Action Plan: So you want to be a novelist? Me too…

Today I received an email from a dear friend who is working on her first novel. Knowing what a creative and genuine person she is, I have no doubt she will succeed at whatever she puts her mind to. She asked me a simple question and one that I’ve heard many times: “Do you have any tips on how to best stay on task to complete a writing project?” After answering her question, I decided to edit my response and share it with you all.

Rachael’s Writing Tips: 

1. I’m always excited to talk to other writers! I’ve found that one of the number one things that has helped me is connecting with other writers. I found a writing group on that I joined a few years ago when I lived in Texas. I wasn’t involved long, but I still often think of the impact they had on me and my commitment to writing. I am still connected to several of those women online.

So, first of all, I’d say connect to other writers! The accountability helps tremendously! 

2. I took a couple of classes on novel writing which helped to boost my confidence. I’m a pretty literal person, so it helped me to know I knew what I was doing… As in having a clear understanding and working definition of what a plot actually is, and how to build characters. There are some good books on the topic as well. Here are three I have: “Bird by Bird” by Ann Lamott, and one I really really like by Elizabeth George called “Write Away,” and a third I recently picked up and haven’t used yet called “The Breakout Novelist,” by Donald Maass.

Educate yourself on writing!

3. I’ve heard a lot of other writers say they make a scheduled time to write. I’ve always struggled with that one. I know it would be ideal to schedule time to write, and you may be able to do it, but I haven’t been successful with it. I would do better if I did! I have started scheduling time to blog each week. Well, not exactly a “time” but a day. I want to post at least one blog post on Tuesdays. I wasn’t planning to write a post today, but then the email happened and it just sort of worked out. Not the greatest example, but at least I’m on task!

Schedule time to write!

4. Set a goal for your word count. I’ve heard a novel is a minimum of 50K words, and up to 90K. It’s A LOT. I have never been the type to sit down and make up stories off the top of my head. Most of my writing is practical/useful information or it comes from interviewing other people and writing their stories. I did however start on a novel a few years ago that started coming to me in a dream. I wrote a bit after I woke up from the dream, and then I continued to write when I had a chance. I was at about 18K words over a year later, but I was still a long way off from where I wanted to be.

Once I started working on Angel’s book and I felt I had abandoned my novel, but I also felt that is what God wanted me to do for that time. In the middle of interviews with Angel, I committed to joining NaNoWriMo for one month to work on my novel. During that month I didn’t work on Angel’s book at all, just my novel. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writer’s Month. It is every November. People from around the world commit to writing a novel in one month. Yes, 50K words in ONE MONTH! They have write-ins (like a lock-in) and groups and online forums, and all types of tips…

So, I basically locked myself in my house (I was laid off at the time) and wrote as much as possible on my novel… I brought it up from 18K to 53K in one month! That was a little over a year ago and I haven’t touched it since then. It’s still not done. I have quite a bit to add to my novel in a background plot that is political. If I can write several thousand more words on that background plot, I should be in a better place where I can start revising and getting the thing ready to publish.

Set goals for your word count! Focus on one project at a time!

Well, I hope that helps some. It’s a place to start and writing about writing is encouraging me to get moving on my novel as well! I really would love to finish my novel while I’m not working. I have two other books that I want to write, but I would like to finish what I’ve started before I start something new. It’s really hard for me to focus on just one thing… But I HAVE to. Right now I have a freelance job writing a Sunday School series that I need to finish, so that is a priority. And I’m publishing my third book through OWL of Hope, so that is also a priority.

I know it is difficult with everything you’ve got going on in your life, but I really think you should go forward toward your dreams and make the time for it. Writing a book is great because: #1 you get to be alone; #2 it is a creative outlet and can serve as a way to cope with things; #3 it is your property and has the potential to earn you money for the rest of your life!

So, now that I’ve written a good chunk here, I’ll let you go so we can both get to writing!

Rachael HartmanRachael Hartman is an experienced writer and author. She has worked as a full-time newspaper reporter, and as a freelance contributor to magazines. She writes high school Sunday school material for Word Aflame Press as well as lessons for Project 7 (P7) student-led Bible Clubs, and blogs for Lady by Design. She enjoys health and exercise, reading, art, and playing with her two dogs Darla and Danny. She owns Our Written Lives of Hope, an online bookstore and publishing house in which she helps others share the message of the hope of Jesus Christ and promotes holistic health. Check out her web site at and link to her on Facebook.

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