Advice for Writers: A Checklist for When You’re Stuck in a Rut

This National Novel Writing Month we’ve got your survival guide for making it out unscathed.

We’re halfway through NaNoWriMo, which means by now you’ve written half of a beautiful novel that will be ready for its debut in a few weeks time, right? For those of you who may have hit a little bump in the road, though, we want you to know you’re not alone!

Writing is a process and one of the hardest parts is keeping the momentum going. Below are 10 easy steps to help guide you, so that when the month comes to an end you’ll have something more than a sleep deficit and a half-baked idea.

1. Write something you’d want to read

This sounds obvious, but it’s important to keep in mind the entire time you’re writing. Make sure you’re passionate about the story you’re telling, you feel it’s something that hasn’t been told yet, and is missing from the current book market. If you’re invested in the novel you’re writing, you’ll have a much easier job of staying focused.

2. Stick to your plan

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the plot forming in your head and forget about the plan you laid out at the beginning. A proper plan is integral to the success of your writing. Make sure you have a beginning, middle and end in sight at all times (even if they’re vague ideas that can be adapted along the way).

3. Remember your genre and target audience

Are you writing a romance novel? A fantasy? Is the drive of your novel in its action and adventure? Its quiet moments? Its characters? If you’re clear on genre it will be much easier to play to your strengths and always keeping the reader in mind is a great way to stay on task.

4. Stay true to your characters

Keeping your characters consistent is vital to a good plot; nothing is more frustrating than reading a book and suddenly finding characters acting in ways that contradict earlier personality traits for no reason. Develop character outlines that detail descriptions, personality, and backstory. It doesn’t all have make it into the plot, but it will certainly help with consistency and make it easier to write characters with real depth.

5. Set a daily word-count goal

It’s important to set short-term goals, even in the middle of your process. Making yourself write something every day and aiming for a set word count will help you stay motivated when you’re feeling tired. It doesn’t have to be the same amount every day, but it will help you stay driven when your motivation begins to flag.

6. Environment: same place

The environment in which you write will greatly affect your productivity levels. Savour quiet, calming and preferably solitary spaces that help you focus. It can help to have a dedicated writing space to return to every day – eventually, your mind will associate it with the writing process and bolster your creative output.

7. Routine: same time

In a similar vein, routine is important when it comes to the writing process. Are you most productive early in the morning before the disorder of the day begins? Do you work best in the evenings after a busy day of work? At weekends in a bustling café? Or are you a night owl whacking out words in the quiet and darkness? It doesn’t matter which, but try to write consistently. Setting aside a dedicated writing time will help the process become part of your daily routine and, as with the consistent environment, will help your brain to focus purely on writing.

8. Get feedback

Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and work with your friends or family before you finish. Good advice early on can help save lengthy rewrites later. Talking through your ideas out loud can help identify plot holes or inconsistencies that you may not have spotted on your own. Plus, positive feedback raises motivation levels like a charm!

9. Learn from your failures

The book industry is competitive, so, ultimately, you may not end up with the result you desire. The important thing is to identify where you went wrong, ask for feedback, and embrace failure as a necessary obstacle on the path to success.

10. Don’t give up!

The most important piece of advice anyone can give you. There will be times when you want to rip up your book and throw it out (or delete the file!). There will be times when life gets in the way and your work goes untouched for months. And there will be times when you realise that you’ve reached a dead end and need to make some serious edits and re-writes. Throughout all of this, don’t lose faith. Keep at it, put in the effort, and ultimately your hard work will pay off.

We hope these tips have been helpful to anyone currently in the thick of the writing process. Once you’ve checked every item on this list and find yourself with a shiny, new story to share, we’d love to give it a read — our submissions box is always open!

As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with what you’ve found motivating this National Novel Writing Month!