Can blogging help you write a novel?

According to my dashboard, this is my 48thpost (the one on WordPress, not some kind of car. Blogmobile?). What with my posts averaging around 1,000 words (some are longer, but the first few were a lot shorter, so I think we can safely round it off at 1,000 per post), in two post’s time I will have written 50,000 words on this blog.

Sneaks up on you

Which is actually quite a lot, considering it only takes about an hour every other day. An hour every other day has, at the end of six months, resulted in me having a body of work that is the same length as about half a novel, give or take ten thousand words. Even for my limited brain (the rest of which I sold to raise money for awesome rock star boots), that means that if I wrote a thousand words every day (except Sundays, or Wednesday; insert your favourite day of rest *here*), I’d have a whole book done.

Funny you should say that

Actually, I do write every day, but I know that a lot of the people I talk to who want to write novels fall down at the first ten thousand words or so because the challenge seems too massive. If you are in a big group of people who all do NaNoWriMo together, you’ll probably notice that a lot of people will drop out before it even starts. The idea of having to write that many words overcomes them straight away.

But when you think about how often you contribute to your blog, and how much you say, you’ll probably be surprised. You have (or could have, if you don’t have a blog yet), typed an entire novel or more in the space of a few months in terms of words, without ever realising it. Yes, we get days occasionally when we know we have to post something, but we can’t be bothered. Sometimes we leave it a couple of weeks. What eventually forces us to sit at that keyboard and bang out another post is that we know there are people waiting, that we are losing traffic and visitors (who could become followers and friends), and overall, because we feel we have to.

I would think up a good title here, but I can’t be bothered…

Let’s face it, most of the reason we give up on the novel(s) that we try to write is because we lack the motivation. I’m terrible for this, but somehow I’ve managed to make up for what I lack in self-motivation with almost galactic-sized ambition (if I was a more confident, less morally grounded person, I’d probably be wanting world domination). But the bottom line is, when we look at the blank screen, or the word count at 20,000 and realise we’re only a quarter, or a fifth of the way through the first draft, most of us will start thinking ‘Y’know, I don’t haveto write this novel…’

Supply and demand

Why blogging is great is because it generates a need. An empty blog looks bad, so you’d better keep filling it up. And once you get followers, you want to keep them happy. And imagine if an agent or publisher was looking you up and saw the barren wasteland of your blog, digital tumbleweed bouncing across the front of your last post, dated several weeks ago. Blogging is a great prompt to get writing; I’ve never gone ‘damn, I need to write a thousand words on my blog’. I’ve thought ‘damn, I should really write another post’, but it’s never been about the word count. And somehow, all my posts seem to round themselves off nicely circa 1,000 words. By the end, whatever my new post is about, I have accidentally written 1,000 words.

Get your novel writing working the same way

Now, I’m the kind of person who likes to keep my writing very close to my chest until it’s ready to be sent out into the world, but you might find that writing a novel as a blog is a good idea. Each post can be a scene/chapter/whatever. The good thing about this is that as the writing process gets harder and the temptation to give up rises, your amount of followers and hits will be rising at the same time. The more you feel like abandoning the project, the more you know you have people who want you to keep going.

After a while, it may even merge into the point where it becomes exactly the same as blogging – you stop thinking, ‘I need to write X many words on the novel today’ and start thinking ‘I need to write another blog post today’. Before you know it, you’ve written several thousand words. And, of course, with each chapter being a post, you can get comments and feedback on it, helping you shape and revise the book as you go.

If that’s a little extreme…

However, if, like me, the idea of sharing your precious idea with the world in this manner is a bit too extreme (and you’ll have to be aware that publishers may be turned off from publishing a book considering that in one form it is already on the internet in its entirety for free), then there are other ways you can tie your writing to your blog. There are loads of widgets all over the place that you can use to update your word count. Make your targets for each week/month/5000 year planetary alignment public, so people coming to your blog can instantly check where you intended to be, and where you are up to. If you get followers, they will probably encourage you to meet your targets, and more importantly berate you if you fall short.

It doesn’t have to be online

One of the main reasons we can write so much on our blogs without it feeling like a novel-length, gargantuan task, is because we feel like we have to. There is a sense that we will be letting ourselves and other people down if we don’t. So, if you don’t want to talk about your novel writing online, all you need is to have some people know that you have targets and who will regularly pester you about your progress. If you feel there are people out there who will know if you fall short or fail, this could be the motivation you need to keep going.

If you can’t find the motivation to keep writing within yourself, then finding some external motivation in the form of family support, nagging friends or some light torture could be what you need to keep you going. If you have a blog, work out an approximate word count, and see how close to an entire novel/trilogy/epic series you are, probably without even realising it.

Do you have motivation problems? Tell me about them, if you can be bothered…

Follow me on Twitter @RewanTremethick.

Got a question? Want to request a post? Got a topic you’d like my take on? thehypertellerATgmailDOTcom.

7 thoughts on “Can blogging help you write a novel?

  1. I certainly do need some form of external motivation to keep me more or less on track with my creative pursuits. It’s so much harder to be lazy when you’ve got writing buddies waiting on the other end for some sort of progress.

    Like you, I balk at the idea of posting a whole novel online, lest publishers be turned off by its sorta-kinda-already-published-ness. On the other hand, if it were a project that I didn’t have those sorts of aspirations for, it could be cool to share the chapters as they’re written in that sort of interactive format.
    Maybe I’ll give that a whirl, one day: Post a bit, say “What do you want to see next, audience?”, and have the story go from there. Itsuspect it would stretch my authorial brain in new and painful-looking, x-treme yoga-like ways.

    1. I do think it’s nice idea, posting a project up piece by piece, as it would give a lot of chance to interact with your followers/viewers, and gain valuable tips on writing (I’m saying ‘you’ as in everyone, btw, not trying to say that *you* desperately need writing tips :)).

      I expect having other writers knowing about your project is even better motivation than family or friends, as they will probably be writing also. Not only will you feel you’ve failed if you don’t meet your deadlines, the amount of work they’ve done will shame you. Feel shame!

  2. Great idea. Writing a novel via a blog.

    I’ve done something like that in my other blog. I’ve been running a weekly series that builds off of the previous week’s entry. I of course wrote the whole thing first and then broke it up per week. It was hard just having this story hanging out there knowing it had to be finished, but it got me writing.

    1. Thanks. If it got you writing then that’s all that matters 🙂 It’s amazing isn’t it, considering you’d think writing was a hobby and a passion, that we all need motivation to do it!

  3. Hi there, finally made it over here. I definitely feel the pull of necessity to write a blog post when it’s been a few days, but it’s generally pulling me away from working on my novel, so not exactly ‘helping’. I do love blogging, though.

    1. Hey. Welcome along! I get the same – there’s something therapeutic about blogging, I find. Maybe it’s an ego thing 😉 Either way, I can’t stop blogging just to write a novel, but I think getting into the motion of regularly updating something with content helps me keep writing regularly 🙂

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