7 Writing Tips I'm Following This Summer To Help Me Finish My Novel By The End Of The Season

Every May, I get a flurry in my stomach as summer swings into view. I'm going to write a novel this summer, I think to myself. I'm going to actually do it. After all, I have three whole months ahead of me! That's so much time.

Without fail, every year of college, I would turn in my last final, head to the coffee shop around the corner, and fire up Microsoft Word. I reasoned with myself that if I just put the time and effort I used on homework during the school year, I would have an amazing novel finished in no time. No sweat. For a blissful evening, I'd sip on a hibiscus iced tea and pound at the keys in pure bliss:Yes, I'm doing it! Book deal, here I come! Better start thinking about the movie rights!

Those first few moments of summer vacation always felt like pure freedom. I'd ride that energy until thousands of words filled my screen. Pleased with myself, I'd close my laptop, and vow to work on my novel every day for the rest of summer break.

But then, the next day would roll around and I'd tell myself that it was okay to rest a little. After all, I'd been working so hard at school, I deserved a break. And then the next day, a new excuse would roll in, and another the next day. As the days came and went, my summer would fill up with work and travel and random hangouts. My novel would sit abandoned and forgotten on my hard drive, gathering proverbial dust.

After I graduated college, of course, it got even harder. Now that I'm in the real world, summer no longer means a break from my responsibilities. But even so, the buzz of summer always gives me that novel-writing urge again. In May, the thought of finishing a novel draft by the end of August seems like a totally attainable goal. Yet every year, the weeks fly by, and suddenly, it's September, and all I've got is a chapter and a half. (And a whole heckin' ton of guilt.)

Most people will tell you that the hardest things about writing is putting your butt in your chair and getting it done. This is certainly one of the biggest challenges for me personally. Sometimes my life feels like it's moving too fast for me to catch up to it—like I've just missed the bus and I'm chasing it down the street in desperation. Scrounging up the time and energy to write can feel impossible, and honestly, a little pointless. Writing can take a lot of time and effort before you have anything to show for it. With work deadlines, plans with friends, and other responsibilities on my plate, it is incredibly easy to put my personal writing projects on the back burner.

But obviously, if you want to be a writer, you have to write. This year, I'm determined to actually achieve my goal of writing the draft of a novel by the end of the summer. Here's how I'm going to get it done:

1I'm setting a weekly word count goal, not a daily one.

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I have to be realistic with myself: there's no way that I'm going to write every day this summer. Life happens. But as a veteran of NaNoWriMo, I know that giving myself a word count goal is a great way to keep myself on pace. By setting a weekly goal instead of a daily goal, I'm giving myself some flexibility and room to catch up.

2I'm scheduling frequent writing dates with friends.

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I frequently have work dates at coffee shops with pals. So why not do the same with writing? Plus, this will make the writing process a little more social, which is important to me during the summer.

3I'm planning a weekly check-in with myself.

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I'm literally going to schedule a check-in with myself on my calendar. Each week I'll take a moment to see where I'm at with my novel and make adjustments to my goals as needed.

4I'm actually making an outline. (Even if I don't stick to it.)

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I often dive into writing projects without a clue where I'm going —which can be pretty exciting sometimes! But then when I get stuck, it's easy to stop writing all-together. With this novel, I'm going to try to be a little more deliberate and spend time making an outline. (But I'm also going to give myself permission to veer off the outline as needed.)

5I'm utilizing writing communities to keep myself going.

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For some reason when I'm trying to write a novel, I get in this mood where I don't want to show it to anybody. I have an awesomely supportive creative writing group that I share all kinds of writing with, yet I rarely send novel excerpts over to them. But this summer, I'm changing that! I'm going to actually engage with them about this novel and show them what I'm working on. Plus, I'm also considering signing up for an online writing workshop.

6I'm making time to write at least 30 minutes every morning.

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I know I literally just said that I knew I wouldn't write every day, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't try! Even if I miss it sometimes, I'm still going to try to implement 30 minutes of writing into my morning routine.

7I'm forgiving myself for getting off track.

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The number one thing that keeps me from finishing projects is guilt. I'm so prone to accepting defeat the moment I get a little off track. This summer I'm going to try really hard to accept that I'm not going to hit all these goals and keep going anyway.