“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” - George Orwell
Writing a novel is a long, difficult and testing road. The vast majority of people that start writing a book never finish it. Many people underestimate just how difficult it is to write a 70,000 word book, myself included. I spent months writing one chapter, making sure every piece of dialogue and every descriptive sentence was perfectly crafted before I remembered I had the rest of the bloody book to write (and the chapter wasn’t even that good).
The lesson I learned from this is that you just have to finish the book. You can go back and edit to your heart’s content once it’s done, you can add new chapters and delete old ones, you can change anything you want because once you have a finished book you can see the bigger picture and where elements should and shouldn’t fit in.
Yep that’s right, my first piece of advice was just to finish the book (how has no one thought of that yet?). Far easier said than done, a book takes a long time to write, a stupidly long time. But although it may be a painful and debilitating process, in the end when you have a finished book, you’ll forget all about the pain and all you’ll feel is immense pride, and rightfully so too.
The best advice I’ve ever been given, and I’ve been given it by more than a few successful writers, is just to write.
Want to become a better writer? Write.
Want to start a book? Write.
Want to finish a book? Write.
Just knuckling down and writing is the ultimate way to improve. Bernard Cornwell, the author of the timeless Sharpe Series, once said that it doesn’t matter if you spend a whole day writing only to use none of what you’ve written, because that was a day well spent learning. As long as you’re writing, you’re getting better.
But I understand better than most that more often than not there are too few hours in a day to do everything we want to do. So, below I’ve written down some tips that have helped me to write more efficiently, hopefully they can help you too.
DO NOT multi-task. Multi-taskers can take 50% longer to finish a task. It may feel like writing is just a hobby and there are more important things to keep your mind on, or maybe you have The Office on in the background. Either way it’s going to take you years before you accomplish anything unless you focus on the job.
Block out time to write. Every other day after work I come home, I cook and eat dinner with my wife and then I dedicate at least 90 minutes to writing my novel. I sit at the kitchen table, away from the TV, I put my phone away and I just write. I look forward to that time, not just because I’m writing, an activity which I love, but I know that I don’t have to think about work and the other stresses of life, that’s my dedicated writing time. Now I’m able to focus completely on my task, and not only am I writing more, but my writing has improved too.
Set goals. When you sit down to write, a great motivational tool can be to create a word-count to try and reach. It’s important to set a goal that challenges you so you remain motivated. Some people give themselves rewards, maybe that’s food or a glass of wine, whatever works for you.
Now write, write and write some more, my friends.
Because writing surely is the most effective way to finish a book.