Writing a Novel – Keeping The Momentum Up

writing a novel keeping the momentum up

Author Tracey Dawson previously explored starting to write a novel here. This continues that discussion.

The first post in this series discussed how to make a start on writing your very first novel.  But how do you stay inspired and happily writing once the chapters are starting to pile up?  Read on for some suggestions.

Becoming becalmed

Starting a new project is always exciting, and you may have found yourself positively skipping through the chapters, adding to your word count day in, day out, and feeling as if you know exactly what you’re doing and where you’re headed.  But one day, perhaps the words aren’t flowing as readily, and all of a sudden, you find yourself doubting your plot, your characters and your ability to make it to the end.  Don’t worry – this tricky middle stage is perfectly normal!  And if this is your first novel-length undertaking, it’s a bit like tackling your first marathon in that the extra distance is a leap into the unknown.  But every single published novelist once set out on their very first novel, and none of them had any idea whether they would actually get to write the magic words ‘The End’.  If they can do it – you can do it!

If you’re experiencing the dreaded ‘I don’t know what to write next’ feeling, don’t ignore it or try to blast through it – it’s actually a really valuable indicator that you need to stop writing and start thinking.

Take stock of where you are

You’ve already written at least a few chapters, which is an achievement in itself, and you should be pleased with yourself for getting that far.  Writing a novel is a long project, and there is nothing wrong with having a rest break to assess what you’ve done and what you want to write next.  Progress comes in many forms, and it’s easy to think that word count is the only way to judge how you’re doing, but spending time in assessing and planning is probably even more important.

Have a read through your chapters, as you might be able to spot any inconsistencies.  This is also a great chance to have a proof read and spell check, and just the very act of reading through your work might help you to see where you want to go next.

Don’t be tempted to go on a deleting spree…just because you can’t see how to proceed at the moment, it doesn’t mean that you need to abandon anything you’ve written.  If there is something you really want to remove, start an ‘out takes’ document and paste your prunings to that instead of deleting them altogether.  They might be just what you need a few chapters further on, or even for your next project.

Plan where you want to go next

Start a new document or find a blank page in your notebook and summarize what you’ve done so far – the main points of plot and character development.  This should be easier as you’ve just had a good read-through and tidy up.

Once you’ve got a good idea of where you are, carry out the same exercise as you did when first plotting your novel.  On your new document or blank page, have a brainstorm, jotting down plot and character ideas and joining them together until something clicks.  There is no hurry – the best ideas can’t be forced.  Even while you’re not actively writing, you can still be doing a lot of work in your head.  Use the time while you’re waiting for a train or doing chores to think about your writing.  The more you practice, the easier it will get.  And the thinking is actually the hardest bit…it may take several days or longer of really hard thought before you get a breakthrough.  It will be so much easier to write if you’ve already done the thinking!

Take up your pen again…

…or go back to your keyboard, and see what happens.  Write a few sentences or paragraphs and see how it feels.  Is it flowing?  If so, go for it!  Get your head down and get writing!  See how many more chapters you can get done while riding the wave of fresh enthusiasm!  But what if you’re still not feeling inspired?  All this means is that you haven’t spent long enough in planning the way forward, because if you had, you’d know where you were going.  Allow yourself more time out for thinking…and make sure you’re actively thinking!  It should feel like hard enough work that you don’t really want to do it and would prefer to put it off.  If you’re just idly day-dreaming, you need to ramp it up a bit and focus!  As soon as you know where you’re going, the words will almost generate themselves.

Tracey Dawson is a long-term writers’ group member and chair, and also a committed compliance professional.  She has combined her two passions in her fifth novel, which follows the offworld adventures of Greville the compliance auditor, which is available on Amazon here.

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