Learning how to write fiction can be overwhelming at times: So many new things to discover, so many ideas bouncing around in your head, so many tasks to perform in the novel writing process.
Of course, these are the things that make writing fiction so exciting. But they can also bring you to a grinding halt.
Being a professional writer is a fine ambition to have, but you simply aren't going to get where you want to be in a few short weeks or months.
It takes a long time just figuring out how to write fiction that sells, much less putting everything you have learned into practice.
Writing a novel is a lot more like a marathon than a sprint...
Some wannabe writers think that writing is a sprint, but they tend to drop out of the race pretty quickly and go do something else with their lives.
The more realistic novelists know right from the start that reaching the finishing line - i.e. getting a novel published - takes stamina and a dogged determination.
More specifically, you need to carve out a niche in your already-busy life in which to write (for example, by getting up at six o'clock every morning instead of seven). Not only that, there are three more things you must do if you want to succeed.
I'm sure that all of you have heard of this Chinese proverb: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
It's not bad advice. The journey in the case of writers is the planning and writing of a long work of fiction. And for that you need a map.
Fortunately, you have a great map - this website in general and, more specifically, the section on How to Write a Novel Step by Step.
Study the map closely before you set out, and keep referring to it along the way. It truly tells you everything you need to know about how to write fiction to a professional standard.
The single steps you take along the way - thousands and thousands of them - are like the individual work sessions you will spend at your writing desk...
That is what I mean by working smart.
Sure, you sometimes need to spend a writing session looking at the "big picture" - how far you have come, what tasks you need to do next. This is like stopping to study the map.
For the most part, though, ignore the overall journey and concentrate on achieving just one small task today. It's amazing how they stack up over time.
And incidentally, it is much better if the task you set yourself each day is easily manageable within the working session...
Speaking of which...
Becoming a novel writer is probably something you have been dreaming of for years. But dreams don't come true all by themselves. Sooner or later you need to get real, and that means putting in the hours - whether you feel like it or not.
Hopefully, if you have absorbed all of the advice so far here at Novel Writing Help, you will feel like working. Hopefully, you will feel so excited and enthused about your novel that the alarm clock won't ring soon enough every morning! Meanwhile in the real world, though, there will still be days when the prospect of writing fiction doesn't exactly fill you with glee.
You've still got to do it, though. If you planned to work on your novel for an hour before breakfast or 30 minutes after dinner (or whatever), then that is what you must do.
Full-blown emergencies will require your immediate attention, but anything less urgent must wait. That's the discipline you need to become a novel writer - and you need it day after day after day.
But if it's any consolation, the buzz you get from having worked creatively for an hour always far exceeds the energy you had to put into it.
"I am not at all in a humour for writing; I must write on till I am."
- Jane Austen
Sorry, but checking your e-mails doesn't count. Neither does reorganizing your stationery drawer, dusting your keyboard, or making stick figures from paper clips.
We do these things while we are waiting for inspiration to strike but, trust me, it never does - not on its own.
Like I said, you've got to sit down to work whether you feel like it or not. So if your small task for the day is to draft a particular scene, just start writing it.
This usually means forcing the words out at first. But you should soon find that your inspiration starting to flow.
Note that you don't always have to be turning sheets of blank paper into pages of beautiful prose when you are at your desk. You might spend your writing time...
Just make sure that you always work on some aspect of your novel for the full time you have allocated.
Bottom Line? The mammoth task of writing a long work of fiction ultimately comes down to establishing a routine that works for you, and then sticking to it whether you feel like it or not.
With practice, both laziness and hard work can become habits. But only hard work can be fun.