How Writing a Novel Improved My Bottom Line


In honor of NANOWRIMO, I thought I’d share with you some of the ways writing a novel has impacted my business!

I’ve been writing memoir and fiction for about five years. On a couple of occasions I’ve tried to write a novel. So far… not so good. But I’m determined. This summer I started again. I knew my weaknesses and studied everything I could get my hands on that addressed those areas. Now I’m halfway through a first draft, complete with actual characters and a semi-decent plot. That’s pleasantly surprising, but what really unexpected is how writing the novel has impacted my ‘real’ (read: paying) work.

Accentuating the Positive and Improving Craft

Whether you’re selling toilets or crafting narratives, there are skills you need to master. While it’s important to keep learning new things, you’ve also got to acknowledge what it is you do best and leverage that. Much as I love a dramatic read, I’m no Jodi Picoult – at least not yet. I’m good at a certain type of light fiction and for now – while I’m mastering the basics – I’ll stick with that. In the freelance writing arena I’m learning to spend most of my time on jobs that require skills I already do well and carve out additional time to pursue new types of writing.

Planning the Work and Working the Plan

Probably my biggest problem with fiction has been falling prey to this myth that ‘real writers’ just ooze entertaining and insightful prose and that anything less than brilliance might not be worth the effort. I have resisted planning, structuring, and plotting my fiction. No more! Once I surrendered to the guidance of more experienced novelists, I found that that planning the work really did work. The constraints freed up my creativity and improved my focus. Once I got a taste of that kind of structure I was hooked. When I applied the same discipline to my freelance work, productivity and quality soared.

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Creating Accountability

When I started writing the novel I decided to create accountability for myself by telling just about anyone with ears to hear or eyes to see. I started a series of articles on the subject, announced it on my blog, and posted milestones on Facebook. It’s real, in part because other people know about it and they inquire about my progress. At the same time I mentioned to my writer’s group that I was ready to take the next step in my freelance career, to start working with editors whose feedback would help me improve my writing. Something about saying that out loud gave me the chutzpah to start going after work that was just a little more challenging.

Not everyone’s going to write a novel. I just think it’s very cool how reaching toward a big personal goal can have such a tremendous positive effects in unexpected ways.

What non-business activities have made an impact on your professional life?

  • Congrats on joining NaNoWriMo! I’m a fellow participant and freelance writer, and you make some fantastic points. I also learned through frustration and difficulty that organization is the way to go. While some writers may burp poetry, I know that I work better with a plan. And that also helps my business.

    Best of luck as you keep writing!

  • Of course, school has to be the most influential aspect of my life. It seems to me that this last semester has been one of the most influential of my schooling career. I’ve been learning how to adjust my activities to result in higher performance and I have seen quite an improvement lately. I can take these lessons and apply them in other aspects of life as well. Good luck with the novel.

  • Drea

    Lela–congrats on participating in NaNoWriMo! I did it for two consecutive years in ’05 and ’06. What I learned in the process outweighed the quality of my work, but hey, no plot, no problem, right? I hope your novel gets published!