Writing Advice: Novel Approach


Are you experiencing writer’s block right now? Even if you’re not, you know — in the back of your head — that eventually writer’s block will come calling again. It might come along because you’re not interested in the story you’re working on, or because your inspiration has left you, or because you simply don’t have the time to work on your project in long stretches of time.

That last one can be especially frustrating during the summer, when you feel like you should have time to be writing. But you may be working a summer job, or you may be on vacation with your family where it’s difficult to pull out your laptop and work on some writing. If you’re working on a novel, or another type of long-form writing project, the key is to chop it into smaller pieces that you can work on more easily.

In a recent post on Writer Unboxed, Tracy Hahn-Burkett talked about writing outside of your typical box. This could be any time that you’re not writing in your most comfortable environment. For those of us who are generally novel writers, this can be when we’re forced to work in very short bursts of time. This can make it difficult to work on something long-form and keep everything fresh in our minds. In her post, Tracy offers a solution — treat each scene that you write like a short story.

Tracey writes, “if I found myself freaking out over the amount of work I had to do, I should try taking it one scene at a time and telling myself that scene is a story. This approach made sense: I could define specific goals for that dinner-party scene in chapter six, and revise away with those goals in mind. When finished, I could reward myself by going for a walk, having a drink or eating a giant bar of chocolate. Repeat.”

I think this is a great way to deal with an abbreviated work time, and to keep yourself from being freaked out by how long a novel is when stretched out in front of you. I know that I often plot a story to the gills and then get overwhelmed by how much I still need to write and cover. If you treat each important scene in your story as short story of its own, it’ll help you feel more accomplished when you’ve gotten some writing done and it may also force you make some discoveries that you wouldn’t have otherwise made.

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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