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Do you ever feel like you are working on your novel, but progress is slow?
There are so many writing activities that are essential for our writing to become what it needs to be. But sometimes it is hard to see the result of our efforts. Some parts of writing make it easy, but that isn’t always the case.
I love creating the first draft because it is so fun to see the words add up and the story take shape. It’s easy to see the progress I am making as my word count increases and the story unfolds. There are certainly hard parts, but for the most part writing that first draft is a really enjoyable experience for me because it is easy for me to feel like I am making progress.
I struggle during other stages of writing to really see progress or fee like my novel is getting better. During revision, I often feel like I have to take three steps back to take one step forward. I’ll rewrite an entire scene and make note after note about what I need to change. It feels like my novel gets worse before it gets better. It becomes hard for me to remember that my efforts will pay off.
It may be a different part of the process for you, but I think we all have parts of the writing process where it becomes difficult to see the progress we are making. And that can make writing less enjoyable.
If you are doing any of the following activities, then you are making progress on your novel.
13 Important Writing Activities to Progress Your Novel
I can spend hours of time doing research without even opening my WIP. This can make it difficult to remember or see the impact my research will have on my writing. It’s hard to remember that research is making my novel better.
But readers appreciate a story that is accurate and realistic. Research helps your story become more relatable and authentic. I also believe it can make writing easier. It will take less time to describe the details or sensations of an experience if you’ve done some research.
2. Critique Groups
Putting your writing in front of another person can be scary. It’s not easy to share your hard work with others. And expecting them to give you an opinion about it can be even harder.
However, critique groups can provide invaluable feedback. You need to pick critique partners who can provide constructive criticism and whose feedback you can trust. Doing so can help you make leaps and bounds with your writing. Sometime we get too close to our writing and can’t see the flaws. Or we can’t see a way to fix them. Seeking a trusted second or third opinion can open up new possibilities to help us improve our writing and make our stories what they need to be.
Reading can feel like a separate task, something we do to take a break from writing. Something we do for pleasure, to relax. It’s not often I want to think about writing as work. Or something I am doing to progress my novel. And often I do read for sheer pleasure.
But that still has an impact on my novel. Any time we read, we are becoming better writers. Reading gives us examples of good writing and bad writing. It teaches us what works and what doesn’t. Reading the words of others helps us develop our own styles and gives us a rich background of language and storytelling to incorporate into our own writing. I am the writer I am today in part because of all the books I have read.
Other times, I consciously try to read like a writer. This may mean I decide to read a book about the craft of writing. But even as I read a YA Romance or other pleasure read, I sometimes try not to get lost in the story. Instead I look for good examples of story elements that I am struggling with. It may be looking to see how the author progresses time, or uses flashbacks. Maybe I observe the character’s body language. Reading like a writer can help me resolve an issue I face in my own writing.
Whenever you sit down to read, you are becoming a better writer.
One of my favorite writing activities is listening to a podcast. There are so many great writing podcasts out there. They are a great way to feel like a writer on the busiest of days. If I’m stuck doing housework all day, I can at least listen to podcasts while I work and feel as if I am accomplishing something.
Podcasts can help your novel progress by teaching you more about the craft of writing and by giving you the motivation you need to get back to writing. My favorite podcasts aren’t the ones that talk about elements of writing or how to improve craft, although those podcasts are very useful and I do enjoy them. I love the podcasts that remind me why I write and inspire me to keep writing. Whether you need a podcast to help you improve you writing or to motivate you to actually write, listening to podcasts is a great way to feel like you are making progress, especially on the busiest of days.
5. Attend a Conference
I have yet to attend a writing conference, but it’s definitely something I plan on doing. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, and there are so many options available. Every writing conference will be different, but if you find one that works for you it can be a great writing activity to help your novel, even if you don’t write for a few days.
What you get out of a conference will depend on which one you choose and how much you put into it. Many conferences offer classes, Q&A/discussion panels, and other opportunities to learn a skill you need to help you with an area of writing that challenges you. Writing conferences can also be a great place to make friends that may be perfect critique partners. And conferences can also be a good way to market and network with editors or agents. Taking advantage of any of these opportunities can help your novel progress.
I’m a pretty die-hard pantser, but I do see the value of doing some planning and brainstorming. Whether or not you are a planner or pantser, doing a basic outline or brainstorming session of your story will help your novel progress when you begin to write.
Brainstorming is an essential part of the writing process because it can help you focus on the story you need to tell. For many writers, myself included, the first draft is very exploratory. The idea of an outline can feel very limiting for some writers. However, even a little bit of brainstorming and planning can make the difference between a draft that has no apparent story and a draft that discovers the best way to tell the right story. You will have to figure out how much brainstorming is right for you, but the more you can plan the less likely you are to need major revision. Knowing more about your novel before you begin writing will help you write the first draft faster, and it can help you save time during revision.
There are many ways to practice self-care:
- Take a walk
- Read a book
- Call a friend
- Take a day-cation or actual vacation
- Watch a show
- Listen to music
How much self-care you need will be unique to you. And it may change as life circumstances change. But it is so important to take care of yourself if you want to see progress in your novel. Taking care of yourself keeps your mind and body motivated and energized to write productively. If you don’t practice any self-care you will burn out and struggle to make progress with your novel.
Editing can be a slow process, especially if you feel like you are tearing your writing apart instead of improving it. It can feel like you are undoing the progress you made in your first draft.
But it is one of the most important steps in the writing process. Think of how awful everyone’s writing would be if we never edited our work! Editing is when our crappy first drafts are given the chance to be reworked and improved. Editing can take time, but it is all for the greater good. Sometimes things have to get messier before you can make it what you want. Editing is a crucial part of the process and it makes your writing so much better, even if it takes a while to do.
If you self-publish, you likely spend a good amount of time formatting your books. It can take time to get fonts and headings to cooperate. Formatting may feel like a tedious task and although it’s not actively writing, it’s still an important part of getting your novel ready for publication.
Properly formatted novels make a huge difference to the reader. It gives the book a more professional, more credible feel. Formatting definitely helps your novel progress by making it look nicer and more appealing to your audience. It is definitely worth the effort to pay attention to formatting.
Taking the time to query can be a process. It may be hard to face the rejection letters when you want an acceptance so badly. There may be moments of despair when it seems easier to give up. It can be hard to see any value in a rejection letter. But every query letter you send puts you one step closer to being published.
Query letters occasionally offer advice that can help you make changes to your novel for future queries. Every query letter you send contains the potential for publication. It’s only truly over when you stop trying. So collect your rejection letters with pride and view them as a symbol of your bravery and determination to see your writing in print.
This might be time you spend on social media, or visiting schools or having book signings. This is progress because it’s helping more readers find your book and it’s allowing you to enjoy the fruit of your labors?
Networking can be as simple as participating in the writing community on social media, or networking to find an agent, editor, or publisher.
Being active in the writing community is one of my favorite writing activities. It is a great way to make new writing friends, and find camaraderie in the struggles and victories you face on your writing journey. Writing can feel like such an isolating activity, it’s great to have a reminder that others are facing similar struggles and successes. It’s a great way to stay motivated to see your journey through.
Networking to find an agent, editor, or publisher all help bring your novel one step closer to being published.
13. Experiencing Life
Of all writing activities, perhaps the most important is to experience life. Without living life, what will you have to write about?
Although it is possible, and common to write about things you have never experienced, without life experiences of your own it will be hard to portray the proper emotion and understanding required to write a good story. Writers, more than others, need to be observant and willing to experience new things. It is so much easier to write when you have your own thoughts and emotions to pull from. Experiencing life will help your novel progress by making it more meaningful and authentic to yourself and your readers.