off when I need one. It's a marathon, and sometimes I need a breather. But I'll get there, one sentence at a time. And finally, I remind myself that it doesn't matter if those sentences are any good or not. I can fix them later. Right now I just have to put them down.
8. One really weird thing I do when I'm stuck trying to get in the head of one of my characters is sit down and have an out loud conversation with them as if they're actually in the room with me.
9. Write on a piece of paper a timeline of how the major points in the story go - from plot twists, to character introduction, setting change, and other important points.
— Sol Fischer (Facebook)
10. I don't outline. I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer, but if I get stuck, I work on a scene that I know will come sometime later. Then I'll work backwards.
— Lindsay Morrison (Facebook)
11. I always plan out in a document completely independent from the actual draft. I list chapters and write out a general plan for each chapter (introduce character here, switch to a different setting here, etc.) as well as listing my characters with their backgrounds in order to have quick reference for consistency.
When it comes time to actually writing, I'll sit down at my desk and decide what scene or events I want to make progress on that day. I try to not look at my objectives as this many words, or this many chapters, but more of: get to this specific plot point.
— Beth Devlin (Facebook)
12. I start with a general concept for a story then work on a primary character, their basic personality, their likes and dislikes, and how they fit in with the theme I have in mind. Once that's done, I see where that character takes me.
13. If I'm in a lull I get a random writing prompt and write the scene on my typewriter or notebook. I write the scenes in the same story line of my book, same characters, world, etc.
Most of the time I have no intention of using the scenes in my book, but it helps me to stay in my story while keeping things fresh by writing at a different point than where I am in my book.
— Avery Cavazos (Facebook)
14. I think you have to treat writing like any other job, especially if you are unpublished or self-publishing, otherwise it's very easy to lose focus and let time eat away at your motivation. I'm now using a program called Scrivener which helps keep me organised and on target, and I reread my drafts on Kindle.
— F.D. Lee (Facebook)
15. I keep a wall calendar specifically for my work and write "Were you productive today?" at the top of each page. Each day, I write that I brainstormed, did research, wrote a scene, edited, typed up old notes, etc. Seeing my daily effort laid out like that motivates me to continue working, even if it's only a short brainstorming session in the car.
16. I have a mapping system that I've refined: Write blurbs for each character you plan on having, write down the names and roles of non-central characters, mark out the major plot points, write down a few details you know you want to add, and then write any questions you're asking yourself about the novel.
17. I maintain 3 working files which keep me focused, inspired and on task. One with initial thoughts written down (it doesn't often make sense in a linear way but in my mind it keeps the ideas fresh), another with images of characters, places, and diagrams of plot lines so I can visualize the details, and finally, a third which is the actual story draft. Depending on my state I work out of any 3 so I make continual progress without losing focus, creativity, or drive to complete.
18. Find a critique partner and decide how many pages you want to swap each week. This is a huge motivator because you have to get your 25 pages or so done every week. Also keep a journal each day of how long you wrote and how many words you wrote. Try to do more the next day even if it's 10 more minutes.
19. I let my two best friends read what I've written and if they ask for the next part I know I'm doing well, so that motivates me to write more.