If you’re anything like me, the dream of finishing a novel has been living in the back of your mind for a while. I’d harbored aspirations of becoming an author since the age of seven and wrote many short stories and even one first draft of a novel back in high school. I continued to write (but never finish) novels while pursuing my B.A. in English Literature. Eventually, life (and law school) got in the way before I found my way back to fiction writing. In 2019, I utilized the following tips to finish my first two novels and get published while working a full-time job!
1. Find Your Why
Yes, this is probably the most clichéd tip for anything at this point, but I truly believe it’s important. By the time I entered law school, my creative aspirations took a backseat to my full-time job as a lawyer. I rarely had the energy to even read for fun between all the studying, internships, and paid jobs I was juggling.
Not long after beginning my first job as a licensed attorney, I realized I was burnt out. When I took stock of my day, it didn’t matter how many people I’d helped, how many calls I’d taken, or how many hearings I’d won. I celebrated professional accomplishments, but on some level, they all felt hollow. As much as I loved helping clients and practicing law, leaving my goal of becoming an author on the backburner was taking a larger toll than I’d realized.
When I finally decided to finish a novel, I thought carefully about why this dream was so meaningful to me. I write for many reasons: to work through aspects of my life through fiction, to share a story with readers, and as a creative escape.
I suggest that anyone aspiring to write while juggling a full-time job really digs deep to understand why writing is so important to them.
2. Fall In Love
One main difference between my last two finished novels and the unfinished manuscripts from my high school days is that I absolutely fell in love with my recent stories. And this can take time.
For some writers, falling in love with your story might mean developing character profiles or creating scene cards for each chapter. However, for me, this included writing in the messiest way possible.
In the past, I’d plotted countless stories that fizzled out before I could make it to the end. When I set out to write again a couple of years ago, I decided to go into it without the safety net of a plan. I had a general idea of what my novel would look like and I immediately put it to paper.
Although my first few drafts were quite a mess, I was able to take time to discover my story by writing and rewriting scenes. Whenever I was too tired to write, that love I’d developed for my characters and story is what motivated me to sit at the keyboard.
3. Find Your Cheerleaders/Build a Support System
In the past, I’d always shied away from revealing my writing goals publicly. What if nothing came of my efforts? What if my enthusiasm fizzled out and I had to tell everyone?
But I realized this external pressure was a necessary evil. Extra motivation is great, but that’s not the only reason to share your goals. Telling your family is also necessary so that they know why you’re typing away on your laptop instead of watching TV or why your alarm clock is going off at 5 am so you can squeeze in a writing session before the office.
Bringing your friends and family in on your latest endeavor is a great way to cultivate a support system for your writing career.
4. Work With Your Schedule
When I decided to squeeze writing into my busy schedule, I started small. I would often eat lunch at my desk and get home already ready for bed. For both my mental health and to achieve my writing goals, I decided to spend my lunch break writing at the nearby cafe instead. I kept my small tablet in my purse and glanced down at it eagerly all morning until my lunchtime writing session.
It was a great incentive to finish my work early and it gave me a much-needed mental break during an otherwise chaotic workday. Additionally, no matter what happened the rest of the day, I knew I’d already taken another step toward reaching my writing goal.
5. Take A Break
One of my least favorite pieces of writing advice is “write every day.” Not only is this sometimes impossible, especially with a full-time job, but it can also poison your creativity.
The more I write, the better I’ve become at identifying whether I should power through a temporary block or if I need a break. A real, step-away-from-the-keyboard-and-no-one-gets-hurt break. It took me about 10 months to finish my novel back in 2019 and some of those months I only wrote a total of 200 words.
Oftentimes, the frustration you feel when looking at your story is because you are deep in the “ugly stage” of drafting. But if you can’t make sense of your own story after staring at the page for a few hours, take your finger off the Delete button and go for a long, long drive. You’ll thank me later.
Kate Allen is a serial multi-tasker and author of contemporary fiction. After obtaining her B.A. in English Literature she took a detour to law school and “daylights” as a lawyer. Her debut novel, Fear of Flying, is an intercontinental tale about love, friendship, and loss. Kate is an avid Instagrammer and a proud member of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. You can follow her on Instagram and on Twitter.