TOP MISTAKES THAT STALL YOUR NOVEL (& other writing projects too) BEFORE YOU EVEN START…
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1. Sticking to a Single Process
A pantser, a plotter? Who cares? The important thing is to allow yourself to try something new on the days when you’re stuck, be that planning or not-planning anything. Telling yourself that you can write only at a certain time of day, in a certain space, under certain conditions is a recipe for writers’ block—as is not setting goals ahead of time and not letting yourself focus on a different goal within the project if it excites you more when you sit in your chair. For more ideas about how to avoid getting stuck, listen in to Week One of The 7am Novelist.
2. Not Taking Your Characters Seriously
A deep emotional understanding of what makes your main characters tick and how these emotions funnel themselves into bad choices and impossible obstacles is what makes a novel fly—as well as affect the reader. I particularly recommend Lisa Cron’s Story Genius for help. For other methods to deepen your characters, listen in to Week Two of The 7am Novelist.
3. Sticking to Your Original Point of View (just because that’s what you started with)
As well as not understanding how point of view works in the first place and the benefits (and problems) with each choice. I recommend Adam Sexton’s chapters about point of view in Master Class in Fiction Writing for help (though his reading list is rather stale). For additional pointers, listen in to Week Three of The 7am Novelist.
4. Getting Stuck in Backstory, Withholding, Not Letting Anything Happen, or Forcing Too Much
Do you need all of that backstory? Probably not. Do you as the writer need to understand what’s in the deep dark corners of your characters’ closets, even if that material doesn’t make the book? Absolutely! Are you pushing too much event to get your reader falsely excited in your material? Are you afraid of unseemly plot and therefore stopping anything from happening at all? Recommendation: Benjamin Percy’s Thrill Me, particularly the chapter “Don’t Look Back.” For more, listen in to Week Four of The 7am Novelist.
5. Not Understanding What a Scene is and How to Make it Work
Handling time, sensory detail, intention, turning points, and consequence are just some of what makes a scene fly. Sandra Scolfield’s The Scene Book is the best resource on scenes I’ve found. She’ll be talking to us during week five!
6. Losing Your Way (and your Excitement) in the Middle
Yes, there are structures that will help you here, including those that go far beyond the Freytag Triangle. And if you’re sick of Freytag and other supposedly “must-follow” Western writing traditions, check out Matt Salesses’ Craft in the Real World, particularly the section on “Redefining Craft Terms.” For other ideas and inspiration, listen in to Week Six of The 7am Novelist.
7. Ending a Book Too Early, without the Proper Build Up or Release (or because you’re just desperate to get it done)
Many a beginner’s novel ends on the novel’s climax, without the proper build-up and/or with a sad little sigh: “Hello Readers. I tried. Goodbye!” You might also find that all those exciting knots you thought up earlier don’t add up to much (or anything at all) in the final stretch. Though writers often mistakenly read Save the Cat! Writes a Novel like a bible, I do love her ideas for the “Finale” at the end of chapter two, just as a way to deepen what you’ve already got. For other ideas, listen in to Week Seven of The 7am Novelist.
8. Racing to Submit When You’re Not Ready (or Never Submitting at All)
Why do we race to finish a book when we’re trying to create something that will likely (hopefully) outlast us? The quintessential cure is Matt Bell’s Refuse to Be Done. For more thoughts on how to know when you’re finished, listen in to The 7am Novelist’s 50th episode.
See our updated daily challenge schedule below, including new writers on our list: Christopher Boucher, Lauren Acampora, and Jessica Bird.
WEEK 1: GOAL SETTING & GENERATING METHODS (OCTOBER 4-10)
October 4: Intro & Setting Goals (w Kelly Ford, Real Bad Things)
October 5: Pantsers (w writer Lissa Franz & Louise Berliner, Texas Guinan: Queen of the Nightclubs)
October 6: Plotters (w Virginia Pye, Shelf Life of Happiness & Anjali Mitter Duva, Faint Promise of Rain)
October 7: Something In-Between (w Dawn Tripp, Georgia & Jane Roper, The Society of Shame)
October 8: Burrowing (w Jessica Keener, Strangers in Budapest & Grace Talusan, The Body Papers)
October 9: How to Stay in the Chair (w writer Tracey Palmer & Belle Brett, Gina in the Floating World )
October 10: What holds you back? (w Dariel Suarez, The Playwright’s House)
WEEK 2: CHARACTER BUILDING (OCTOBER 11-17)
October 11: Goals & Yearning (characters w & w/o agency) (w Ilan Mochari, Zinsky the Obscure & Marjan Kamali, The Stationery Shop)
October 12: Observer vs. Participant & Protecting Your Character (w Steve Almond, All the Secrets of the World & Kate Racculia, Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts)
October 13: What your Characters Need to Learn: Flaws & Wounds (w writer Meghana Ranganathan)
October 14: Attitude (w Margot Livesey, The Boy in the Field & Courtney Maum, The Year of the Horses)
October 15: Is it backstory? Or is it a second plotline? (w Aube Rey Lescure, River East, River West & Shilpi Suneja, House Caravans)
October 16: Supporting Characters (w Nancy Crochiere, Graceland & Suzanne DeWitt Hall, The Language of Bodies)
October 17: How to Find the Stakes of your Story (Hank Phillippi Ryan, Her Perfect Life & Maurice Ruffin, The Ones Who Don’t Say They Love You)
WEEK 3: POINT OF VIEW (OCTOBER 18-24)
October 18: First Person Pros & Cons (w Maya Shanbhag Lang, What We Carry & Lauren Acampora, The Hundred Waters)
October 19: Third Person Limited Pros & Cons (w Linda Schlossberg, Life in Miniature & Whitney Scharer, The Age of Light)
October 20: Third & 1st Person Omniscient (w writer Julia Rold & Weike Wang, Joan is Okay)
October 21: Second Person & The Royal We (w Allison Amend, Enchanted Islands and David Abrams, Brave Deeds)
October 22: How to Handle Multiple POVS (w EB Moore, Stones in the Road & Mark Guerin, You Can See More From Up Here)
October 23: The Author/Character/Narrator Merge (w writer Shuchi Saraswat & Karen Wilfrid, Just Lizzie)
October 24: Voice (w Rachel Barenbaum, Atomic Anna & EB Bartels, Good Grief)
WEEK 4: EARLY PAGES (OCTOBER 25-31)
October 25: Unstable Ground Situation (w Rosie Sultan, Helen in Love, & Steven Lee Beeber, Heebie Jeebies at CBGBs)
October 26: Inciting Incident (w Rebecca Rolland, The Art of Talking with Children & Devi Snively, Bride of Frankie)
October 27: Point of Attack (w Ron MacLean, We Might as Well Light Something on Fire)
October 28: Character Determines Incident, Incident Reveals Character (w Lise Haines, Book of Knives & Katherine Sherbrooke, Leaving Coy’s Hill)
October 29: Tension (w Katrin Schumann, This Terrible Beauty)
October 30: Setting: Place & Time Period (w writer Hesse Phillips)
October 31: Mystery & Clarity (w Emily Ross, Half in Love with Death, & writer Jessica Bird )
WEEK 5: WHAT IS A SCENE? (NOVEMBER 1-7)
November 1: Scene vs Summary (w Susan Bernhard, Winter Loon)
November 2: Intention & Conflict/Negotiation (w Crystal King, The Chef’s Secret)
November 3: Turning Point/Most Important Moment (w Henriette Lazaridis, Terra Nova)
November 4: Consequence (w Sandra Scolfield, This is Not a Novel)
November 5: Sensory Detail (w writer Lara Wilson & Dan Fogarty, Kill the Prince)
November 6: Pacing & Time (w writers Sharissa Jones & Stacy Mattingly)
November 7: Dialogue (w writer Pamela Loring)
WEEK 6: HOLDING UP THE MIDDLE (NOVEMBER 8-14)
November 8: Escalations & The Signature (w writer Nicole Vecchiotti)
November 9: Beyond Freytag (w Ethan Gilsdorf, Fantasy Freaks & Gaming Geeks & Christopher Boucher, Big Giant Floating Head)
November 10: The Dramatic Question (w writer John McClure)
November 11: Character, Story, & Other Arcs (w Patricia Park, Imposter Syndrome & Other Confessions of Alejandra Kim & Jennifer De Leon, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From)
November 12: Fun & Games & The Midpoint (w Sara Shukla, Pink Whales & Annie Hartnett, Unlikely Animals)
November 13: The Clock (w Steve Yarbrough, Stay Gone Days & Sabina Murray, The Human Zoo)
November 14: Obstacles, the Crucible & Other Tension Tricks (w Desmond Hall, Your Corner Dark & Erica Ferencik, Girl in Ice)
WEEK 7: FINDING THE ENDING & FINISHING THE DRAFT (NOVEMBER 15-21)
November 15: The Dark Night of the Soul, The Crisis & Climax (w Julie Carrick Dalton, The Last Beekeeper & Tara Masih, My Real Name is Hanna)
November 16: Jim Shepard’s Rate of Revelation (w Jim Shepard, Phase Six)
November 17: Denouement, Complexified Equilibrium, & The 5-Point Finale (w Rishi Reddi, Passage West)
November 18: What is an Ending? (w the Novel Incubator Retreat all-stars)
November 19: When & How to Get Feedback & the Implied Author (w the Novel Incubator Retreat all-stars)
November 20: Keeping the Faith (w the Novel Incubator Retreat all-stars)
November 21: Keeping the Faith (w Meta Wagner, What’s Your Creative Type: Harness the Power of Your Artistic Personality)
November 22: How do I know I’m done? (w Kasey LeBlanc, Flyboy & Shalene Gupta, The Power of Trust)
Amazing!!! I was thinking of registering x nanowrimo, but this is tops!!!
This is so great. So many good ideas and recommendations here-- thank you !