I’m always thrilled when an author emails me asking to guest post, especially when it’s part of a blog tour. Today’s post comes courtesy of Ali Luke whose new book Lycopolis is a supernatural thriller / contemporary fantasy novel. Ali’s blog, Aliventures, is chock full of great writing advice, so be sure to stop by there and add it to your subscriptions.
Without further ado, here’s Ali:
How to Write All the Way to the End of Your Book
As a working writer, I come across a lot of people who want to write a book (fiction or non-fiction) or who’ve been working on a book for months or years. But most of them have never reached those magic words “The End” … and they’re afraid they never will.
A whole book isn’t a light undertaking. It takes many hours of work – and that work may be mentally, emotionally and even spiritually taxing. And there’s no guarantee of fame and fortune once you reach The End.
Yet I believe that if you have the desire to write – if there’s a book idea that’s been nagging at you, or if you know you have a way with words – then the journey is worthwhile.
Here are some simple ways to make sure you do reach The End, instead of stalling part-way.
Pace Yourself and Build Your Writing Muscles
A book (or any other long project) isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. If you set off at break-neck speed, you’re going to run out of energy before you get more than a few chapters in.
Your writing stamina is a bit like a muscle: if you’ve not written for a while, you might only manage 200 or 300 words every few days, but once you get into your stride, you could find yourself writing 1,000 words on a daily (or near-daily) basis.
Some writers like to work for a set period of time; say, 30 minutes or an hour. Others prefer to aim for a target word count. It’s up to you which you use – but over time, aim to gradually increase your writing stamina.
Create a Plan and a Schedule
Whatever type of book you’re working on, a plan and a schedule will help you get from start to end.
Your plan details what goes into your book. For non-fiction, most authors like to start off with a full chapter outline (though you could also work from a mindmap, or index cards). For a novel, it’s often enough to have a good grasp on your main characters and key plot points.
Your schedule helps you stay on track. As well as setting milestones for your book (e.g. “reach the end of chapter 10 before our vacation”), you’ll want to put writing sessions into your diary or calendar. When you plan ahead, it’s much easier to find opportunities to work on your book – whereas if you wait for a few hours of free time to appear from nowhere, you’ll probably be waiting for a long time…
Record Any Nice Feedback
If you’re putting your writing out into the world, perhaps on a blog, or in ebook form, then there’s a good chance that you’ll receive some feedback. Any time you get an email, blog comment, Tweet, Facebook message, etc that makes you feel good about your writing, record it somewhere safe.
One of the hardest things as a writer is to keep your faith in yourself and your work when it feels like no-one’s reading. By reminding yourself regularly of the people who are reading – and who value what you write – you’ll find it easier to keep going.
Keep Track of Your Progress
When you’re working on a whole book (or a whole writing career), progress can feel painfully slow. It’s easy to get discouraged, and to wonder whether you’re really getting anywhere at all.
For the past four years, I’ve been keeping an achievements book. Every month, I write down new accomplishments: milestones reached, new activities tried. When I look back now, I can track my progress as a novelist: in November 2008, I began on the very first draft of my novel Lycopolis, and in November 2011, I published the ebook version.
Your progress on your book doesn’t just mean words written. It’s progress to finally tackle a tricky chapter or scene; it’s progress to show an excerpt to your critique group for the first time. You might want to spend some time each week praying, journaling or reflecting about what’s been going well with your writing.
Don’t Burn Out
Finally … it’s okay to take a break from your book. You don’t have to write every single day, or even every single week. If you need to, take some time off (but give yourself a firm date for getting back into it – don’t let a week off become six months of no writing at all).
It’s easy to feel impatient, especially in today’s world where technology means that you know you can get from a finished manuscript to a published book in just a few days. But by taking the time that you need, you value yourself and your work. You deserve to enjoy the journey … and your book deserves to be as good as you can make it.
Whatever you’re working on – whether it’s a book, a blog, or something else entirely – I wish you the very best of luck. I’d love to hear your tips for staying motivated and keeping going during a big project, too: you can leave a comment below.
Bio: Ali Luke is currently on a virtual book tour for her novel Lycopolis, a fast-paced supernatural thriller centered on a group of online roleplayers who summon a demon into their game … and into the world. Described by readers as “a fast and furious, addictive piece of escapism” and “absolutely gripping”, Lycopolis is available in print and e-book form. Find out more at www.lycopolis.co.uk.