Writing My Novel: Keep On Writing

writing 6 When I finished my novel’s first draft, I knew two things could happen:

  1. I could take a break and revel in the success of finally writing a book while I enjoy the summertime a little.
  2. I could jump immediately back into writing, using what I learned while writing my novel to produce some quality stories and ideas.

Both sounded incredibly appealing, but in the end, I went with number 2.  Well, not entirely; my jumping back into writing wasn’t immediate.  I finished my novel on a Friday and didn’t start back up with a short story until the following Tuesday.

Why did I choose this route?  Because no matter how awesome I think my novel is, the odds are against it being the first book I sell.  It might happen, and even if it does, I can’t think of a single working novelist who makes his or her living from one book.  It’s just not done.

The Golden Rule

Aside from that there is one rule—very nearly a cliché or a platitude—that applies to every writer: writers write.

Stephen King said in On Writing, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

So since my end game is to make a living as a writer, I took the only road I was told was open to me.

I wrote.

What It Accomplished

I honestly thought I would hit a dry spell in the time after I finished writing 86,000 words. I was wrong.  So far, my post-novel fiction productivity has included:

  • Two pieces of flash fiction.
  • One new short story started.
    • Having trouble plotting where I want it to go.  I just need to sit on it a bit.
    • I love the first line: “When I think about the end of the world, I taste Cheetos.”
  • One old short story being revised.
    • An 8,000 word monster I wrote in college that needs some trimming down, but has a great concept.
  • One new, standalone novel synopsized in OneNote (thanks for the suggestion, Rhii).
    • I worked out the beginning, middle, and end already.
    • I have a short story already written about how the two main characters meet, and once I finish a round on the other one, I’ll get to fixing this one.

Not a bad haul if I do say so myself.

Here’s the Thing

Writing is addictive.  When I’m not writing, much of my time is spent thinking about writing.  If that’s sad, I can’t help it.  I like to consider it being in-the-zone.  I have my game-face on, and I know that I am becoming a better writer with every word I write.

I have a lot more ideas now than I did when I sat down in May and started working on my novel.  I think that’s fantastic.  If I had stopped writing and considered myself done for the summer, then a lot of creativity would have been lost.  I learned a lot of lessons from writing my very first novel, and postponing my writing would have squandered them.  I needed to keep in practice so that writing my second, third, fourth, umpteenth novel would be far easier, more fun, and more productive.

So here’s the thing: it’s okay to take a break between projects.  But make sure you’re writing something.  If what you just finished was a novel, your next one doesn’t have to be.  In fact, JA Konrath said that he would never try to write back-to-back novels again because of how hard it was.  flash-fictionI understand that, which is why I stuck to my initial plan and started working on short stories to try and sell.  And now that I’ve done that for a few weeks, I’m excited about the prospect of the other novel I have stewing around in my head.

What you write doesn’t even necessarily have to be coherent.  Just so long as you’re writing.  I know that sounds weird, but you’ll get in the habit of self-proofing/editing as you go, which in the end makes your writing that much better.

I don’t care what you write.  It can be fiction or nonfiction.  A novel or a short story. A diary or a blog.  Even a letter to your best friend from fourth grade.  It doesn’t matter.  If you consider yourself a writer, than you owe it to yourself to write.

Even when you think you’re done.  Even when you’re tired of it.  Even when  you have no idea where you want the characters to go or what you want them to do.  Even when you simply don’t have any more ideas, you need to write something.

Because if you slack off, I guarantee that you will lose any forward momentum gained while writing regularly and that getting back into it will be harder than you could ever believe.  When I took two months off from blogging at the beginning of the year, I thought coming  back to three posts per week was going to kill me.

I don’t want that to happen to my fiction.  I never want fiction to be that hard again—because it was when I started in May.  It was hard, and I doubted that I could reach the goals I set myself.  And now, it’s coming far more easily.  I’ve settled in and found a routine that works for me.  And I want to keep it.  I want to stay in the groove.

Too much of my life has gone by with me thinking I’ll write when I have time and then never having time.  I have a folder of novels on my computer that I started and never even got 10k words into before I gave up because of how much time and effort it would take to finish.

It doesn’t matter how much you write, just as long as you do it regularly.  I know once the fall semester starts, I won’t be able to churn out fiction at the rate I currently am (though I do hope to get a NaNoWriMo draft of a sequel to my first one banged out).  I just won’t have the time.  But I guarantee that I will have at least one night a week (hopefully more!) where I can sit down with a novel or short story or just an inkling of an idea and write my heart out.  That’s all it takes.

Because I’m a writer.  It’s what I do.

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. It’s been extremely interesting to see you develop as a fiction writer since you started in May. Keep writing about the process, I think it’s awesome.

    I started writing a few months ago and have found that I really enjoy it. I hope to keep my momentum and keep blogging on my site. I was also thinking about trying my hand at fiction. Do you have any advice on how to start fiction writing? Any good places to start or tips to keep in mind? I’m in a pretty good habit of blogging regularly now, but I’m not sure how to expand out from it.

    1. I’m really glad you’ve been enjoying it, Void.

      The best advice I can have on fiction writing is just get out there and do it. It’s probably going to be bad. Reading most of my old stuff makes me cringe, but I’ve gotten a lot better over the years. Pick something you like and write about it. It works for me very much like blogging these days. I just sit down and do it without really thinking about it. Find the time during your day and /force/ yourself to sit and write fiction. Sometimes it won’t be fun, but set yourself a goal, even a small one, and make sure that you reach it. When–not if–you reach it, set another one.

  2. really really inspiring that post is professor, really thanks for that…I think for being a writer that’s what is required…a stubborn attitude to keep on writing no matter what.

    1. That’s pretty much it. I agree with Stephen King that you can’t make a great writer out of an okay one, but you can make a good writer out of a decent one. And the only way that happens is through the act of doing it. Being good at writing, like anything else, simply means you practice it, but for some reason people think writing is a magical, muse-inspired act of creation, when it is probably more often related to digging ditches with your brain.

  3. You’re welcome for the suggestion. I take it you’re liking OneNote as much as I do?

    I’m jealous of your resolve. I’m having the best opportunity of my life (a full summer, jobless, financed, and taking only one class) and it’s coinciding with the dryest dry spell of my life. What I’ve used it for is a lot of heavy duty reading though, and that can only be beneficial down the line, I suppose.

    Also, largely because of your rave review, I bought a Kindle this summer. It’s fantastic, thank you for the inspiration. I promptly bought a copy of the Lies of Locke Lamora, and I’m probably going to get started on it after I finish out the last few of Margaret Frazer’s Joliffe mystery novels (the series is that lovely slow-burning style of mystery where there’s not even usually a crime until more than halfway through the book, it focuses on a troupe of players in medieval England).

    1. I do. I very much love OneNote.

      And don’t be jealous. This is the first time in my life I’ve actually had the resolve to do it. Part of that came through my wife, who really kicked me into gear through the end of our graduate school career together, and it kind of stuck. I always thought writing would just happen and it doesn’t. It takes more discipline than anything else I have ever tried. And that’s a good thing.

      And yeah, the reading thing…I can’t say that’s a bad way to spend a summer.

      Also, I hope you like your Kindle. I love love love mine. I hope you like Locke Lamora, it was a lot of fun, even if it was a bit slow to start. I’m really curious about the sequel and probably want to jump in sometime before the third one hits shelves.

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