Writing a novel can be an excruciating task. Most writers don’t need to be told this. It is something we learn ourselves - and all too quickly. There are countless factors that make novel-writing an extremely difficult process.
First of all, writing a novel takes a great deal of time and commitment. This amount of time is often hard to find, particularly if you are already juggling your writing with a day job, family/personal commitments, study, and so on.
And moreover, to succeed, the artist must possess the courageous soul . . . the brave soul. The soul that dares and defies.” – Kate Chopin
If this is not enough for us to struggle with, most writers also spend a great deal of their novel writing efforts battling their own negativity. From fear of rejection, to lack of confidence and loss of self-belief, writers can fall victim to all kinds of negative thoughts.
So how can we stay positive through it all? How can we keep all this negativity at bay? In order to help answer these questions, Writer’s Edit have gathered a few simple suggestions on ‘How To Stay Positive When Writing a Novel’...
1. Set realistic goals
Nothing is more disappointing than failing to live up to your own expectations. If you want to stay positive when writing a novel, it is therefore highly important to set realistic goals. This doesn’t mean you can’t be ambitious.
Nor does it mean you shouldn’t push or challenge yourself. Just don’t go setting impossible standards.
One way to ensure that the goals you're setting are realistic is to not look too far ahead. For example, if you are just beginning a novel, don’t sit down thinking: “Right. I’m going to write out a 150,000 word novel and have it published by this time next year.”
This not only puts far too much pressure on you as a writer, but also sets you up for a great deal of disappointment if you fail to reach this (highly unrealistic) goal. Instead, try setting yourself a series of smaller goals.
For example: “Between now and lunch time, I will write 200 words”; “My goal for today is to finish this scene/chapter.”; “This week, I will aim to write 2,000 words.”; etc.
By focusing on the present moment, and setting yourself a number of smaller, achievable goals, you will find you are automatically more positive about your progress. This is because progress is far easier to measure, and recognise, when it is broken down into smaller parts.
In this way, writing a novel is much like running a marathon. Thinking about the entire distance we have to cover can be quite daunting. But if we stay focussed on one checkpoint at a time, we can feel confident, and positive, that we are well on our way to that finish line.
2. Reward Yourself
Equally as important as setting realistic goals, is rewarding yourself when you reach them. Whether it’s as simple as pouring yourself a cup of tea and cracking open your favourite biscuits, or giving yourself a night out and catching up on your social life, each accomplished goal deserves its own celebration.
Recognising and rewarding our achievements is an excellent way to keep ourselves positive, motivated, and productive, so don't hold back.
3. Take breaks/Exercise
It’s no secret that novel-writing involves an awful lot of sitting around - often in isolation. We can spend hours upon hours, bent over in the same, stale position, pouring over our keyboards like hermits, cut off from all living society.
Under such static circumstances, it is easy to slip into lethargic depression. To feel uninspired, discontent, and downright unmotivated. This is why it is crucial to take regular writing breaks.
Of course, if you find yourself in the middle of a sudden burst of productivity, you may not want to lose this precious momentum by taking a break.
In these cases, simply standing for a moment to stretch the limbs and readjust your position may be all you need to refresh your mind and body.
But, if you ever find yourself staring at the blinking cursor, a dull ache in your back, stiffness creeping into your fingers, and negativity gnawing away at the edge of your mind, it’s time to grant yourself a decent break.
Exercise is always a great way to revitalise our bodies, and shake away any negative thoughts. This is because exercise releases endorphins, which naturally make us feel happier, and more positive. So if you’re feeling stale, try going for a quick walk/run around the block.
Or turn up the music and dance like a lunatic around your living room. Whatever works best for you. Just so long as you get up and move!
4. Join a Writing Group/Seek feedback
One of the great challenges of novel writing is the isolation, and lack of feedback we receive when writing for long periods on our own.
Feedback is absolutely invaluable when it comes to shaping and improving our writing - but this is not the only reason it is important.
Feedback also helps us to feel less alone. For this reason, seeking feedback on our work can increase our positivity by allowing us to feel all the benefits of a small, support group.
If you find you are struggling with the isolation of your writing desk, there are a number of ways you can seek the assistance and feedback of others.
Firstly (and perhaps most obviously), you can show your rough chapter drafts to your family and friends. Those closest to us are often the most readily available to hand a piece of paper, ask for their thoughts, and receive immediate feedback from.
In this way, family and friends can serve as an excellent source of preliminary feedback for our writing.
If, however, family and friends cannot provide the level of technical feedback/support you need, you may want to consider joining a writing group.
By joining a writing group, you are surrounding yourself with others who know and understand your craft, as well as the struggles involved in the novel writing process.
Thus, as far as support goes, writing groups are the best source you can find. (For more on the benefits of writing groups/communities, click here.)
Alternatively, if you find yourself in need of feedback, you could also try seeking the publication of other, smaller works along the way. For instance, as a side project, you could submit a number of short stories/poems, or other creative works to a range of literary magazines.
Seeking smaller, alternate publications along the way can help you gage audience/publisher reactions to your writing. In this way, if your work is well received, these side projects can provide a boost of positive encouragement while you continue work on your novel.
You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money’s in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed." - Larry Niven
5. Change Your Outlook
The trouble with seeking feedback, however, is that not everything we receive will be one hundred per cent positive.
Dealing with criticism, bad reviews, and rejections, is sadly a very common part of a writer’s life. In facing all this negativity, it can be extremely difficult not to let it get to you.
This is where it is highly important to change your outlook. To turn the negatives into positives. One way to do this is to employ positive self-talk – a method of shutting down negative, self-deprecating thoughts by the repetition of positive, encouraging phrases.
For more on positive self-talk and how to use it, click here.
Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”— C. S. Lewis
But changing your outlook is not just about changing the way you think. It is also about changing the way you act. Or rather, react – particularly in response to criticism or rejection. If you receive a bad review, don’t take it personally.
Look at it objectively. Find something constructive in the comments, and learn from it. Use it to make your writing better.
Similarly, if you face rejection, don’t view it as the be-all and end-all. Rejections are not brick walls. They cannot stop you. Rather, think of every rejection as another rung in the ladder, another step up in your climb to ultimate success.
Just like bad reviews, we can learn from rejections. Use them to improve our writing, our stories, and the way we present ourselves. The life of a writer is a constant learning curve, so remember – every experience, good or bad, is shaping you into a better writer.