How to write a novel on holiday

BY Richard Mellor

1st Jan 2015 Travel

How to write a novel on holiday

You’ve always intended to write a book and yet you've never started. For most of us, the culprit is time. Luckily, there’s a solution: book a holiday.

Follow these 10 steps to the letter and you'll have your novel written faster than you can say "passport control":


1. Go somewhere boring

writing somewhere boring

Seriously. When it comes to writing, distraction is not your ally. Pick a country cottage or villa with absolutely no tempting local sights or bright lights in proximity.

If possible, don’t even take a car to best limit your escape options. 


2. Go somewhere nice

countryside view

Boring doesn’t have to mean horrible. Rural scenes can inspire, stirring your writerly senses.

On breaks, a country stroll or sleepy village circuit is preferable to laps of housing estates.


3. Carefully choose your writing spot

carefully chosen spot

This is crucial. The two chief criteria are comfort—a healthy chair and desk set-up for your back—and visual encouragement.

A lovely, light-filled view can make words flow more easily.


4. Be vigilant with the web

procrastinating on phone

You’ll likely need the internet for fact-checking, or even musical purposes. But consider putting a strict boundary around it: five minutes surfing per hour, say, or mealtime-only usage. 

And whatever you do—please—don’t check your email.


5. Schedule your days

taking lunch

Oceans of time can be problematic. As Doctor Who radio scribe William Gallagher sagely says, “When you think you have the whole day, you probably won’t do anything.”

The trick is to be disciplined and to schedule. When will you start? What time is lunch? How long for breaks?


6. Plan


It’s so tempting to just plough straight in, make a start, get going. So tempting, but so unwise. A much better idea is to first plan out your novel.

Premises are great, but how will the plot resolve itself? Decide on tone, style of narration, chapter set-up and your characters’ backstory.


7. Reward yourself

pouring kettle

Regular breaks will benefit your work. It’s so easy to procrastinate though, to fix a tenth cup of tea and avoid facing that tricky next chapter.

Author Chris Guillebeau recommends motivational break-taking: “Tie your fun to your goals. Provide a reward at the end of the chapter.”


8. Alleviate stress


Sometimes it’ll flow, but sometimes it won’t. Every writer has been there: the nagging sense of producing utter bilge, or 10 minutes’ toiling over a five-word sentence.

Find a means of releasing these frustrations. The candidates include exercise, meditation or phoning a chum and simply voicing your woes.


9. Think word count

word count

Are you writing a novel or a novella? There’s no hard-and-fast rule, but the former typically have circa 70,000 words.

You’ll do well to achieve that in a one-week holiday, but you can certainly do the bulk. Able to spare a fortnight? Then consider your goal set.


10. Be realistic

word count

Bad news: you’re probably not the next Ian McEwan. But that isn’t the point. Yes, you want your work to be brilliant; but the real accomplishment is in simply finishing it, and being able to say that you have. Focus on that.

Good luck!