Novel writing is neither glamorous nor torturous. There’s few fancy coffees and little to no dramatic tearing of manuscripts*. Usually, it’s just me, myself and my laptop.

It’s not all working in cafes with aesthetic coffees.

This year I’m writing my first proper grownup novel. Back in 2010, I wrote a 50,000 word novel for National Novel Writing Month, but I will not be returning to that messy draft any time soon so I tend not to count it. My current novel in progress has more potential.

So, to procrastinate from actually cracking on with my novel, here’s what it is like to be in the midst of novel writing.

Writing or taking pictures of myself?

There’s always gonna be another mountain…

Writing is not easy. Sometimes I open up my huge novel document and feel daunted and defeated. Some days it feels like the draft is riddled with problems that I’ll never be able to fix. Sometimes I can’t help but despair.

But time, effort and concentration allow me to overcome the problems one by one. Even the trickiest plot holes can be fixed. The most difficult scenes can get written one word at a time. I have to remind myself just to keep writing and overcoming hurdle after hurdle.

A great writing spot from when I was at Exeter uni.

I must confess, I still believe…

I’ve actually been surprised by my own motivation and my continued interest in my novel. Enthusiasm for a project can fade when you’re working on the same thing every single day, but I still love my idea and my characters months in to the project.

Plus I still get those moments of excitement. In particular, when I solve a problem that’s been bugging me for weeks or I manage to come up with a particularly poignant passage. I get that buzz that makes me believe in my novel.

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I’m not one of those people who “can’t read while I’m writing”.

Go your own way!

When it comes to writing, it’s not one size fits all. Everyone works differently and novel writing is no exception to this rule. I’ve trawled through countless advice articles and writing books. Some of the advice has been invaluable, but not every tip works for me.

Trail and error have taught me how I work most effectively.

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I also have a MA degree in Creative Writing that taught me a lot.

I write to music with the internet on. I write at desks, in bed, in cafes and on trains. I fix plot holes on the cross-trainer in the gym. I frequent Google images and Pinterest for visual stimuli. I type on my computer, but turn to pen and paper when I’m stuck. I record ideas on my phone when I’m out. I write with friends when I can.

Also, I don’t always write my scenes in order. Being able to jump around helps me connect the dots of my story. It also gives me the illusion of choice on those days when novel writing feels tedious. I mean, my novel is non-linear so things get shuffled around anyway.

View from The Elephant House in Edinburgh where J. K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

You look like my next mistake…

I’m writing a novel, but I’m never just writing one thing. I find it helpful to have several smaller writing projects on the go too. Then, when I start spiralling that my novel is one big mistake, I start a new poem, a short story or one of these blogs. Having side projects rejuvenates me and allows me to procrastinate productively.

I hope this blog was interesting for anyone wondering about the novel writing process. If you’re a writer too, let me know how you like to write? Internet connection or no? Music or silence? Writing buddies or eternal solitude? Laptop or pen and paper?

P.s. Did you spot/enjoy my song lyric inspired subtitles?

*and that’s coming from me, a certified drama queen.

4 thoughts on “What Writing a Novel Is Really Like

  1. My big project at the moment is a script. I’d been turning the idea over for years, and I put pen to paper literally last September/October when I gave names to the characters and a very broad outline of Acts. It’s difficult mainly because screenwriting software is expensive even when it’s cheap. To put off the point when I have to pay for it and commit to it I worked on Index cards per scene for the structure for about three months, bemoaning it because I wanted to get to the next stage, which was going to be writing character trees… and then it took me three weeks to start any of that once I had basically done the structure. Character trees took another two/three months. Lately I’ve been circling the structure, adding new details/new characters, and trying to iron things out. Last night I even did a few voicenotes, because my structural edits are down to just two more scenes – ny reluctance to write them down on their index cards led me to recording those notes when an idea struck me at 2am.


    1. Thanks for sharing, George! Sounds like you’ve got your planning and world building down. I’m quite impatient when it comes to planning and always want to rush into the actual writing, which does make life difficult sometimes, oops. When I did a screenwriting module at Exeter, we used Celtx, which was free! I don’t know how professional it’s considered, but might be worth a look if you haven’t already? 🙂


  2. I’m the same in that I can’t just have one project on the go. I currently have three different ideas that I want to work on and I do find it overwhelming sometimes that I’ve given myself so much to do. I’m constantly finding excuses not to write, like reading my book or watching a film, or just browsing the internet. However I’ve realised that this might not necessarily be a bad thing – at the end of the day I can use all of that as inspiration and I often find little details in what I’m doing instead of writing, that can help me with THE WRITING!
    So now I like to have a nice notebook and a good pen on me at all times so even at moments when I don’t think anything could strike me as thought food, something makes me think, “I must write that down”!
    I much prefer handwriting than anything else and I find meeting up with a fellow writer helps to motivate one another to get more bits done! I also always feel most inclined to let my creativity out at night time. I think a lot of creatives are like that! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can be so overwhelming right? I always have to break my writing projects down into scenes to get the words down. And a nice notepad can be oddly motivating too, right? I love writing with people when I want a break from writing alone, but I can feel a little odd about writing in public if I’m in a spot where I feel like people can read over my shoulder haha


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