1. Choose a writing space.
This doesn’t have to be an entire room of your own, but it does help to have a designated area just for you, just for writing. Depending on your preference, it might be a spot on the sofa in your apartment, a table in a studio in your backyard, or the café down the street. Maybe you work best in complete quiet, or while listening to music, or immersed in background noise. Wherever you choose, make a promise to yourself that when you’re in that space, you work on the book.
2. Carve out time.
This is a challenge for pretty much everyone, no matter your life circumstances. We’re all busy, and even if you actually have free time in your life, your mind will constantly try to distract you, suggesting you do anything but write, such as: post a photo on Instagram, throw in a load of laundry, catch up on Serial, text your friend, sit and stare at the wall. Your mind doesn’t really care what you do, as long as you’re not writing. So yeah, it’s hard. But you can control this, and you can start by setting realistic goals. Maybe you shoot for an hour every day, or ten pages, or 1,000 words. Do this for a month, and you’ll be amazed: The pages will begin to add up.
3. Turn off your inner censor.
We all want to write things that sound beautiful and intelligent; rivaling literary greats or authors we admire. And maybe the perfect words and images actually exist in your head. But when you try to put them on paper or your laptop, everything suddenly looks clunky. What happened to that great metaphor you just had? The bottom line is that if you worry about how every sentence sounds, or if you’ve spelled a word correctly, or if you might offend someone with your honesty, you’ll become consumed with self-doubt, shutting you down. Be easy on yourself (which is very hard). Commit to the task of putting words on a page without judgment. There’s plenty of time to go back and revise later.
4. Stop at an energetic place.
During each writing session, it might take you a while to get warmed up, but then words will begin to flow. Keep going with this, and then do something key: Stop writing for the day when you’re still feeling energized. Perhaps this is at the end of an action scene, or a hot sex scene, and you know exactly what’s going to happen next. This is a great time to stop and click “Save,” because it will set you up for success the next day. You’ll be able to stride into your writing space and dive in where you left off, continuing the momentum.
5. Join a writers’ group.
Critique groups are useful for several reasons. For starters, they provide accountability and camaraderie, which goes a long way when you’re immersed in a project that feels overwhelming. Group members can also help you troubleshoot when you run into problems in your story. For example, if you get stuck, you can explain the situation to other writers who aren’t immersed in your head, and you might be amazed at how much their ideas open doors you couldn’t see from your perspective. When you’re ready, your critique group can also help you with ideas for revision, so that you can polish the manuscript and get it ready to send to literary agents or publishing houses. Members might even have idea or connections in book publishing industry. If you don’t know of any critique groups in your area, try posting an ad in a coffee shop or café and see who replies.
6. Reward yourself.
Because the act of writing isn’t particularly glamorous — it might even be the hardest thing you’ve ever done — it’s important to celebrate. And not only when the manuscript is finished. Each milestone deserves a reward. Maybe you schedule a massage after completing a certain number of chapters, or you treat yourself to drinks after you manage to crank out a bunch of pages on a day you really didn’t want to write at all. You deserve it. And when you actually finish the manuscript, although you may want nothing more than a long nap, don’t forget to go big. It’s a major accomplishment, and the celebration should match it.