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By Natalie Nera

Writing is hard but persevering with writing is even harder. You run out of steam. You do not know what to write. You are not sure if what you have written is any good. All of my “writing” friends go through the same grueling process over and over again, we all have been there. We may not achieve the literary heights but that is not the point. The river of literature keeps flowing and is very broad. We can all fit in.

So if you are considering to write your first novel, here are my tips on how to deal with the challenge:

  1. Make a plan. Like with any piece of writing, it is important to understand what you are writing about, what your characters are like, their motivations and why or why now? There are plenty of questionnaires you can download from the Internet, or make your own. This work is important. It does not matter if it takes you a week or six months. It does not matter if you keep it all in your head, or write it down, or what system you use. Mind maps? Lists? Flashcards? It is up to you but you must do it. If you don’t understand what you are writing about, what chance will your readers have?
  2. Scared of the length? Everybody is daunted by the word count of a novel. Fifty or preferably eighty thousand words, possibly even more. If you have a plan, you should not be scared. It sometimes helps to segment your task. For example, if you think of your novel as twenty stories, then it becomes doable.
  3. Author’s block. Everyone hits the wall now and again. Some days everyone feels that there is nothing heavier than your pen. Write through it. Sit down with a piece of paper and write anything, even unrelated to your mammoth task of completing a novel. Describe last night, your journey to the shop and back. Don’t edit, just keep writing and then see what happens.
  4. Writing buddies. Everybody should have their writing buddies. Friends who do the same thing as you and who will understand when you are stuck when things don’t go your way when you get rejections when your self-confidence tumbles.
  5. Peer review. This sounds like what scientists do before they publish their latest discovery but we authors need it, too. Someone who can read your manuscript and give you honest feedback, which will make your writing ultimately better. No one is the best adviser to oneself. You need another pair of eyes, a fresh perspective.
  6. So you finished your manuscript? Congratulations. Now, you have to edit it, re-draft it. Perhaps even start again. If it becomes published, even better, but do not expect miracles. For most authors, first-time novels do not hail big success. Still, this is a great reason to celebrate. You have learned a lot about the craft of writing, the whole process and become a better writer.

If you are still up to the task, not put –off by the long, lonely hours, constant redrafting, constant setbacks, rejections, and low pay, then you have become a part of the family of masochists obsessed with words and stories.  Welcome!