10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Writing My First Novel

This year, 2020, is the year of finishing projects for me. I’ll be releasing the book I’ve been working on for years, and I’m about to release a very different kind of project that I’ve had in my heart for a very long time. In starting these new projects I’ve had to do two things.

  1. Revisit the reason why I started these projects in the first place and 
  2. Learn a lot of really new, difficult things.

So I wanted to share my advice with you, human who may be starting a new project. The first six are mindsets the last four are more practical.

To start, I want you to know that Plans fail, people don’t. If your 2020 resolution was to read a book a week or write your whole novel in January of if for any reason you haven’t completed your goal that simply means that plan didn’t work for you.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many different self help books? Or New fad diets every year? It’s because different plans work for different people. If your plan didn’t make you reach your goal then that means it’s time to reassess your plan and learn why it failed so you don’t make the same mistake again.

Two. Your project isn’t going to turn out like you imagined and that ok. I’ve started writing a lot of books who, over the course of writing it, I dropped tons of character and changed the ending completely. On the other hand I’ve been working on my website for years because when I first started I had way higher expectations for myself than I could actually meet. That’s three. Just start, no matter where your skill level is at. What you will learn doing it the first time will be priceless, you’ll learn so much more doing something for the first time then you could ever learn just doing the research. And on that note. While you should do a bit of research, doing too much will just freak you out and keep you from starting at all.

One of my favorite quotes from any movie is from ‘we bought a zoo’ where the main character says:

Four. Stop Putting so much pressure on yourself. Whenever I start something new I have these super high standards for myself. Usually these end up holding me back as I’ll be self editing too much. Or worst of all I’ll be so frozen by fear that I won’t be able to start at all. To counter act that. Try to just do rough drafts instead. I like to start on paper with a pencil in my hand On blank notebook paper. This really gets the rough ideas out. Then I’ll make it look right, feel right, flow right, before going in and working on the details.

Five. There will always be days when you don’t want to work on the thing. When you’re too tired, have too much going on or life is otherwise just generally in the way. The important thing is that you always come back to the project in the hope that one day you finish it. I’d suggest putting things in your life that inspire you to work towards that goal. Like downloading podcasts, putting up stick notes, asking your friends to harass you. 

Six. You need to enjoy the ride, not just be looking at the goal. For many artists the long term goal can take years and at times seem impossible. But if you genuinely enjoy the act of writing, painting, blogging, vloging, or whatever it is then not only will you come back to it time after time but you’ll steadily improve and one day reach that daunting goal. Enjoying a thing should be reason enough in itself to do it without wanting to get paid or be popular. 

Next up! Share your process and start building a following early but don’t let it come in between you and actually writing. Having a fallowing means having other people who believe in you and hold you accountable. By sharing your processes you’re not only helping the people who are one step behind you but you’re connecting with people who have the same interests as you. Building those friendships means building a community and building a community means being able to bounce ideas off of others.

Eight. The things you’ll end up being the best at are the things you think you’re the worst at. In time you’ll recognize your weak points and work relentlessly to improve them. This not only builds your overall skill but will improve your work in other areas as well. Keep doing your research and don’t get distracted. It’s sometimes important to soul search and decide do you want to be the jack of all trades or master of one?

Nine. It’s a first draft and you’ll have plenty more. Don’t find the right words the first time. What you learn by the end will make you think the start was bad anyway. Your first thing might not be very good but you can be an amazing writer at 70 if you don’t hone your craft before. Every day that you work towards your passions you’re improving. Studies show people overestimate what they can do in an hour and a day but underestimate how much they can do with small consistent effort over a moth or a year.


You need life experience to write a book, to be an artist, and stay happy in life. You don’t have to write what you know but if you never leave the house it’ll be hard to find inspiration. Inspiration, momentum, and words come from the rest of your life, finding the balance and taking time to live, work, and rest is just as important as the writing itself.

I hope that you took away something from these thoughts that were stream of consciousness shot out of my brain and I wish you luck on whatever project you’re working on.

3 responses to “10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Writing My First Novel”

  1. Great advice, Jay! Especially point 2. I used to fixate on how I had initially imagined a plot or character. Flexibility is important.


  2. Thanks so much. Flexibility is important in so many areas of life! I’m still working on going with the flow and accepting what may come 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yep. It gets easier with time I guess. 🙂


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