7 Writing Lessons I Learned the Hard Way while Writing My Novel

A Guest Post by Shayla Raquel

7 Writing Lessons I Had to Learn the Hard Way - a guest post by Shayla Raquel
7 Writing Lessons I Had to Learn the Hard Way - a guest post by Shayla Raquel


Quite often do we dive in the next project beyond  our current experience with great expectations and optimism without even expecting what great changes this might bring to our lifestyle. While change is the only constant thing in this world, it might be a good idea to be prepared in advance.   


In today's guest post my friend expert editor Shayla Raquel (who has edited over 300 books!) is sharing seven lessons she learned the hard way while working on her first novel "The Suicide Tree".


Probably they can prove to be helpful on your own creative journey.



The Journey

My first novel, The Suicide Tree, isn’t finished yet. But oh, how close I am to the finish line!


Of course, I’ve encountered many obstacles along this tortuous course. Lend your ears, for I have wisdom to share.


Behold! Seven writing lessons I had to learn the hard way.


Lesson #1: Outlining is a complete waste of time for novelists.

If you’re thinking a chapter-by-chapter outline will save your butt from Plot Hole Hollow, then you’d better rethink your strategy. Novelists follow plot bunnies—nay, they sprint after them, hopping along the merry path in search of Mr. Fluffy’s final destination.


Frustrated and furious with Outline Hell, I finally turned to my knight in shining paper: Writing Deep Scenes. Once I mastered this method, I didn’t feel like slamming my forehead onto my keyboard any more.


It teaches you that there are actually four parts to a novel:

  1. Beginning,
  2. Emerging Middle,
  3. Deeper Middle, and
  4. Ending.

So if outlining drives you nuts, then try this method instead.


Lesson #2: Travelling 878 miles to write a book actually works.

Solitude is underappreciated and underused.


I went to Pensacola Beach, Florida in May 2015 to start my novel. I think I wrote 40,000+ words while I was there. The peace and quiet made all the difference in the world.


I realize not everyone can jump in the car and drive 878 miles to write their novel. But I knew if I wanted to start this book, I had to get far away from everyone and everything.


I wish I would’ve done it again this year to finish the book; but ah, a house payment!


Lesson #3: Those stupid writing goals nearly killed my creativity.

when you sit down to write, just write.
  • I haven’t reached my 1,500 word count goal.
  • The only thing I’ve written is dialogue.
  • I have been using too much passive voice.
  • I have 28 plot holes I haven’t fixed.
  • I am the worst writer ever.

The things I would murmur to myself during those late-night writing hours—oof!

We get so caught up in how many words we should be writing and how many hours we should be writing that we forget to be creative.


We start pushing for numbers instead of pushing for memorable characters.


I don’t know about you, but those rigid goals stifled my creativity and made me feel bad about myself when I didn’t meet them.


For me, I had to step away from “Write X amount of words every single day”

and shift into “Write on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. One word is better than zero words.”


Once I got that down—one word is better than zero—my mentality shifted and I felt happy after just writing 100 words.



Lesson #4: Accountability saved my creativity.

When you have people rooting for you, you want so badly to keep those smiling faces around.


I don’t know if it was the writing group I started organizing or the writing conference in Dallas I attended, but once I had people cheering for me to finish my novel, I knew I could do it. If not for me, for them.


If you’re looking around right now thinking:


"Wait, do I need an actual human for accountability? Where are those?"


then don’t worry! You have options:

  • You can attend or start a writers’ group in your area.
  • You can post in some Facebook writing groups to see if someone else also needs an accountability partner.
  • You can ask your best friend to stay on your tail to ensure you’re writing in your book.


Lesson #5: Hulu and Netflix must go.

I talked about this in a recent post— 11 Simple Changes I Made to Improve My Writing Habit — but asking my friend to change my Hulu and Netflix passwords was a genius idea.


It’s been two weeks, and I still haven’t watched any shows.


Guess what happens in the evening after my work is completed and there’s nothing on the tube? I get to writing, baby!



Lesson #6: All distractions must go.

Did you know there’s an off button on your iPhone? Crazy, right?


For me, my smartphone was cramping my writing style. Usually, I’ll leave it in my bedroom while I write in my office or in the living room in my favourite chair.


That’s not the only distraction vying for my attention, though. I work constantly, so e-mails pop up on my screen. There’s an off button for that!


My dogs, as adorable as they are, want to sit in my lap constantly. Yes, even the 65-pound Doberman. When I’m writing, they have to go elsewhere.


Take the distractions and shove them in a different room for an hour while you write.


Lesson #7: Comparison will eat you like a zombie eats brains. MMm!! Delicious!

Perhaps it’s because I work with authors every day. Maybe it’s because so many of my close friends are authors, promoting their books at events and speaking engagements. I don’t know what it is, but when I see authors who just throw out new books like confetti, I want to crawl under my desk and sniffle. I’m not much of a cryer, but I could get out a sniffle or two.


Finally, I remembered:


“Don’t compare your beginning to somebody else’s middle.”


If I want to finish my novel, I have to stop comparing myself to other authors. And I’m guessing you need to do the same.


When you feel the comparison bug bite you, grab your pen and write down three goals you accomplished that week on your book. It’ll make you feel better.


About Shayla Raquel

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