Need to find the fastest way to finish your novel?
Maybe you’ve got a hard deadline squeezing you like a lemon wedge, or maybe you just need to shift this particular project from your to-do list and onto the so-done list. Regardless, we all need to crank our writing into high-gear at times. May I suggest a plan that can help you? Follow these steps to bring clarity to your work, and you’ll be able to remove the most common obstacles:
Name the Problem
Duh, obviously the problem is a lack of time, right?
As this year’s shutdown illustrated, a time shortage isn’t always to blame. (If you found yourself flipping through old high school yearbooks, falling down the Wikipedia rabbit hole, cleaning the drawers of your refrigerator–anything but writing–then you know what I mean.)
There are two big obstacles that can slow down our writing: disorganization and fear. Now, your initial reaction might be something like, “That’s stupid. I don’t have either of those problems.”
But humor me and answer these questions:
What part of the novel writing process do you dread? What part would you outsource if you could?
If you can afford to outsource the process you’re resisting, do it. If you hate revising, hire someone else to help you overhaul your rough draft.
But if you’re on a shoestring and there’s no room in your budget to hire help, swap services with a member of your regional or local writers’ group. This option may be tricky if you’re not already a member, since it takes time to build relationships. You never know, though. My own WV Writers state-wide organization is full of helpful and generous members. So give it a try–just be clear that you’re on a deadline, and make sure you’re extra-generous in reciprocation.
For tips on how to save time writing the chapters or scenes that have you instinctively shying away from the work, check out the sections below. 👇
What tasks pull you away from your project? If you went away on a writing retreat, how would it benefit your work?
Does it feel like you’re a volunteer firefighter–running to extinguish one blaze after another, day after day? If your week is constantly interrupted by leaky toilet repairs, last-minute school assignments, shut off notices from forgotten bills, and other crises, your writing will suffer.
If you’re thinking, “Nuh-uh, I work better under pressure; I always have!” then let me ask you this: if you’ve always worked under pressure, how do you know you won’t work better with a little peace and mental space…? You owe yourself and your readers the opportunity to find out.
Set up a few basic systems. The idea is to try small, incremental improvements over time. If you try to cram your creative self into a rigid schedule, you’re likely to feel like your calendar’s a straight-jacket. So only make one change a week–and make it an easy change. Plan your meals. Go through your bills every Friday afternoon–you don’t have to pay them right then and there, just go through them. Schedule that appointment with a dentist, a plumber, or an advisor. You know, the appointment you’ve been putting off for a year. Just make one call.
These are small changes but they’re quick wins. Over time, you’ll be amazed at how much difference a few routines can make in your writing. And alleviating a little pressure today will help you write faster and finish your novel.
For a quick start way to clear your mind and clear your desk, sign up for the free clean desk challenge below:
For both the above scenarios, evaluate yourself carefully. Do you feel the need to control everything? You couldn’t possibly let anyone else help you with editing or house chores? Allow yourself to release one small aspect of your personal life or your work on the novel. If you’re a perfectionist, it can be terribly difficult to delegate ANYTHING. But if you don’t let a few things go, your novel will suffer from tunnel vision. If you have to coax yourself with the guarantee that you can always redo a task later if the helper doesn’t meet your expectations, do it. (And then give enough grace to trust your team. After all, you hand-picked your helper. So, in a way, you’re still indirectly in control, ha!)
Drop What’s Inconsequential
Your description of that cafe in chapter three? Fudge it. No reader cares if you spent an hour-and-a-half on Google, zooming in on maps of your setting’s real-life inspiration, just so you can nail “the ambience”. You’re a fiction writer–make it up and keep moving.
Likewise, think about aaaaallll the things that would get cut if your novel was going to be made into a film. If you think you can cut those mini-scenes, conversations, or details from the silver screen, go ahead and cut them from your manuscript. (Hey, if you wake up in the middle of the night, saddled with cold dread, you can always add those bits and bobs back in.)
Look at the Big Picture
I know time is short, but take a fistful of 3×5 index cards or sticky notes and cover your coffee table or a section of wall. Write the major plot points of your novel and assemble them in order. Take a bird’s eye view. What needs to happen to connect those events? Fill out more cards or notes as you go.
If your ideal reader was to wander into your brainstorming session, would he or she be able to follow the logic of your plot? What would that reader want? More thrills? More mystery? Add it in, now. Then write that content as fast as you can.
Look at the Irresistible
If you feel like the early part of Act Two is dragging, give yourself permission to skip ahead to the midpoint and write it. Gasp! I know–it can feel uncomfortable to write scenes out of order.
But if you’ve got irresistible scenes ahead, and you need to finish your novel fast, skipping to the best and juiciest scenes can jolt you with adrenaline and help you write better, faster.
When it’s time to return to the less-enticing scenes, consider why they’re not as thrilling. Inject something unexpected or delightful. Derail the dull. Or simply cut those scenes. No one’s going to miss boring passages–not the reader, not the writer!
NOW YOU: When you need to finish your novel fast, how do you stay focused?
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