Visions of Love

Writing a novel ain’t easy.

That’s why last year, out of the 341,375 peeps who participated in Nanowrimo, only 38,438 finished – an 11% completion rate.

Before you get too depressed, the statistics can work for you, too.

I really believe whether you finish writing your novel is 10% divine timing and 90% preparation.

Two months ago, I decided to write my first novel (I don’t know what I was thinking).  But since I started it, I think it’s important to finish.

I feel like quitting. A lot.

But here’s the thing: like most of us, I’ve quit a lot of stuff in my life and I simply don’t want to hang this hat on that rack.

Besides, I have a vision for my first novel.  It started on an airplane and it’s still flying somewhere up there, waiting for me to guide it in.

On the plane something magical happened: I had a story idea.

And I did something different with it than I usually do. Usually, I have a “story” idea that I don’t respect enough to write down. And guess what happens then? I forget about it.  And eventually, it never even happened, kind of like that sock you lose in the dryer.

But this time, I wrote it down. And it only took two short hand-written pages. These later bloomed into what is now a fully-formed world.

How simple is that?

The first step to preparing to write your novel is simple: contain your idea by writing it down. Then, be circumspect. Wait to fall in love with it.

You’ll know when you’re in love if you just can’t stop thinking about it.

When you can’t stop thinking about your story is the exact point at which you need to start writing it.

It needs you and it will continue to need you throughout the process.

It will sometimes get very difficult and cranky. It needs you to hold your original vision of love.


Two-Hours & A Devotional

Devotion. That’s what it takes.

Like any important thing in life, it asks for a commitment from you.

In real terms, this equates to about two hours of writing time on most days.

This isn’t the only way to schedule time, but I’ve found it’s doable for the average person (including myself). It means you make enough progress to stay motivated on the project.


Commitment: 6 Simple Steps

Looking back on how I began my preparation process, one word comes to mind: naïve.

To be fair, I would have had to be naïve to begin (or I would have never started).

But in the beginning I decided to accept a few basic ideas that are now helping me to finish what I started:

  1. I decided it was okay if the pre-writing and first draft were terrible.  I decided to let the story be more important than my pride.
  2. I decided that I had already written, read, and lived enough to write a compelling story. I decided to learn how to write and structure a novel as I went – not before.
  3. I committed to simplicity of resources. This meant that if I ran against a problem or question, I would seek out the quickest, most accessible solution available and then stop resourcing. Because resourcing, learning, and training is a huge time-suck. Remember, writing the novel allows me to learn as I go.
  4. I decided that my story lived inside of me. That all I had to do was let the story take control and things would end up O.K. Therefore, my story (not an expert or even myself) became my ultimate authority.
  5. I acknowledged that as a writer, I have no product to share unless I create one. Therefore, creating the novel would take precedence over all other concerns, including finding agents, publishing, marketing, and all the other 8 million things writers have to think about. During the process of drafting, I declared a cessation of all other matters. Imagining the world of my story became my only job.
  6. I decided not to talk about my story. Something about holding silence around it makes it feel more real and intense.


4 Resources I Just. Can’t. Live. Without.

The 90-Day Novel: Unlock The Story Within:  Several things appealed to me about Al Watt’s book: the unflinching honesty and his unshakable faith in the intuition and imagination to excavate the story. Watts has you building the world of the novel for 30 days. Then, you spend the final 60 writing the first draft. When my 30 days were up, I had over 40,000 words on a pre-write, a structure outline, and an entire world. My characters had shocked me and evolved into something I could not have imagined at the outset. In addition, this guy’ll really keep you straight. Observe:

When we talk about structure and character, driving narrative, wants and needs, dilemma, transformation, surrender, theme, dramatizing, exposition, and so on and on . . . we can start to feel overwhelmed. How the hell can I do all these things and feel free to write my story? For God’s sake, the only reason I got into this racket is because I wanted to have some fun!

Scrivener: I invested in this when I started to feel exhausted and confused. I thought it would help me organize my notes and chapters.  And it does, it emphatically does.  It also auto-saves every 2 seconds and allows me to backup to Dropbox so I never have to worry about losing anything. Ever. Can you feel the floor shaking as I jump up and down?

YouTube: Youtube has great resources for beginning novelists. I used Johanna Harness’s Cluster Plotting to help me with basic project planning such as developing a word budget. I also used Katytastic’s How I Outline! and Outlining with Scrivener to start me with a simple chapter template in Scrivener. I knew it would change as I went but it felt super doable to have this at the beginning.

Nanowrimo: Not wanting to rely solely on my meager sense of discipline, I happened upon National Novel Writing Month at the exact right time. When was this time, you ask? Yeah, you guessed it: precisely when I most wanted to quit. But instead of quitting, I decided to join in and get the first 50,000 of my overall 80,000 words. I’ve also hooked up with other participants near me for support, caffeine-sharing, hugs and commiseration.


Your Turn: 4 Questions for Right Now

Consider: according to physics, an insect with the weight and shape of a bumblebee cannot fly. However, the bumblebee does not know this, so it goes ahead and flies anyway.

Take off is easy. Staying up is the hard part. And you’ve got to stay up if you want to finish. Don’t turn into the majority of people who never finish their novel. Instead, use these questions to prepare for the journey:

What’s your vision of love?

What do (or will) will you sacrifice & how much time will you devote?

What is (or will be) your handful of simple ideas that will carry you through?

What are (or could be) the resources you can’t live without?


Showing 10 comments
  • Reply

    Ugh, I’ve been trying to write a novel for 5 years! I have a super rough draft, decided it needed to be completely reworked, and I’ve started from scratch again. So far, what I have in the new version feels a lot better to me, but life gets in the way and with so many other things on my plate, I don’t know if it will ever get finished. My art and writing business seems so much more urgent right now, and that’s fine, but I’ve always wanted to write novels and I know I need to do it sometime, or write another one, or something. Thanks for posting this, it’s super helpful!

    • Cynthia Lindeman

      That sound rough! It’s awesome that you found the energy to rewrite it. Try dedicating some time to it each day. Make the habit of writing more important than the writing itself.

  • Llinos (@sweetslicelife)

    Much as I love, love, love to write, a novel is yet to come to me. It’s definitely a goal of mine, maybe after my non-fiction is published. Lots of stories live inside me.

    • Cynthia Lindeman

      A writer novelist told me something this morning: the stories choose you. I think it will come at the perfect time. 🙂

  • Reply

    Cynthia! What an amazing post! I love your 6 simple ideas and the resources you use. I took a peek at Scrivener once before, but you’ve convinced me to look again. It really helps? For some reason I resist outlining, but I know it can help heaps. I feel another story idea bubbling up inside of me. We’ll see if it becomes priority numero uno.

    • Cynthia Lindeman

      Cassandra, I think scrivener does help . . . when you have lots of information to organize and such. Much better than a plain word document.

  • Reply

    Holy moly, Cynthia! You’ve packed a whole lot of information into one post. Thank you for all of it. A novel is still a long way off in my world, but there just might be a little somethin’ somethin’ on the horizon. I just said on Twitter the other day that I need NaNoWriMo just to finish a short story. 🙂

    Best of luck to you,


    • Cynthia Lindeman

      Thanks Sarah 🙂

  • yiyezhang

    Hey Cythia! thanks so much for sharing this blog – it allows me to get to know you more 🙂
    And what a wonderful list of resource – will check them one by one! I so resonate with your tips on devotion, I’m learning to infuse more love and devotion into my novel…timely wisdom, thank you!

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