The 3 Biggest Obstacles to Writing a Novel



We’ve all done it. Gone through work all week looking forward to that slot of time on Saturday afternoon where we’re going to get down and finally get started on that novel we’ve been meaning to write for years… but then when Saturday afternoon comes, suddenly we remember all these important things we have to do. Like put on the laundry. Feed the cat. Just quickly get that washing up out of the way…

The only real answer to procrastination is willpower. But there are a few techniques you can use to try to break through it, such as:

Lower your expectations

Don’t expect to get something brilliant the first time. In fact, don’t even expect to get something good. Just expect to write some words, even if they are gibberish, a string of clichés, or whatever. If that’s all you need to do, then it’s much more achievable.

Impose a deadline

I find having some kind of deadline creates a sense of urgency that makes me much more productive. For example, you could say you’re only going to write for ten minutes, then you’ll put the laundry on. Or sit down to write half an hour before your favourite show.

Set small, achievable goals

If you’re thinking that you’re going to sit down and ‘write a book’, no wonder you’re having trouble getting started. But even writing a whole scene or writing 2000 words can be daunting enough to leave you hyper-ventilating at the starting blocks. If you’re having trouble getting started, set a goal to write 200 words. Setting a very low goal and achieving it is far better than trying for too much and writing nothing at all.

Fear of Failure

Sometimes we subconsciously don’t want to get started because every word we write takes us further from the perfect novel we had in our mind.

The key to getting over this is to realise that becoming a writer is a long path, and basically accepting that the first half a million or so words you write will probably be rubbish. So you might as well get on with paying your dues.

There’s no need to share your work until you’re confident about it, and if you did – I would be astonished if there are any writer’s groups out there who would be anything but constructive and encouraging, even to the most fledging of writers.

Lack of time

Pretty much everybody has the problem of a lack of time. Or if you have got pots of time, then point #1 – procrastination is what’s going to eat away at your time.

If you really want to be a writer, then you’re going to have to find time. At first it might be easier to find small chunks of time – even half an hour or twenty minutes between tasks will get you somewhere – even if it does take a while.

Can you watch an hour’s less TV or cook something simple one day? Can you ask someone to watch the kids for an hour, just to give you a little writing time.

All in the mind

As you may have noticed, none of the obstacles to getting started writing a novel have anything to do with the craft of writing itself, and everything to do with state of mind and attitude. As with many pastimes we enjoy, becoming a writer is a choice of lifestyle as much as a hobby. If you really want to be a writer, your determination will see your through all of these obstacles.