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2022 written in the sand

How to write your novel in 2022 (or take a giant leap towards it)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that by the time you read this many of us will already have broken our resolutions for the New Year. Why is that? Do we set ourselves unrealistic goals?

If your resolution is to make 2022 the year in which you finally write or finish your novel, it's a good moment to pause and think about what that actually entails. How long should it take to write a novel anyway?

There's no straight answer, but the key to success lies in being aware of the steps you will go through to complete the marathon of creative writing; your novel. Be prepared to write it not once, but several times. That's the hard truth.

But with 2022 stretching ahead like a clean white page, wouldn't it be fantastic to look back in a year's time and know that you've achieved your writing goal? 

We've broken down the steps it takes to complete something as ambitious as a novel into 6. How you tackle them is up to individual preference (read our December 2021 blog about planning and pantsing, if you haven't already).

Let's look at the basic steps to writing a novel. 

1. Develop your premise. This is the idea that ignites your passionate interest at the start: a compelling character, a situation ripe with drama and conflict, an intriguing setting, or a universal theme. Spend time allowing your idea to percolate. Keep a note book, get to know your characters, describe some settings, and work on your inciting incident. What will trigger the story? How is it resolved at the end? 

2. With enough notes to go on, make a rough plot outline. This will help you see the shape of the overall story and get a feel for how to pace it. The detail will emerge as you draft, and you'll add detail to the plan later, but it will help to have a rough map to steer by. You'll also be thinking about the point of view choice, and which character or characters' eyes to tell the story through. Try out some different perspectives: your protagonist or another character in the story, and do some rough drafting in first person POV, third person limited, or the third person omniscient. Find out which suits the story you want to tell. 

3. Now, and only now, start to write, unless you're a complete pantser in which case stop writing and think about your plan. Where is the story heading? Do you have the raw material you'll need as it gets further into the plot? Do not - repeat NOT - edit anything at this stage. Your first draft is bound to be imperfect and gappy as you simply discover the story. Allow yourself to write imperfectly. You can fix it later. 

4. When you have the bulk of a messy draft, pause. Step away, do something else, then come back to it with a fresh eye and see what you've got. This would be the moment to look at the big picture and make a more detailed plan of your plot structure. Start by looking at your protagonist. Do they have a complete story arc? Is it working? Is your theme consistent throughout? Are all your characters relevant or do you need to cull some? Are your settings adding atmosphere and meaning, or are they merely backdrops? How is your dialogue shaping up? Does it slow or quicken the action; help or hinder character development? What might stop a reader from turning the page? 

5. Now it's time to write it again. This is revision, when you lift the bonnet and fix the parts that aren't working. How long you spend on this is anyone's guess, but notice how you feel about it. Are you still burning with the ardour of your premise? You should feel as passionate about the story you are telling now, as you did at the start. If not, ask yourself what is missing.

6. Once you have revised to you own satisfaction, show it to someone else: a writing buddy or someone with the skills and insight to give you constructive feedback; a tutor or coach perhaps. Friends and family are not the ones to show it to, unless they are trained in the skills of novel writing and critiquing, or even if they are. They will tell you what you want to hear or - worse - make comments that leave you wondering how to improve it.

After that, it's an iterative process of re-writing, editing, and polishing until you are satisfied that it's finished. Only you and possibly another reader, editor or agent can tell you when that is.

How long does it take? That's really up to you and the writing routine you're able to set yourself. Why not start today, having read this. A few questions will get you on track for 2022:

1. What do I want to do?

2. What do I need in order to do it?

3. What's a reasonable amount of time to set myself?

The first question is one we can only answer for ourselves, but it helps to make small achievable goals: make time to write each week, for example, even it's just for an hour or so; research a topic that will help you write about the thing that inspires you. Keep mulling it over. 

The second takes you into practical territory. You might need to learn a new skill, in which case signing up for a course or workshop is a clear path to follow. Or you could choose a new space in which to write, whether at home or somewhere else. Enlisting a writing friend to be your buddy, or joining a group can also help you feel accountable: someone with whom to check in and share progress. 

The third question may take some thought. What is a realistic amount of time to devote to your writing? Often our goals fall at the first hurdle because we simply don't have the time to put sufficient effort into them. That's just life. But if we prioritise writing time over other pulls on our attention, we stand a chance of it rising to the top of the to do list.

Remember that writing time can also be reading time, thinking time, research time and dreaming time. Going for a walk and thinking about how a story ends counts, as does making notes while sitting in a waiting room or queuing. By taking advantage of these quiet moments and unexpected lulls in the busy day, we create the raw material and store up the ideas that will make our actual writing flow once we sit down to write.

We wish you the very best for 2022 and hope it will be the year when you make that giant leap forward and smash your writing goals. We're with you on the journey and if there are ways in which we can help, you know where to find us.

Good luck. 

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