Wednesday, October 22, 2008

13 “You-Can-Do-It” Tips for Authors

NEED reassurance for November’s National Novel Writing Month? Tips from Chapter after Chapter will boost your confidence and help you find the stamina to complete that novel you’ve been working on.

In just over a week, November will be here. It’s the month where people aspiring to be authors link up at, with the intention of writing a novel of some 50,000 words.
For many of us the question isn’t whether we can finish our novel in a month or so, the question is: Can we EVER complete a novel? Period.

Heather Sellers, author of Page after Page and Chapter after Chapter, and an English professor at Hope College in Holland, Mich., believes we can. She encourages, exhorts and lays out instructions to streamline the process for timid or unsure authors such as myself.

Here are 13 tips to boost your writing confidence and proficiency.

1. Write things down. Put words on paper. “Writers write things down.” (Never trust those great ideas of yours to memory.)

2. Set time aside. “There are limits to what you can do in your real life if you want to be a dedicated book writer.” A regular writing routine is a plus.

3. To build on that point. … Give your writing project a significant place in your life and time. “Elevate your writing-life commitment to the level of high importance. No one else is going to do it for you.”

4. Practice. “If you’re not good at making time to sit down and write every day, give yourself a month to learn how to do just that.” It takes some doing in our busy lives, but it’s worth the effort.

5. Try, try again. “There are three magic words when you’re writing a book. Keep starting again.” Don’t let discouragement bring your writing dream to a total halt.

6. Learn writing by writing. “A book project, like a good teacher, gives you a reason, a focus, a motivation that keeps you from getting lost in your head, lost in the pages, lost in serial restarting.”

7. When you’re not typing your opus, plan. To get to the finish line, you must know where you’re going. A footnote: “Writing a book is very much like going on a long trip abroad. You leave the world as you know it.”

8. “Just as children collect their books and lay out their gear the night before school to make the next day’s start a little easier, purposeful book authors also lay out their things, mentally and physically, preparing for the next writing day.”

9. “Writing a book is exactly like traveling to a country you don’t know well. What do you do in bed in a new country before falling asleep? Look at maps. Orient yourself. So, each night, before you go to bed, plant a giant YOU ARE HERE sign in your manuscript and look down the road to see where you might go tomorrow.”

10. Keep in mind: “A good writing session has much to do with the previous writing session and the period in-between.”

11. Don’t worry about being gifted enough. “Talent is desire.”

12. Figure out how to make your writing fun—something you want to do. “Here is a secret to writing a book. Find a way to keep your desire alive and pure.”

13. Be your own best fan. “There’s a part of you (maybe dormant, but it’s there) that is a goofy, hyperactive, wildly enthusiastic cheerleader. Sometimes you have to call on her: You can do it! You want it! Go, Author!”

Of course, Heather’s 13 tips are just some of the excellent suggestions you can glean in Chapter after Chapter if you’re like me and planning to participate in National Novel Writing Month.

If you simply have an idea for a novel you’d like to try, I’d love to hear from you. Tell me what you’re working on or the story you’ve always dreamed of writing.


  1. Great tips!!! I was going to do a 13 Things I Learned About Writing a NaNo Novel, After Writing a Three-Day Novel. But then I decided to do it another time, or not in the context of a thursday 13...

    In any case, good advice! I'm so looking forward to nano this year... even though I have no clue what I will write just yet.

    ~ Rachel

  2. Talent is Desire. I love that. I have a poster right in front of me where I write. It says. I can because I think I can. Thanks for the wise words. I'm stoked for NaNo. Happy T13!

  3. I'm actually in the process of self publishing a book I wrote through nanowrimo. Took a month to write, 2 years to edit. ;)

  4. I just sit down and write it comes from alone. If I don't sit down I have nothing to write, lol !

  5. All good tips... though I do take a little bit of a powder on "Talent" being equal to "Desire"... because BOY do I know some folks who have the desire... but...

    Still, practice (and work) means perfect... and if you want it badly enough, never give up. Improvements will come!

  6. These are all great points, many of which have worked for me.

  7. I've heard it said that in every other profession you're told to get off your lazy ass and do something. Writers are told to get ON your lazy ass and do something.

    Great list!

  8. What an inspirational list! Thanks for sharing your great ideas! I always learn something when I'm here!

  9. Great advice! Somebody said (wish I could remember who) the biggest thing you have to do is BICHOK (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). In other words, just do it. But BICHOK sounds cooler. :)

  10. Adelle,
    I like the "Talent is desire" too. I'll look for you on the NaNo boards.

  11. Rachel,
    I'd like to learn more about the Three-Day Novel.

  12. Yep, Nano is coming and I am very excited this year. A Nano TT is a great idea, and you certainly did a great job with yours.

  13. Thanks Moondancer,
    Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

  14. I have a friend who is participating in the competition and I'm sending this link along to her. Thanks! (And thanks for visiting my TT)

  15. Sure!

    Here is the website for 3-day novel:

    SUCH an experience. Did it for the first time this year. Was awesome.

    As I said, I plan on blogging about it soon, before nanowrimo starts. :)


  16. #1 also applies to blogging...whenever I have an idea, if I don't have access to a pen & paper, I leave myself a note on my phone!

  17. 'Figure out how to make your writing fun — something you want to do.'

    This might be the toughest one, sometimes. But it also may be the most important one of all. Really wonderful list.

  18. nanowrimo is completely beyond my capabilities so i take my hat off to anyone who achieves it. That was a very useful list.

  19. Great tips! Especially #1. I have little scraps of paper with ideas all over the place becuase I will lose it if I don't write it down!

  20. Great Tips! Thanks for sharing them.

  21. Greetings and salutations from a fellow NaNo-er! I'm gearing up for another successful November. Stop by and say hi. I'm Auntie Thorne over there. Happy TT!

  22. Keeping it fun - now that's an excellent one to keep in mind.

  23. I have always wanted to try nanowrimo, but November is too busy of a month for me and will be this year too. Maybe I should do it another month? At least I could try, especially with your great tips

  24. 4 can be so easy to forget. But writing is an art. Art requires work in the form of practice. Nobody wakes up good at it. Thanks for this great, encouraging list.

  25. Sorry to be visiting so late. Life’s gotten away from me recently, but I’m doing what I can to catch up. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips! They’re just what I need at the moment …
    Hugs and blessings,