1. Start by making sure you have an end goal that makes sense for you — one that is manageable and something you can still be proud of. Maybe writing a novel is too big right now. So shoot for something shorter.
2. Don’t rush. Sometimes when we get new ideas we write 500,000 words in two days and then completely burn out. Don’t do that. Take things slowly, no matter how tempting it is to dive in headfirst at the initial spark.
3. Speaking of burnout, take breaks. Don’t write yourself exhausted. Don’t wait until you’re sick of working on something to set it aside. Put it down for a day while you’re still excited about it, then hop back in, and repeat.
4. When you get stuck, walk away. Don’t sit there staring at your own words expecting an idea to leap from your screen. Go do something creative that doesn’t involve writing. Or the dishes. Inspiration hides in odd places.
5. Make an outline. It’s not the best method for everyone and some writers do much better without one, but mapping out your story as a whole might be just what you need to get to the finish line.
6. Beware of your distractions. Especially the distractions that disguise themselves as tasks, such as “looking something up for your story” that you really don’t need in order to continue writing your story (right now).
7. Don’t worry about it “taking too long.” Deadlines are something different, but if you’re just working on something for yourself, take as long as you need. There is no rush.
8. Don’t just focus on the finish line, seek out the mile markers. For every goal there are smaller milestones you can hit — and celebrate — along the way. Wrote 250 words today? Wine. Or not. I don’t know how you celebrate, I’m just a random person on the internet.
9. Keep your circle updated on your progress. I tweet about my writing goals more often than I would like to, not because I want people to know, but because I am afraid they will judge me if I don’t meet my goals. Not the best strategy, but whatever works!
10. Try focusing on one project at a time. Some people can juggle multiple projects at once and they’re better off for it. Others can’t, and there is nothing wrong with this. If it’s not your strength, trim your workload (if possible).
11. Don’t worry about what other people might think. You haven’t even finished the darn thing yet. People can’t have an opinion about something they haven’t even read yet. (Don’t read too much into that. I’ve been on the internet, I know how people are.)
12. Try not to get discouraged if you do end up setting something aside before finishing it. All writers have unfinished projects. It’s a sign you are trying. It’s better than not trying at all.
13. Remember that unfinished projects are not “failures.” Writing is never a waste of time. If you made it, you have learned something from it, even if you don’t know it yet.
(I could very easily write individual posts on many of these points, so let me know which ones you’d like me to elaborate on in the near future!)
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a staff writer with The Cheat Sheet, a freelance editor and writer, and a 10-time NaNoWriMo winner. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.