Writing Will Always Be Hard.

And sometimes, that’s OK.

No matter how hard I tried, I could not fall into sync with my story.

Just the day before I had worked nonstop on it for hours. That day I could barely type a single sentence. I could not understand how I could go from “probably writing too much in one sitting” to “your characters clearly don’t feel like talking to you and also your narrator is apparently on vacation, bye” in less than 24 hours.

I took a walk, came back and started trying again. I was able to start writing steadily that time, but it was becoming very apparent to me how difficult this particular part of my book was to write.

It got to the point where I was starting to doubt my ability to finish the story at all. Was it really the same story that had called to me all those months ago? Did this struggle — this honestly miserable writing session — mean I should just stop trying?

As usual, there was a lesson in this not so great moment. And so, as I’m known to do, I’ll share it with you.

Continue reading “Writing Will Always Be Hard.”

Why You’ve (Probably) Never Finished Writing a Book, and How to Fix That

There’s nothing wrong with you. You can fix this.

Are you an aspiring writer who has tried more than once to finish writing a book with no luck?

You’re certainly not alone. There are a lot of barriers to creativity out there, and every writer seems to struggle with something different.

What I can say for sure, however, is that just because you’ve never finished writing a book before doesn’t mean you never can. When it comes to writing, there is no such thing as “too late” or “too slow.” Everyone works at their own pace, and if you still want to finish what you started, you can.

It’s going to take some work. But I believe you can do it. Do you?

What stops people from finishing the books they start — and how do you overcome these barriers? Let’s dive in.

Continue reading “Why You’ve (Probably) Never Finished Writing a Book, and How to Fix That”

The Best Part About All the Writing Advice on the Internet? You Don’t Have to Listen to It

Don’t like it? Don’t have to!

Don’t get me wrong, I hope you listen to SOME of my advice. I’m just here to help, after all, and I want nothing more than for you — a hopeful, hard-working aspiring writer — to succeed.

But the more this blog grows, the more people I seem to encounter who don’t understand my “my way is not the only way” mentality. I get the confusion and I know people’s short attention spans aren’t making things any better, but I thought I’d greet you on this fine Monday morning to remind you what to expect when you come across writing advice on the internet, whether it’s mine or someone else’s.

Continue reading “The Best Part About All the Writing Advice on the Internet? You Don’t Have to Listen to It”

Why the Blank Page Is So Intimidating (and How to Fill It Anyway)

WHY IS THIS SO HARD?

It’s happened to just about every single one of us at this point. You decide you’re going to write, you sit down at your computer or in front of your notebook and one way or another you open to a blank page and …

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

It’s like the simple act of staring at that untouched page has erased every idea and ounce of motivation you possessed only moments before. Is it magic? Is it a curse? Nope. It’s just all in your head. Continue reading “Why the Blank Page Is So Intimidating (and How to Fill It Anyway)”

12 Reminders For People Who Gave Up on Their Works In Progress

Maybe it’s not the end of the world after all.

1. You’re not alone, and you’ve done nothing “wrong.”

2. Sometimes ideas aren’t meant to grow into full stories.

3. Some stories are meant to be told, but not by you.

4. Growing beyond a story is a sign of maturity. It’s OK to move forward.

5. No one should put you down for deciding not to finish something. It’s your choice, not theirs.

6. You tried. That’s better than not trying at all.

7. You’re not a failure. You made the choice that was best for you and your story.

8. Just because you set one thing aside doesn’t mean you’ll never finish anything ever again.

9. Sometimes quitting is OK.

10. You never know what an unfinished story idea can one day lead to.

11. There are more unfinished writing projects than there are published ones.

12. You can move on. There are other stories to tell. They’re counting on you.


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.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

How Long After Finishing a Writing Project Should You Wait Before Editing It?

How long after finishing a work in progress should you wait to pick it up again?

How long after finishing a work in progress should you wait to pick it up again?

This is a question I’ve asked myself a dozen times despite the fact that it’s admittedly been a while since I finished a big writing project. (I define “big” as anything longer than 50,000 words). Part of me wants to know how long of a break I’m allowed to give myself between finishing and diving back in for edits (don’t tell me you can’t relate!). A different part of me likes the projects I’m working on and doesn’t want to totally burn out on them too soon.

Let’s be honest here: Writing is hard. Different writers struggle with different parts of the process — maybe you have no problem starting a project but just can’t seem to finish it. Maybe you’ve finished dozens of projects but don’t feel you have the confidence to do anything with them. Maybe you don’t struggle with coming up with ideas, but actually sitting down to get the writing done is way harder than you feel it should be.

Whatever your writing roadblock, this business is exhausting. If and when you do finish certain projects, you absolutely have the right to celebrate your victories no matter how small they may be. You have the right to take time off to give your brain a break. It’s kind of like a summer vacation. You’ve earned it.

Why should you consider taking a break from your project after you finish the first draft — whether you take a week off or a year?

From personal experience, I’ve found many benefits to this practice. I’ve saved myself a lot of humiliation and pain by learning to write blog posts in the evenings, leave them as drafts until the next morning, read them over again, and evaluate whether or not I need to rewrite some parts of them before scheduling them to be published.

Taking time away from something you’ve been working on constantly for many days in a row is especially helpful if you want to avoid what I’ll call “getting absolutely sick of the thing you’re working on and never wanting to look at it again.” We all know what it feels like when we’re finally done with something — great, but also, get this thing out of my face before I set it on fire. Setting it aside is for your benefit as much as it is for the future of your manuscript.

Separating yourself from your work for even a short period of time can help you roll back into it with a fresh perspective. It’s very easy to get so “into” a story or post that you don’t realize you might have worded something the wrong way or implied something you didn’t intend to imply.

“Breathing” also gives you the chance to really think about your story (without actually working on it) and make sure it’s everything you want it to be. You might dream up a new scene — could it somehow make your story as a whole stronger? You might come up with brand-new connections, ways to tie up loose ends (or fill in potential plot holes).

Most importantly, you might finish your draft totally ready to never look at it again … but by the time your break is over, you might actually be EXCITED to work on it again! You’ve missed it! You’ve missed your characters and the adventures they had and the things they learned. You might even look forward to spending time with them … even though even a single round of edits could mean major changes to their fictional lives.

So, breaks are great. They have the potential to reignite your motivation, help you view your narrative with a clearer head, and you’ll hopefully avoid “work still in progress” burnout. But how long of a break should you take? How short is too short? How long is too long?

Unfortunately, I can only recommend what I have found works for me: One month. I’ve found that this gives me enough time to focus on other projects and almost “forget” the details of the one I just finished working on. But I’m not away from it for so long that I completely lose interest.

It’s really up to you, though — maybe you can try different lengths of time and figure out what works best for you.

Technically, you can go about this any way that suits you. I would you should give yourself a week away at the very least, and a few months at the very most — too short of a break doesn’t give you enough time to forget your project, and the longer you wait, the less likely you are to jump willingly back into it. There are actually a few first drafts I just never went back to after finishing because by the time I thought about them again, I had already moved on.

I’d also recommend setting a “start date,” or a specific date you can put in your calendar that specifies when you are going to pick your project back up again. That way, you don’t have to even think about it in the meantime if you don’t want to. You could even start a whole new project while you wait.

This topic brings up another debate: Should you start a new book right after finishing the old one? I’m going to save that discussion for another post. In the meantime, tell me what you think about this question. How long do you usually wait — or how long do you plan to wait after completing your “first” first draft?


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.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

How to De-Clutter Your Brain to Welcome More Ideas

You’ve de-cluttered your house. Now it’s time to clean out your brain.

De-cluttering seems to be the overarching theme of the 2010s. I’ve never Marie Kondo’d my closets (and certainly not my bookshelves), but I have attempted, many times, to de-clutter my life. Each time I’ve failed miserably, but I’ve managed to succeed in clearing out one area constantly full of clutter: my head.

Like you, I have a lot of thoughts and ideas. I’m regularly woken up in the middle of the night by the gentle yet persistent nudge of an idea. I’ll be sitting in a meeting at work jotting down things that come to mind before they disappear. There are days I’m fresh out of ideas (“brain drought”) and days I can’t shut the ideas up (“brain rush”).

How do you handle a brain drought — that sudden lack of new ideas that frustrates and blocks writers from their work all over the world? You de-clutter your brain. Maybe not in the exact same way you might clean out your closet, but I suppose if an idea doesn’t bring you joy, you could easily toss it away, if you wanted to.

Here are my recommended strategies for de-cluttering your mind. They’ve worked for me, and maybe they will be effective for you as well.

Continue reading “How to De-Clutter Your Brain to Welcome More Ideas”

How To ‘Attract’ More Ideas

The more you open your brain up to new ideas, the more new ideas will find you.

So. It’s been a while since you stumbled across a new (“good”) idea, hasn’t it?

First of all — this is totally normal. Every writer experiences what I like to call “brain drought.” It’s the opposite of brain rush, which is that sudden seemingly unstoppable rush of ideas that sometimes happens, mostly in moments that couldn’t be any less convenient. Sometimes ideas just don’t seem to be coming around. It happens.

Second of all — trust me on this one — it’s going to be OK.

Can you “summon” ideas when there don’t seem to be any around? Maybe. But not “for free.” If you’re hungry for more ideas, it’s going to take some effort. Here’s what I do when I want to write but the ideas won’t cooperate. Maybe these steps will work for you, too.

Continue reading “How To ‘Attract’ More Ideas”

How Do You Know If Your Story Is Really Finished?

It’s not magic, but it works.

I’m not very good at finishing stories. This is an embarrassing thing for a writer to admit, since it’s kind of my job to not only start things, but see them through to their ends.

What I mean by this is that when I can sense I’m reaching the end of something, I can’t always ignore the temptation to just keep adding to it. I think I’ve written the last line and then I come up with a better one, and then another, and I sort of keep dragging things out as long as I can because goodbyes hurt my feelings!

When I launch into editing mode, of course, all the extras at the end usually don’t make the cut. But it’s taken years of practice for me to learn how to tell when I’ve truly told as much of a story that needs to be told.

Every story must end at some point. How do you know when you’re really “done”?

The answer to that question isn’t one you’re going to like, because there’s not really a checklist or formula or a concrete measure of what “done” looks like. When you go into editing and start mapping everything out to make sure all the wires are connected where they’re supposed to be connected and there aren’t any loose ones just hanging around asking for trouble, you could argue that’s a decent road map. But how do you know you’re ready to even start drawing the map?

The truth is, when you’re “done” — really done writing, and ready to bring it all together — you just KNOW.

I KNOW. That doesn’t seem very helpful. Stick with me. You’ll see.

It’s hard to explain this feeling, but I like to think of it as the same sense of overall calm you feel when you know you’ve made the right decision. I recently had to make a tough call, one that I knew was going to have the best outcome but would leave me feeling disappointed and sad anyway. Despite that, when I did finally act on that choice, I felt at peace, as if in my heart I knew I’d chosen the right path.

We could call it writer’s intuition — that’s a good way to describe it and it also sounds fancy. When you’re in tune with your story and characters and you’ve poured as much of yourself into a piece of writing as you could, when it’s done, it’s done. You know it. You know that, at least for now, you don’t need to add anything else to it. You look at the story laid out in front of you and you think — and genuinely believe — “I’ve done it. I’ve finished it for real.”

Perhaps the most important clue is that you are no longer concerned with the basic framework of your story. Up until this point you’ve had plenty of doubts — you’ve had those “I’m not sure if this is going to work” moments. You’ve been building not just the foundation of your story-house, but the support beams and outside walls as well (I know nothing about how houses are built, just take the metaphor for what it is).

Now, you feel an almost inevitable pull to fill in the rest of the house, put up the walls, insert the windows, lay down the floors. You’ve felt plenty of temptation to do this throughout your first draft — of course you have, we all want to shop for just the right paint colors before the walls are even standing, it’s our instant-gratification nature to jump too far ahead. But now you’re confident you can do this. The story is written. Now you get to fix it up and make it look just the way you’ve been imagining it will.

This is the hardest part for many writers, I think — knowing when “done” really means “done.” Many writers rush through certain parts of the process even before others are completed, making the distinction between “needs a little more work” and “I’ve done all I can do” even more blurred. This is why I always advise people to focus on one step at a time: First draft first, where you get to make all the mistakes, then the second draft, where you map out your story as you go and identify problem areas and take pages upon pages of notes of things that need fixing, and so on.

You can’t do it all at once, or you’re never going to finish. Or maybe you will, but you’ll unnecessarily create more work for yourself along the way. It’s kind of like trying to build, paint, and furnish one room of a house at a time. If you build it all first, then paint everything all at once, then buy the furniture, you don’t have to keep going back to Ikea every time you finish a room. You just make one trip. (Again, just enjoy the metaphor, no one realistically makes just one trip to Ikea, I GET IT.)

Along your writing “journey,” you’re going to encounter many hardships. You’re also going to find yourself wondering if a certain scene needs more or fewer words, if different parts of your story need expanding or need to be dissected and reduced. The more time you spend knee-deep in your story, the better your chances of figuring it out.

Maybe you’re not good at finishing things, either. Maybe it’s still hard for you to tell when your story doesn’t need any more additions or subtractions. Be patient. This is something I and many other writers have learned over many years of writing, revising, rewriting, and everything in-between.

Don’t stress if you feel like you’ve been doing this a long time and still have no idea whether you’re doing it “right” or “wrong.” Every writer has their weaknesses, their areas that could use some improvement. That doesn’t make you any less of a writer or some kind of “failure.” Really, it just makes you human.


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.


Help Novelty Revisions become a more valuable resource for aspiring writers.  Join us on Patreon.

How to Finish Your First Draft: A Quick Guide

It’s a big accomplishment. Here’s how to get it done.

So you have a work in progress. Congratulations! You started a thing and you are very excited about what the future holds for your new baby — I mean story.

But here’s the problem … you haven’t actually worked on it in a while. Or you have been working on it consistently, but slowly. You’re kind of stuck, but also kind of not. You know where your story is going or where you want it to go and you COULD sit down and finish it.

But you’re struggling. Something keeps getting in your way. And now you’re starting to wonder if finishing this thing you started is even something you WANT to do anymore. Is it worth your time? Your energy? Your sanity?

So you’ve started a first draft, and you desperately want to finish it. Good news: I’ve been there. I’m currently there. I have been stuck and am currently stuck. I’ve personally developed some strategies that have helped me inch closer to — and many times, succeed in reaching — the finish line. And now, dear writers, I pass them on to you.

The following tips, of course, assume you have already started writing a first draft and just need some extra pushes to nudge you closer (and hopefully over) the finish line. If you’re stuck at the starting line (understandable — it happens to the best of us), start with my tips for writers who want to write things but are afraid of failing.

Already started but need some motivation to keep going? Don’t worry. I’ve got you.

Continue reading “How to Finish Your First Draft: A Quick Guide”