Anne Lamott, in her national best-seller how-to book Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life wrote:
"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he'd had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother's shoulder, and said, 'Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'"
That’s some of the best advice ever for writers . . . take it one word at a time, one paragraph at a time, one chapter at a time, until you’ve (surprise!) reached the end.
You won’t always feel like writing, not every day, and some days, what appears on the page will look like pure crap to you. The thing to remember is, you should expect that your first effort is ALWAYS a crappy draft. The goal is to write down the nuggets of your story idea. On blank paper or on a blank computer screen. Doesn’t make any difference if the spelling is correct, or the grammar, or the format. You can fix all that later.
So many people I know have an idea for a story. They read a book and say, “I could do that. If I had the time.”
If you really, really (notice there are two “really’s” here) want to write, You. Will. Make. Time. Aren’t a morning person? Write at night. Too pooped at night? Write before the rest of your family gets up. The important thing is to make a habit of writing: same time every day. If you’re also working a full-time job, no problem. I always found that when I was super busy at work, I was more efficient with my time at home.
Do your story research one day and write the next. If you try to integrate the two, you’ll surely find yourself down an interesting but time-consuming rabbit hole and having not written one word of your novel. That also means No Facebook, No eMail, and No Twitter. They have No Place in your writing time. They’re for personal time or marketing your book.
Writing a novel takes dedication and discipline. Think of it as a commitment, a job (or another job) that you go to every day. Set up a place and establish an hour or two or more for just for that purpose. Let your family know you’re not to be interrupted when you’re at work . . . just as it would be if you worked at a job away from the house. Set a realistic daily goal for your writing. Maybe it’s five pages or a chapter or “x” number of words a day. Whatever it is that you know you can accomplish if you stay disciplined. The result will be that you can also set a deadline for completion, that exciting ultimate goal: The End. And the novel won’t linger on for years and years (as I have been known to do).
Just to make sure your writing is not all work and no play, when you achieve one of your interim goals, reward yourself. Take a break. Take a walk in the park, a trip to a coffee shop, a visit to a library or book store. Take time to feel good about those little successes and re-energize.
Note: The photo is by Jeff D. Johnston. What looks like a snow-covered shoreline is really the pale, warm sands of Dauphin Island, AL.