Things You Learn A Year Into Writing A Novel #MondayBlogs #Writers

It is now over a year since I first started writing my debut novel.

It feels like a long time to me but in the novel-writing world its pretty short. In this article from Bustle it reportedly took journalist Margaret Mitchell 10 years to write and publish her staggering Civil War-era tome, Gone With the Wind.  It took author Audrey Niffenegger over four years to write The Time Traveler’s Wife (and another seven to complete Her Fearful Symmetry). 

I believe once you pass the twelve month mark of writing a novel you are in a different  head space. The passionate love affair that you and your novel embarked upon during those first few months is well and truly over. Things which concerned you during the first few months of novel-writing like the names of characters, the title, the opening chapter and whether or not you will reach your 70k final word count will have fallen off your literary radar.

There are now new things to worry about like the number of times your novel will need rewriting, refining the structure of your story and whether or not your character arcs are strong enough.

You will have also acquired a new set of learnings.

Here are the things you learn a year into writing a novel:

  1. A book gets more demanding the longer you spend writing it. If you think your first draft takes up a lot of your time and makes a lot of noise inside your head, you should try ignoring the racket it makes after twelve months!
  2. Life will get in the way of your novel and there is nothing you can do about this.
  3. Writing a book is about discovery. I don’t think you fully appreciate this until you have been working on the same story for over a year. Not only a discovery about your book but also you find out who you are as a person.
  4. The longer you write your book the more opportunities you will get to quit writing it. The trick is to keep saying no and persisting with it.
  5. Frequent breaks away from your draft novel help keep you sane.
  6. Anxiety about whether you will ever finish it in your lifetime can keep you awake in the small hours.
  7. The only way to overcome writer’s block is to write. You have to focus on writing something else to unpick the creative knot inside your head. I have found having a sneaky first draft on the go has been a godsend. Whilst you are writing something else your brain works out the issues with your novel.
  8. You have to become an expert at finding your way back to your draft novel. You will be constantly pushing it away as a result of writing set backs, writer doubt, imposter syndrome, writer shame, intense hatred for it, unwanted criticism from others and good old-fashioned writing failure. The quicker you get back to your novel the better.

If you are over the year mark with your draft novel – high fives!

If you are in the two, three, four, five year zone with your draft novel – you are my heroes!

Have a great day!

photo credit: LulumiΓ¨re N03/13727465835″>The First Bird Back via photopin (license)

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I am a blonde writer of romantic comedy fiction.

46 thoughts on “Things You Learn A Year Into Writing A Novel #MondayBlogs #Writers

  1. 2 years down the line and I am still struggling with editing my fantasy romance. Haven’t touched it in months and buried my head into writing the draft of another story which I’m now stuck on too. So your post has given me hope that I’m not alone in my editing /rewriting nightmare.
    Thank you for sharing.

  2. I’ve always loved the idea of writing a book but wouldn’t even know where to start. I’d be so worried I wouldn’t get it finished either. Authors make it look so easy! My mouth was hanging open at your list at all the things that can possibly happen when book writing.
    Incredible that books can take such a long time to write but as you say, life does get in the way!
    Maybe I’ll do a very short story at some point! πŸ˜‚

  3. I’d hate to be the naysayer in the group, but are you talking about a first draft? If I don’t finish a first draft in 60 days or less it doesn’t get done, but then, I don’t nitpick my words to death. I save that for the editing process (which can take months or years depending) I go through about 10-15 revisions on a story before I consider it ready, so if it took me a year to get a first draft I would never get anything done, and some of those revisions include reader feedback to make sure the story is resonating with my audience. While I agree with some of you points, like chasing off writer’s block by writing, maybe setting a daily word count target would help to get the story out of your head so that you can edit a completed story. It’s much easier than struggling through a draft. Just my opinion.

    1. Thx for reading. I am on my third draft of my novel. Wrote my first draft in three months, the second draft killed me and took seven months and then it didn’t do well in review so then spent two months feeling like pants. It’s always good to have a different view so thank you! Happy Monday πŸ™‚

      1. Three months definitely isn’t bad. I was just confused then. I apologize for the mistake. I’ve been dealing with emails and comments about first drafts taking years lately and doing what I can to put a stop to that kinda thing by helping out my fellow authors.
        Negative reviews can be a bummer, but look on the bright side, you know better now what’s working and what isn’t. Sometimes those breaks are good moments to start up some new stories, too. I wish you the best with it, hopefully draft 3 is going better than 2 did.

      2. Negative reviews are a bummer especially when you had a sinking feeling about the direction you were taking your story whilst writing it and in hindsight you should have listened to yourself. Yes I hope so too. Good luck with your writing and I hope to see you again in this blonde part of town. Am Lucy BTW πŸ’πŸΌ

  4. One of the two I have on the go was first started about 12 years ago, Lucy, so I don’t know where that puts me. It will be finished before the end of the year though – or I will be, one of the two!

  5. I bow to you Lucy. It’s difficult putting doubts behind you, especially with a bad comment. After putting in five years writing a book, that’s the last thing you need. But we all get them. Not everyone has the same taste. What I believe is almost harder than writing the book is marketing it. I’m still struggling with that obstacle while finishing off the sequel to my first. That’s when the doubts set in.

  6. My novel is like a little dog yapping around my heels all the time. I have published three short children’s books with a longer one coming out in July and another short children’s book coming out in October but that novel… It just never wants to finish itself.

  7. Third year of my first draft! I WILL get this draft finished this year. Hopefully the rest will go faster….? :/

  8. Great post, Lucy. Such truth. (Frankly, I’m tired of reading about the “fact” that, if you want to write, you will…no matter what so THANK YOU for saying “Life will get in the way of your novel and there is nothing you can do about this.” Much love.) I’m looking forward to reading your book!

      1. I’ll share some words but I’m not sure exactly how wise they’ll be. (Unless you mean, like, a wise guy. I’m all about that. I mean…not all about the Mafia, I mean, you know, a smart aleck. Bloody hell. Never mind.)

        I’m here with my questionable wisdom and appreciate the offer. I’d be honored, really. ❀ Email me anytime.

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