Columns > Published on March 16th, 2021

Weapons of Choice to Draft That Novel Now

You know how I know it’s March? Nope, not the sea of green in preparation for St. Paddy’s Day. Not the light spring breeze that I can almost pretend is actually there. No. 

I know it’s March because I can feel the collective ooze of self-loathing from a community of writers who are feeling their goals of writing-that-dang-novel-this-year coming to a carpet burn-y halt. 

You had grand plans, I know you did. You were going to write that novel THIS YEAR. This year was going to be YOUR YEAR. And it was chugging along swimmingly, I’m sure. 

But now you’ve hit the middle. The muddy, mucky, super swampy and smelly middle where all grand plans have gone astray and nothing is what it seems. 

Here’s the good news: You’re not alone in this mucky middle phenomenon. 

Every novelist feels the supreme tug of the in between, the belly weight of the book that drags along the ground. But there are ways to power through. Here are some weapons of choice for your journey to a finished draft: 

Weapon of Choice: Word Quotas

Flexibility allows you to know yourself as a writer and know what you need when you need it.

Try to hit a daily word quota. Many writers try for 300-500 words a day or 1500-2000 words a week. Yeah, they’ll probably be shitty words. What first draft isn’t full of shitty words? Shitty words can be revised. Non-existent words cannot. 

Strength: Excellent for eliminating that overwhelming sense of not-enough that lurks when drafting. You have done enough—you hit your quota! Work day done.

Weakness: Some days you will just simply not hit your quota. (Your dog puked, a pipe broke, day job called, etc.) Or, you’ve hit a snag in the plot and simply do not know what to write next. Which requires the next weapon of choice…

Weapon of Choice: Time Clock 

Set yourself a timer and clock in, clock out like this is your job. (Because it is your job.) Start small—thirty to forty-five minutes. Maybe you’ll write, maybe you won’t. But once the time is up, you’re free. You can clock out. Yes, some days I stare into space for an hour. But a lot of the time, I write. What else am I going to do?

Strength: If you’re struggling to stay seated in the chair because you have 34,793,749 other things to do, the time clock is for you. It’s also pretty good for setting boundaries against those co-workers family members who need to know when you’re “in office” and unavailable. But the biggest strength IMO is the pressure it takes off of production. A half-hour spent tinkering on a plot problem is a half-hour well spent, even if you did not add any words to your draft. 

Weakness: We’re writers, so we daydream. As mentioned, I’m perfectly capable of sitting and staring into space for an hour or more. If you notice that you’re daydreaming more than working, it may be time to switch weapons. Let’s try…  

Weapon of Choice: Force of Habit 

This weapon takes time to master. But once you do, it is the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. Maybe it’s that you write as soon as you wake up. Maybe you write after the rest of house goes to bed. Maybe you catch some words on your lunch break at the day job. Creating a habit of writing has a powerful effect on kick-starting your sludgy brain into action if your brain comes to expect that, “okay, at seven AM every morning, this dummy is going to expect me to come up with words so I better do it.” It’s almost magic, once it gets going. 

Strength: Habits are easy to make and hard to break. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a healthy hard-to-break habit for once, like meeting your daily word count? 

Weakness: This takes time to create. Which means you have to do the work of creating the habit even when you don’t want to. The work is made much easier when you have the next weapon on your side. Retrieve your…

Weapon of Choice: Writing Trigger 

This is the item that builds your Force of Habit. Is it a cup of coffee? Is it reading tarot cards? Is it a certain place you prefer to sit when writing? The Writing Trigger is the bonus pack required to supercharge your Force of Habit. Once you find it, you’ll never look back. 

Strength: Once you identify your trigger, it can be used to jumpstart your Force of Habit even at odd times, like when you’re under the gun for a deadline. Always write with a cup of coffee? Go ahead and make yourself some coffee, even in the afternoon, and sit down to write. Yeah, you probably won’t sleep tonight. But the work will be done. 

Weakness: As with any trigger or habit, it can become controlling. Suddenly, you can’t write without your coffee, tarot cards, lucky socks. Which is why you absolutely must utilize this final, greatest weapon of all…

Weapon of Choice: Flexibility  

Sometimes a word quota will be just the weapon you need. Sometimes, you need the time clock. Or sometimes you need to create your own weapon to defeat this beast of a book. Flexibility allows you to know yourself as a writer and know what you need when you need it. 

Strength: Remaining flexible and open to what you need to do your work allows you to switch your arsenal in and out as needed, mastering all evenly. Grasshopper, you are ready.

Weakness: None. For real. There is no weakness to being flexible, especially in this weird ol’ world of writing. 

What are your writing weapons of choice? 

About the author

Lisa Bubert is a writer and editor for hire with All Things Words. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Puerto del Sol, Washington Square Review, Carolina Quarterly, and more. Her story, “Kitten,” which appeared in Pidgeonholes, was nominated for Best Small Fictions 2020. Her story, “The Coma,” which appeared in the final issue of Natural Bridge journal, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Learn more at

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