Novelist Alex Temblador provides tips for writing a novel and getting the first draft out.

Writing a novel is no small task. I know this because I’ve completed two full books, have three or four that were never completed, and am working on one — oh, make that two as of this morning — currently.

Yeah, it’s no easy feat. But I continue writing novels as the voices of my characters speak too loudly, even beat on the walls of my soul, begging to be let out onto the page. So, I comply.

I’ve been writing novels for almost 10 years, and as such I’ve picked up a few tips to help me get through the writing without going crazy or quitting. For those interested in putting pen to paper one day or those who are interested in the inner workings of a writer, here’s a few tips for how to write a novel:

1. The Write Time (haha – pun)

Find the time of day that works best for you. For me, that’s writing in the morning before I begin work or start my day. Once, I’ve begun the work day, it’s extremely hard for me to get the urge or excitement to write in the afternoon or evening. The momentum is gone. So if the best time for you to work is at 2 a.m. or 11 p.m. or even noon, be faithful to this time.

 2. Timed Writing

I used to be able to write freely, strongly, and without a schedule. But then, I used to be in graduate school where my entire day was creatively inspired by books and other writers. Today, I find it harder to sit down and write, as it’s hard not to think of the paid work that I need to do to be able to buy food or pay rent. During this last National Novel Writing Month, I found a system that worked for me — a system that lets me to pour forth my novel without over exerting myself. I time myself. There’s an app that’s called the Writeometer which allows me to time myself for 25 minutes of writing every morning. I do so well with it that I push out 750 to 1,500 words a day during this time. And I’m okay with that. I’m okay with just 25 minutes per day. It’s better than nothing.

3. Notifications 

It’s hard to ignore a big sign that’s telling you to write. But we can’t all rent billboard signs with such an encouragement to appear on the route that we take to work everyday (but wouldn’t that be cool?!). So instead, create a notification on your phone, one that won’t go away too easily. One that will make you feel bad if you ignore it. One that will make you write. The Writeometer app that I mentioned before has such a notification that appears every morning at 7:30 a.m. and then again in the evening if I haven’t input my word count for the day.

4. Find Support

I didn’t write much the two years after I graduated from grad school. Sure, I edited a novel and reworked it over and over, but I didn’t write anything new. Why? Because I didn’t have anyone to inspire me to. Today, I’m part of a writing group that meets weekly. This group of individuals are smart and encouraging, and actually read the work that I’ve just written, providing me with much needed feedback and advice. I feel infinitely better after meeting with them. So find your group, your writer friends — trust me, it’s well worth the search.

5. Just Build the Skeleton

I think most novelists place too much pressure on themselves to write the perfect novel, especially in the first sitting. That’s ridiculous and not practical. So, here’s what I do to relieve myself of this pressure. When I’m writing the first draft, I just put together the skeleton of the novel. That’s all the first draft needs, and that’s exactly what you need to stay sane. Fill in the organs, the muscles, the flesh on the second, third, and fourth draft of the novels. Get the first draft out and you’ll feel immensely better.

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