How do you stay focused on writing your novel? What do you do when you’ve got so many ideas popping in your brain that you have a hard time finishing anything?
Marvin posted this question on my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page:
Randy, I am a new writer having only been writing for about a year now. I have written a few short stories, poems and screenplays in that time. I now decided to take the big step and write my first novel. I have started on two projects but abandoned them after a few chapters. I am now on number three. I feel strongly about this one. My problem is staying focused on the novel. I have so many ideas for screenplays and short stories I don’t have the time to work on them. They are a distraction. What is the best way to stay focused on a single project or do you think it is wise to jump around between projects? I really want to complete this novel. I have the characters and the story all laid out because it is a story I have already written as a screenplay. I would really love to hear your suggestions. i need help.
Randy sez: This seems to be one of the most common problems for writers, judging from the email I get.
First, let’s make it clear that it’s a good thing to keep focused. If your competition is working on one novel and you’re working on ten, the odds are extremely high that he or she is going to get a novel written a LONG time before you do. The odds are pretty good that you’ll never get one finished. And if you don’t finish it, you can’t sell it.
So how do you do it? There’s no foolproof way to do anything, but let me make a suggestion that keeps me on track.
Accountability. Find yourself a friend who can hold you accountable. That means four things:
- Goals. You’ll make a goal and let your friend know what it is. Example: “I want to finish a novel in the next 10 months.”
- Milestones. You’ll define milestones along the way that you must meet. Your friend should help you do the math to make sure that if you meet the milestones, you’ll hit your goal. Example: “I’ll spend 5 hours per week working on this novel.”
- Updates. You’ll routinely update your friend on what kind of progress you’re making. Example: “I’ll check in with you every Saturday to let you know if I hit my milestone for the week or not.”
- Penalties. You give your friend the power to exact a penalty for not meeting your milestones. Example: “Any week that I fail to hit my milestone, I’ll pay you $50.”
Will this work for you, Marvin? I don’t know. I know it works for me in making sure that I haul myself out of bed at the appointed time every day. Once I get rolling, that’s half the battle.
If accountability works for you, then you’re miles ahead of the game. And if it doesn’t, then you can try something else.
If you’ve got a question you’d like me to answer in public on this blog, hop on over to my “Ask A Question For My Blog” page and submit your question. I’ll answer them in the order they come in.