1. Finish your day’s writing when you still want to continue. Don’t. You’ll forget what you wanted to say. Even if you don’t, you’ll spend your time worrying that you might forget. Whichever way, it is unhealthy. Of course, keeping at it when you haven’t eaten for a week or slept for two is also unhealthy. It’s all about finding that balance. Writing is often likened with opening a vein exactly because there is a continuous flow to it. So wait for a natural break in the story or put your ideas down in bullet-point form if your eyelids keep closing, and you’ll stay sane(er).
2. Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a novel. Are you hungry? Then you need to sell it. Your novel is a product. If you intend to take that product to the market, you should ensure it is of utmost quality so it can fetch more than other products, or at least fetch something to allow you to continue creating your next product. If everybody else creates something and expects to be paid for their goods, why should a writer NOT expect the same? Writing is hard, it takes patience, discipline and more than a little determination and commitment. Just like Ben and Jerry make an original, awesome ice-cream flavour that no one else has thought about and expect to sell it for good money, so should you. Do your market research and get going.
3. Find yourself a quiet little corner in which to write. Well, do so if you have the time, but bear in mind that good ideas don’t wait for you to go to your writing table. There isn’t a best place just as there isn’t a best time. The trick isn’t to write in a perfect location, but to write perfectly anywhere. You don’t get a heart surgeon say ‘I don’t like this hospital, I can only perform this surgery in that one’, do you? Of course it would be easier to write when there is no one around to bother and interrupt you, but many of us cannot afford such luxury. We don’t give up, we just stop allowing things to get in your way. You get a good idea and the casserole is ten minutes from being ready? Jot it down before dinner and then go write right afterwards. The washing up can wait.
4. You must write every day. You can, of course, and most of us do so anyway because we have day jobs, or we answer emails, or we send a birthday card, or we make a shopping list for our beloved. But writers also need time to dream. You can’t simply sit down and start churning words on a page if you don’t feel like it. Chances are they will have to be cut tomorrow. And you will undermine your self-trust because you will be aware you can do much better. It’s not that you can’t write, it’s more that your heart may not be in it. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back. You can spend the time doing research or thinking through a resolution or coming up with a name or two, if you feel guilty for not writing. Remember, forced writing shows as easily as a forced smile.
5. Finish what you started. You don’t have to. If you get an idea that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and you can’t wait to put it down on paper, then follow your instincts and do so. You can always go back to finish what you’re working on at some later date, or you can even bin it completely if you feel it’s going nowhere. Not finishing a book is not a weakness or a sin. Many authors work on more than one project at any one time. It’s normal and it allows you to write what comes naturally. Writing should be a pleasure. The more you force it, the worse it gets, for you and for your readers.