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Write at your own pace.

My first four completed novels were written during National Novel Writing Month. For those of you who have never heard of Nano, the goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. It was fun and taught me how to write something from start to end, but by the fourth year, I was completely burned out and declared, “Never again!”

The next two novels’ (the epic, overly long fantasy and its sequel) first drafts took me about a half a year for each. I wrote when I could, sometimes stopping for a long period of time, but eventually I finished them. Of course, when I realized they were way too long, I had some serious editing to do, which I was in the middle of when I got the idea for The Sight Seer.

I was at work, daydreaming as usual, when the idea came to me. By the time my shift was over, I knew my three main characters, knew the major plot points. I got home and wrote, stopped for dinner, and wrote some more. The story consumed me, and I wrote every chance I could, only stopping for pesky things like headaches or, you know, Hurricane Irene threatening to wash my house away (it’s really hard to concentrate when you’re wondering if you have to evacuate or not!). I jotted down the day I started my new project, just to give myself an idea of how long it would take me to write this, and imagine my surprise when I wrote “The End” on Day Forty-Two.

I was so against forcing myself to write 50,000 words in 30 days, saying it killed my creativity and took away the fun of writing, and meanwhile, I had written 73,000 words in forty-two days. With Nano, you have to write 1666 words a day to reach 50,000 by the last day. With The Sight Seer, I was averaging 1738 words a day! Of course, some days I wrote 500 words and other days I wrote 4000 words, but do you see what I’m saying? I was adamant I would never do Nano again, and meanwhile, I did it anyway, without even realizing it!

Out of all the novels I’ve written, The Sight Seer was the one that possessed me. So, in a way, I guess I can understand why I wrote that much in such a short amount of time. The story was begging to be written, and as fast as possible. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to write this quickly again (my current work in progress, written while querying, took me seventy-five days and it’s 20,000 words SHORTER than The Sight Seer!), so it’s definitely an experience to remember!

With each attempt so vastly different from the other, I’ve learned that I can’t compare my writing experiences. Some novels may take half a year, some may take a few short weeks. As long as it’s quality writing that I’m confident enough to share with others, then what does it matter? Find a pace that works for you, and run with it!

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Write Everyday!

So you want to write a novel. That’s great! But guess what? You actually have to sit down and write it! Gasp, I know! The thing doesn’t write itself; how unfair is that? If only we could plug our brains up to the computer–no wait, maybe that’s not such a great idea. Who knows what’s going on in that head of yours.

Writing is hard, I get it. Finding time to sit down and compose a novel takes both effort and sacrifice. Writing a page today and another one three months from now will not help the creative juices flow. The greatest bit of advice I ever read was you must write everyday. No excuses. Listen, I know, I work forty hours a week, and there are days when I come home and all I want to do is veg out in front of the computer looking at pointless junk. But you have to be strict with yourself. For me, I’ll get the day’s writing out of the way, and then reward myself with looking at pointless junk. However, I’m lucky enough that once I get into a story, I’d rather be writing than anything else. But sure, even when I’m absolutely obsessed with my current project and want to spend every waking moment writing, there will still be days where I can’t get into the flow. But that’s okay! Even if I only write five hundred words, it’s still something! The story and characters are still fresh in my mind, which is exactly what I want. And who knows; maybe the next day I’ll write two thousand words.

So that’s my advice to you today. When writing a novel, write every single day, even if it’s only a few words. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, and you might throw it out during the edits, but that doesn’t matter. Keeping the story alive, day after day, will help you reach your goal of writing (and completing!) a novel.