new years resolutions

Is This the Year to Write Your First Novel?

Is there a book burning within you that wants to burst out? Is this the year you should write your first novel? Deciding to forge ahead and write your story can feel like a big decision, and considering it may stir some surprising emotions.

We wanted to share Leslie’s story, below, for anyone who desperately wants to write a novel, but who hasn’t quite committed yet. She published this post in 2014, when she worried she didn’t have the skills or knowledge necessary to write a novel. If this is where you’re at, read on (and read to the end for her 2017 update).

Is This the Year to Write Your First Novel?


First-Time Novelist

I am writing a novel for the first time. I have several friends who are indie authors with multiple novels under their belts. I’m a newbie, though I’ve been writing for a long time.

I didn’t intend to write a novel this year. I had been focusing on working on Writership, writing my blog, and doing my personal writing practice. I was a confirmed nonfiction writer.

This conviction came from a time when I wanted to write fiction, but didn’t know how. I read voraciously, wrote professionally, and did a lot of writing practice, but didn’t know what the steps were between an idea and a finished novel. Over ten years ago, I took creative writing classes through the local university extension. The MFA graduate instructors were nice and supportive, but the classes weren’t that helpful to me. They consisted of reading exquisitely written short stories and the encouragement to go forth and “do what they did.” I couldn’t, and I took that as a sign that I didn’t have the fiction gene. I went back to writing nonfiction.

I love Writership because it represents the intersection of three areas I love dearly: writing, community, and passing along what I’ve learned. But although we serve fiction writers, I never imagined I’d be writing a novel myself this year. When we first started Writership and offered free writing workshops, we used many fiction prompts. One character kept showing up in my writes: a cross between my best friend when I was in fifth grade and the character in a series of books I’d been reading. With few exceptions, even when I started writing about something else, she showed up and did adventurous things that I had never done, like sneaking out of the house at night to explore her hometown.

It was just after this that I started to play with the possibility of writing about my character. Then I was lying in bed one night, and I thought of a setting, and as my character moved about in the setting, I suddenly had a premise. I set up a twenty-four hour retreat for Mother’s Day to create an outline for my novel, and then I sort of floundered. I didn’t have a lot of time to devote to it. I became worried that I wouldn’t be able to do this, or maybe it wouldn’t be this year. When I sat down to write, I heard a loud voice in my head: You’re just kidding yourself. You cannot do this. I found tasks other than working on my novel; there's always plenty to do. I hoped I would get back to it, but hope doesn’t write the words.

Then I read this piece by Kelsye Nelson, and made a commitment to myself to get up and write every day in June for two hours before my children wake up no matter what the voice was saying. I am pleased to report that I'm making good progress. There are parts that are hard, but I am finding that it's all figure-out-able, as Marie Forleo says, because there are so many generous writers willing to share their knowledge, expertise, and experience. I'm sure there will be many more bumps along this road, but I am firmly committed to this goal of writing my first novel.

I share this story in case there are readers who, like me ten years ago, desperately want to write a novel, but haven’t yet acquired the necessary skills and knowledge. There is plenty of support available. The best strategy for me has been to think about the kind of help I need and keep looking for it until I find it. It is out there (some of it is here), and it is figure-out-able.

We invite you to share the journey of your first novel in the comments below, whether you are a seasoned author or haven’t yet written the first word. Where are you at in your journey, and what have you learned?


2017 Update:

Since writing this post, I’ve continued to work on my fiction. It isn’t always smooth sailing, but it’s a voyage I’m enjoying.  I often struggle with balancing my personal writing with work, but am inspired by the amazing authors whose fiction I edit. My story has morphed from that first character and setting to something quite different, and every turn it takes teaches me something new about myself. I have two rough drafts, not a finished novel yet, but the journey itself is a joy.

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If you liked this post and want more from Writership, join our crew. You’ll receive our newsletter and a free copy of Cast Your Net with Writership, a collection of 25 exercises to inspire your fiction.

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Cast Your Net with Writership, 25 Exercises to Inspire Your Fiction  by Leslie Watts.


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8 Steps to Setting Writing Goals for 2017

With New Year’s Eve just one day away, you may have been thinking about your resolutions and goals for 2017. I know we here at Writership have. We have some pretty exciting plans for the business (which you’ll hear more about next month). We also have self-care and family goals, and—as we’re fiction writers ourselves—personal writing resolutions.

We’re using Leslie’s eight steps to setting writing goals to ensure our new year’s resolutions are more than just wishful thinking. The steps are laid out in her post, below. This was originally published three years ago but, as you’ll see, the process is time-tested and true, and just as helpful today.

We invite you to join us in reading the post, following the steps, and making personal writing resolutions for 2017.

8 Steps to Setting Writing Goals for 2017 with Writership


Setting Goals: Your roadmap to keep you on track

As writers we have lots of tasks and projects that we want to accomplish in any given year. Creating effective goals and getting them down on paper is a great way to stay in touch with them. When you consider that the world is full of distractions, but also important responsibilities, you can understand why it’s not always easy to stay focused on what we want. We have to make choices about where to use our time and energy. For me, that means I need a roadmap to keep me on track. 

Let me be clear that it is absolutely fine to write for writing’s sake. I did it for many years. But if you dream of writing a book or starting a blog to share your stories or what you’ve learned, it’s helpful to set clear intentions. 

The process I outline below is one that I’ve been using for several years. I’ve taken different parts of it from many sources, including Your Best Year Yet by Jinny S. Ditzler, Pick Four by Seth Godin, and The Energy of Money by Maria Nemeth.


Step One: Taking Stock

The first thing you want to do is take stock of where you are. Make a list of all your writing accomplishments from the last year. We seldom do this, and we often forget how much we do accomplish, and thus, what we’re capable of doing in the future. I like to set a timer (writing practice style) and list as many as I can. Be sure to include anything related to your writing that you did in the last year. 


Step Two: Reviewing the Secret of Your Success

Next take that list and ask yourself, “How did I get all of this done?” Did you form regular habits? Did you prioritize your writing by scheduling it rather than leaving it to chance? Did you get help from a friend? Did you take a course? It’s okay to not know for sure, but you can probably think of a few strategies that supported your writing in the last year.


Step Three: Acknowledging Disappointments

Now, list your disappointments from the last year. What had you hoped for that didn’t work out? Where did you fall short of expectations? Your aim in this process is to choose attainable goals. As a result, you want to see what didn’t work and where you need help. We learn as much (or more) from our disappointments as we do from what goes well. 


Step Four: Examining Disappointments

After you’ve made your list, ask yourself, “Why didn’t these things work out?” Did you set goals that were unrealistic given your current commitments? Did you procrastinate? Did you fail to set boundaries with others? Did you fail to make your writing goals a priority? What got in the way and prevented your success in the past?

The intent here is not to beat yourself up because that is not useful or helpful. You want to see as clearly as you can what worked and what didn’t so you know where to put your focus and attention going forward. Now, set those lessons aside for a moment; you are about to enter Dreamtime.


Step Five: Entering Dreamtime

Make a list of all your big writing dreams. Assume that money, time, and the present state of your skills are no object. If you want to quit your day job and write three bestsellers, put it down. This process is designed to uncover the deep dreams that even you don't know you possess. So get after it and write anything down that occurs to you. One crazy idea might lead to another crazy idea until you zero in on the one true thing you've always wanted to do with your life. You can dial it back a little later in the process if need be. For now, the only limits are your imagination and your heart’s desire. 


Step Six: Weeding Out

Now it’s time to whittle down that list into a manageable size. Get rid of anything that is illegal, physically impossible, or was there because someone else thinks you should do it. But don’t cross off anything just because it’s really hard and will require you to learn new skills.

For everything that is left, ask yourself “Why do I want this?” and “How would it feel if I achieved this?” Write the answer next to each entry that remains. If you can’t think of why you want something, or if achieving it wouldn’t feel very good, cross it off. 


Step Seven: Honing In

Once you have a clear list of goals you truly want to achieve, pick three or four that you are willing to commit to over the next year. By commit, I mean that you are willing to put in the work and learn new skills to accomplish it. You might be tempted to add five or ten, but resist the urge. The more goals you list at one time, the more you dilute your time and effort. 

Craft goal statements to support your success. Your goals should possess these qualities:

Specific: Be clear about what it is you want to accomplish.

Measurable: How will you know you’ve achieved your goal?

Attainable: Given your other commitments and what you have control over, is this goal attainable? 

Relevant: You’ll need motivation to carry you through. Make sure your goals are aligned with your values and your big dreams.

Time-frame: When do you plan to have this goal completed? Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be this year. 


Step Eight: Getting Help

We all need some help along the way. Here are some suggestions to make the most of your shiny new goals.

  • Write them down and keep them visible. Keep a regular reminder of where you want to go. If there is a visual image that reminds you of your goal, display it prominently.
  • Make a plan. Break big goals into smaller chunks and tasks. Schedule these tasks so they get done. Always know what your next step is. Look back at your lessons learned. What do you need to add to the plan to be successful?
  • Figure out what skills and resources you will need to complete your goals. Make a plan to get these.
  • Stick with it. If you get distracted for a time, jump back in. Don’t let one day missed become two or three. Keep working toward each goal unless you find that you were truly mistaken about wanting it. 
  • Get an accountability partner or support team. These are people you can share your progress with, who will ask you about how things are going, and who will remind you of why you are doing it.

When you set writing goals using this process, you will be well on your way to achieving them. What are your goals for the next year? Tell us in the comments below.


Join the crew!

If you liked this post and want more from Writership, join our crew. You’ll receive our newsletter and a free copy of Cast Your Net with Writership, a collection of 25 exercises to inspire your fiction.

Name *
Cast Your Net with Writership, 25 Exercises to Inspire Your Fiction  by Leslie Watts



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