Writing a Book is Sort of Like Running a Marathon

Just start. Start slow. Start small.

“I want to write a book, but I don’t know where to start.”

I’ve seen hundreds of comments like this on writers’ forums. Basically, it means, “I want to write a book, but it’s a lot of work and books are long and I already feel too overwhelmed to do anything.”

Understandable. Writing a book is hard. Long-term goals are hard for a lot of people. They’re not really sure how to stack up a series of short-term goals to get to their end goal of writing a book.

If that’s you – think of writing a book as something similar to running a marathon. That’s running, with your own body and nothing else, a little over 26 miles all in one go. Running a marathon is also hard. But people, many of them just for fun, run them all the time.

You can’t wake up one morning, decide you want to run a marathon and then run a marathon the following day. It’s not possible. However, you can get up the next day and run two miles. And then in a few days, three or four. Eventually, you might be able to run 10 miles at a time. Fifteen. Twenty.

Marathon runners work their way up to running 26.2 miles. They train for months in advance. They have setbacks. Even during the actual race, sometimes they have to walk for a little while. They struggle. They can do a lot of things to try and prevent injuries and setbacks, but there’s no guarantee they won’t happen. They push themselves as far as they can go, and then some. Many make it to the finish line. Many never do.

To write a book, you can plan and worry and ask a dozen questions of people more experienced than you are, but if you never actually start writing, there’s no chance you’re going to write a whole book from start to finish, from beginning to end.

Start. Start slow. Start small. You don’t write a whole book at once. You write it line by line, chapter by chapter. Finishing a book – that is your finish line. Writing the book itself may not be a race, but it’s still a long and exhausting process. You can’t give up before you even begin.

Maybe you will never write a book, the same way you may never run a marathon. But a runner can run a dozen 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons – as a writer can write articles and short stories and novellas.

Maybe you will write one book, run one marathon, and realize the extreme just isn’t for you. That doesn’t mean you have to quit doing what you enjoy. It just means you can do it in smaller bursts. There’s still value in that. There’s no value in giving up completely just because a writing a book is very long and time-consuming and hard.

This is not an easy thing to do. But it can be done. Now go – go write. Go do something. One step closer to finishing. Small – but essential.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Why You Should Take Your Time Finishing Your Next Book

A good book, your best book, won’t be written in a day.


There’s another thing about writing most new writers don’t expect.

It takes a long time. A very long time.

I write a lot, and sometimes it appears I write very quickly, or at least try to, during every writing project I commit to. Especially when I talk about NaNoWriMo and writing 50,000 words in less than 30 days. I’m writing one novella per month this year and am up early to get this post out to you today before I focus on some other writing I need to get done before lunch.

But getting a lot of writing done doesn’t always mean you have to get it done quickly, and most of the time, I don’t. No one does. Especially when it comes to full-length novels.

It’s a very long and large kind of project to keep up with, and sometimes I think what stops a lot of aspiring writers from finishing what they start is feeling like they’re moving too slow. Not making enough progress. That the finish line is too far away and they’re never going to reach it.

It never feels good to feel rushed, regardless of whether you’re the one pushing yourself or someone else is pushing you. Sure, sometimes you can totally sit down and crank out a few thousand words at a time, multiple days in a row. But there’s always risk of burnout. You are always going to have an off day or two. Real life happens, and you have to put your book last for a little while.

That should never discourage you from writing anyway. A good book isn’t given that label based on how quickly it was written. It’s given that label because of the time and effort the writer, and her team put into making it that way.

I do write quickly, sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with a few good sprints every now and then. But it also took me over three years to finish my last book. Did I want to get it done sooner? Of course I did. But it would not have been as satisfying as it was if I would have just forced myself to rush through it. Writing is hard, but part of the thrill is looking at something you know you’ve worked really hard on and realizing you did that. You wrote that. You achieved that.

It takes time. Everyone writes at their own pace and has other things they need to balance with it. Give yourself smaller mini-deadlines to work toward. Give yourself plenty of room to take your time. What’s the rush, really? The more time you spend on your story (not too long, but just long enough), the more you will bond with your characters. The more efficiently and effectively you will be able to bring your story to life.

Slow down. Don’t worry if it feels like it’s taking forever. Be patient. And for the love of all things literary, cut George R. R. Martin some slack, all right?

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

This Is a List of Everything You Have to Give Up to Write a Good Book


What does it take to write a book? Creativity. Perseverance. A healthy dose of stubbornness and a dash of insanity, to say the least.

But what does it take to write a GOOD book? What does a writer need to do to take a single string of ideas and turn them into a full-length novel?

It’s more than just waking up a little earlier (or staying up a little later – yeah, we’re definitely feeling the aftereffects of the latter at the moment). It’s more than just planting yourself in the corner of a coffee shop for a change of scenery even if you don’t like coffee (or people). Writing a book requires some sacrifice. But not necessarily the kind of sacrifice you might be thinking of.

Here’s a list of a few things you’ll need to give up in order to write the best possible novel. Don’t worry. You get to keep all your arms and legs.


As we mentioned yesterday, characters like to take control of our stories. Pretty much the more we try to plan out what’s going to happen, the less control we actually end up having over what happens. This is not something that can be taught, but it’s still worth mentioning. You’ll learn the lesson again and again the more time you spend writing: you have to give up your control.

Why? Because a story has to go where it needs to go even when you don’t know exactly what’s coming. Your brain, somehow, knows your story better than you do. All those plans you had for your book are next to nothing compared to what it’s going to be when you finish it. This unpredictability, once you get used to it, becomes one of a writer’s most powerful tools. Not knowing what’s going to happen next is like the epic fantasy adventure you’ll never actually have.


Writing is not supposed to be comfortable. Fun, yes. Satisfying, yes. That’s what we do it for. But if you’re caught in the same old story over and over again because it’s what you know and it’s what makes you feel at home, you’re never going to be able to write the book you really want to write.

You have to give up your need to be comfortable for that good book to emerge from its place deep inside you. Write that scene that makes your heart ache. Weave in that theme you’re afraid to include. If you ever think, “Maybe I shouldn’t go this deep,” go even deeper. If you even for a moment think, “I can’t write this,” write it anyway. Your discomfort will change the way those words appear on the page. Your readers will feel it, and that is the absolute best thing you can ever do for your audience.


All your life, you see the world through your own perspective. You view everything through a specific lens, one that takes into account your beliefs and your values and your experiences to shape the way things appear. Naturally, as humans, we are closed-minded in the sense that what is easiest for us is to write stories that narrate through this exact same lens.

Throw it out. When you are writing, do not close your mind. Do not peek through that lens. It is your job, as a writer, to tell stories from the most unlikely of perspectives. Why is To Kill a Mockingbird such a classic? Because it tells a heartbreaking story through the eyes of a child who does not understand the implications of what is going on around her. That is what makes the story. You need to be able to open your mind, explore other viewpoints and change the way you, and your readers, see reality.

Notice we’re not saying you need to give up your social life or good old-fashioned fun if you want to sit down and write a book that has publishing potential (and more importantly, one that impacts real people who read it).

Writing a book is hard. You have to make the choice to shatter your own comfort zone. Go there, to that place another writer won’t. Send that thematic message no one else would dare to send. You have to let the story sweep you off your chair and into a completely new reality. If you try to control it, if you try not to go too far, if you refuse to look at something in a different way, you will write many, many books. But you probably won’t write a good one, which is what this world can never have too many of.

There is more, obviously. Perhaps we’ll write a second post later. But these are the most important barriers to reaching your full potential, and we believe you can overcome them. We believe you can take a risk, and never look back again.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A Story Has to Fall Apart Before It Can Come Together (Midweek Novel Update #18)


Can I be finished yet?

Does that question make me sound ungrateful? It probably does, and I’m really sorry about that. I am. But being this close to finishing my book, and still not feeling like I’m getting any closer to actually being done, is really discouraging.

Have you ever felt this way? Completely lost even though you know exactly where your story is going?

I don’t know why I’m so impatient all of a sudden. I’m not even really all that focused on my word count, except making sure I crank out at least 1K per day to keep myself moving forward. I don’t want to rush through the rest of it just to finish. I don’t want to take things out just because I don’t feel like I have time to finish developing them and tying up their loose ends.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been working on this story for a long time, and I am looking forward to starting to work on a different project (I’ve had another story idea in my head for a month or so now, but I’m saving it for NaNoWriMo). Maybe it’s the fact that I know this story so well, even when I write intense scenes, they don’t surprise me anymore.

Maybe I’m just having a bad day.

I’ve really been dragging myself through my daily word counts this week. Some days I fly through them, and those are the best days. I know we can’t have good writing days all the time, or we’d get bored. But on the days I’m struggling to get the words out, I just wish it were over already.

I don’t even technically know how much is left. I’m filling in all the gaps I’ve unintentionally left for myself. Connecting the plot points. Making sure I locate those pieces of story I wrote earlier in the project that don’t really belong in the book anymore and taking them out. Trying not to worry if my book is too long, too complicated, too simple, not realistic enough.

I don’t remember if I’ve been through this before, coming up on the end of a story I’ve basically given my life over to and suddenly feeling like I want nothing to do with it. I’ve probably just unknowingly burned myself out, writing every single day for two and a half months. But I’m afraid that if I stop and take a break, I won’t start again, and the first draft will never get finished.

I’ve already decided that when I’m done writing, I’m going to take a week off from the story. Close it out and let it just sit there. That’s the other reason I’m so fixated on getting it done. I just don’t want to look at it anymore.

It isn’t that I’m not proud of it. It’s normal and totally okay to be proud of your own work. I guess I just secretly wonder if it will ever actually turn into anything. Or will it end up like all my other books, only ever read by me and a few people I trust, never shared with anyone else?

All this hard work can’t be for nothing. But I’ve seen this book come undone too many times to let it fall apart again. I’m so far, I’m so close, even if I did have to restructure it and change it, I think it would still survive. I don’t give up that easily. I just hope that doesn’t happen.

Stories are like people. Sometimes they can’t become all they want to be until they’re stripped down to their basic elements and woven back together again.

Will it all come together in the end? Will you finally get a break from all these crazy Wednesday updates?

Hopefully. Hopefully soon.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Writing Less, Doing More Can Actually Make You a Better Writer (Midweek Novel Update #14)


I used to sit at my desk and write for hours. And hours. And hours. At the time, it was great. It was like a dream come true, having my own magic potion of sorts that could transport me to other worlds, introduce me to new people, force me to solve problems.

All fictional, of course. But it was better than dealing with real stuff, like dumb boyfriends and college applications.

Then something happened to me: I grew up. Well, as much as I can call myself a grown-up at 23. I don’t pay my own rent or even have a real 40-hours-per-week job (insert screaming goat clip here).

THE POINT IS, I learned something between the awkward hermit novelist life and actually having to leave my desk to do things like go to class and prove to future employers I cared about developing people skills.

I guess you could say I learned that sitting at a desk all day, writing, it’s great every once in a while. But you really don’t have much to work with if you don’t step away from your novel monster and exercise your brain a different way, or many different ways.

I never get ideas while I’m actually sitting down and writing, and you can probably relate. It’s always that second of eight miles running around my neighborhood; listening to a podcast; watching too many YouTube subscriptions; yes, even in the shower (you can’t deny that one, don’t even try).

Lately, I’ve been spending on average about an hour working on my book every day. That’s it. And I’ve made more progress in the past month than I have in the entire three years I’ve been working on it combined.

I have a theory that trying to work on a writing project for multiple hours at a time, days at a time, is actually quite harmful to the writing and creative process. From personal experience, obviously, so I can’t prove it.

But in the hours I could be spending on my book, instead I’m listening to and watching highly successful people do what they do, talk about how they got to where they are and inspiring me completely not on purpose. I’m also working 20 hours per week, writing blog posts (every freaking day of the week, you’re welcome), writing articles, volunteering with The Good Stuff and taking graduate classes … you know, in my spare time.

The more I do outside of working on my novel, the more motivated I am to work on it each time I sit down to open it. I always like to say ideas come from the most unlikely places, and my best ideas rarely appear when I’m busy working on another one. That’s why it’s so important to not get too caught up in your stories. You have to be able to pull inspiration from other places, other people, to build off of other ideas, to diversify your writing and make it believable. And intriguing. And relatable.

I would love to sit down, start writing and not stop until my book is finished. That urge will always be there. But every once in a while I go back to some of my old stories, the ones I wrote when I didn’t really like to do anything else or go anywhere unfamiliar. They’re missing something. They’re missing a lot.

It’s okay to love to write so much you don’t ever want to do anything else. But I’m convinced that’s not possible. I’m convinced the most successful people out there are the ones who are always moving, even when they’d rather be writing.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

I Didn’t Want to Write Today, So I Made Sure It Happened (Midweek Novel Update #13)


Tonight, I am breaking my own rules. The rules that say I’m not one of those bloggers who spends 600 words at a time writing about myself. I don’t even like writing about myself. That’s not what I started Novelty Revisions for. It’s not about me. But I think what I have to say is important, and maybe someone else out there is feeling the same way, or a different way, and it can help reassure them.

What I have to say tonight is this: it is all going to be worth it someday.

If you’re a regular visitor to this blog, you know that for the past few months I have made sure to have a new post ready for you daily. Every. Single. Day. I don’t do this to get more traffic (it’s not worth getting caught up in that vortex). I do it because I want to be consistent, because I appreciate my just a little over 2.5 returning readers and feel they deserve to be able to read new content if they want it.

Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it isn’t. Honestly, if I only published the posts I thought were good, I would rarely even post once a week. You’re not going to like everything I post, and that’s fine. I cannot please everyone. I stopped trying to a very long time ago, and I’m better for it.

It isn’t like it’s easy, doing what I do. Sometimes I can crank out a weeks’ worth of posts and it’s not that big of a deal. But then days like today happen, when I don’t wake up when my alarm goes off. When I need to take a spontaneous lunch date with my mom because family and friends always come first. When all of a sudden it’s seven o’clock at night and I know I haven’t written a post for Novelty Revisions yet and the inside of my head is screaming.

The last thing I wanted to do today was write. And if it had been a few months ago, I probably would have skipped working on my novel, and writing a blog post, and I would have put off writing an article until tomorrow. But tomorrow isn’t going to be any less busy, and if this stuff doesn’t get done today, it never will. I’ve learned over the past few months that if I want to succeed—and I mean, really succeed—I can’t just quit.

By the time my clock hit five this afternoon, I was stressing big time. I’m technically in finals mode (my graduate program runs 7-week courses) and am weaving together a 15-page paper at the moment. College Lifestyles is entering a new internship semester (which means I am in full management mode and it’s amazing and insane), I’m training for a half marathon and ran seven miles this morning, I’m filling out as many job applications as I can tolerate—at the moment it’s too much. Yet at five, I stopped what I was doing and I said to myself, “Open your book and start writing. Now.”

I don’t advocate for forcing yourself to write when you could lie down on the floor and go to sleep right this second. But the thing about me and writing is, writing is how I channel my stress and anxiety and basically all feelings and emotions into a healthy outlet. To the point where, if I don’t write often enough, I pretty much start losing my mind. I went seven months without journaling once and the outcome was disastrous.

Today was the first time in a long time I realized I was thinking, “I can’t do this.”

I guess when my temporary job ended in April I thought I’d bounce right back. I thought I’d go right back to 11-hour days and working on my book/writing blog posts in the evenings. But it doesn’t work that way. Suddenly my book has become my biggest priority, and that’s scaring me. Because that’s not what I wanted to happen. I almost quit being an English major in college because this is not how I wanted things to go.

I love my book. I block out time to work on it every single day because it is my baby and I would be lost without it. But I am afraid that I will get too caught up in my story, and it’s not like it was in high school when it didn’t matter if I spent hours and hours writing. I have other commitments.

I have other goals. Sure, one of them happens to be finishing my book before November. But I’m aware enough to realize writing will never be able to support me, and I absolutely cannot afford to fall into the trap of believing, all of a sudden, maybe it could. I am prolific when it comes to writing, I am writing all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. That doesn’t mean it’s great.

Yet I still fall asleep thinking about my story, and secretly, I’m anxious about ending it. That’s common, a lot of writers feel that way when they’re getting closer to finishing their stories. More often than not I wish I could just have one day to do nothing but write, because it is so relaxing and freeing and exhilarating to me. But I’m an adult and I have a job and a blog and stories to pitch to magazines and grad school to ace.

Looking at all I have going on, you’re probably wondering how I do it. Well, probably not, I know you don’t care that much and I’m not even a little bit offended. But if you were wondering how, it’s simple: I just do it. I just have so much faith that, somehow, all this hard work, all this writing and wanting to write and having more to do than there are hours in the day, it’s going to be worth it. I’m not going to regret it. Because I like to think that when I’m writing something, I’m helping somebody somewhere. That’s all I want to do in life, is help people.

I have to write an article after this. I don’t think I can do it. But I’m going to do it anyway, because whatever I end up writing about, somebody will read it. And maybe somebody will feel inspired to do something, and make their life better, and if that’s all I’m in this world to do, is use words to make the world better, I’m okay with being so tired I can’t keep my eyes open. It is worth it to me, every single word.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink. Follow Meg on Twitter. 

How to Write a Book If You’re Bad at Long-Term Projects


Starting them, working consistently on them, finishing them … no matter your hang-up with long-term projects, it’s hard enough you have to manage them in school and work. Now you have to figure out how to work around them when you write, too?

Writing is something many of us use to give our pent-up creativity a productive outlet. You wouldn’t think the same roadblock that keeps you from doing that 15-page research paper until the night before it’s due is the same one that keeps you from starting, working on or closing out your latest book, but—sorry to tell you—it is.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up, though. If you’re determined enough, and you’re willing to put a lot of hard work into one document on your computer, you can still make it happen. Here are three strategies you can try for yourself.

Break the bigger project into smaller ones 

Okay, you’ve heard this one before. But when someone tells you to break novel-writing into smaller novel-writing pieces, it’s hard to know what exactly that means. A full-length novel isn’t just a bunch of separate novellas (novelettes?) put together; each piece ties in significantly to the other. Even writing one chapter at a time is sometimes just really hard to do if you’re trying to connect two plot points together.

Word or page count might be the best way to start out minimizing the amount of work you plan to do at each sitting. Judging your book as a whole by number of words or pages doesn’t do much to determine whether it’s a decent story or not, but if you set a goal to write 1,000 words a certain number of days a week, for example, having this number as an endpoint might help you move forward a little bit at a time.

Since we’re on the subject …

Devote one hour to your book five days a week

One hour of writing really isn’t that much, but if you try thinking of how many hours writing a book might take you from beginning to end, that’s when doubt creeps in, and its best friend, the procrastination monster, soon after. If word or page count doesn’t do it for you, setting a timer might.

Give yourself two days a week to let your project rest, and try scheduling out one hour each of the other five days to spend with your book. Even if you don’t make very much progress, at least you’re looking at it and thinking about it—and if you have time planned specifically just for writing, it’s more likely to actually happen.

Give yourself deadlines, and incentives for meeting them

An accountability partner can really help with this one. Saying “I want to finish my book by the end of the year” is an okay goal … but that’s a long window of time to give yourself to work on one project. Notice we said “deadlines,” with an s. Plural. Finishing will always be your end goal, but, in alignment with our first suggestion, setting smaller ones along the way can completely change your productivity.

Again, word and page count might help here. For example: “I want to reach 40,000 words before August 1.” This is a measurable and hopefully attainable goal. Now tell that goal to someone you trust to hold you to it, but also don’t hesitate to hang an incentive there to keep you working toward your goals.

As with any long-term project, you have to go into it knowing it isn’t going to get done in a matter of weeks, and you can’t just sit down and crank it out all at once. Even if writing is something you do for fun, if you really want to write a book but can’t seem to get organized, we hope these tips can help, or at least inspire you to come up with methods that work well for you.

Happy writing!

Image courtesy of Flickr.