How to make progress on your novel without writing

I’ve started a couple of novels and always, I mean always, reach a point where I’m stumped.

What next? I let it rest. I research. I go to another project. But above all, I keep writing and still fretting over the unfinished novels.

This past week I read an interesting post on other things a writer can do that will keep the story moving, without writing. You heard right. Without writing! Thank you   for a great list.

Number one we’ve all heard of and I’ve done.

  • Make a collage or vision board.
    • This is a great visual aide but while fun didn’t do much to move my story forward. Pinterest is a great place for a vision board or collage.collage


But I’ve got to admit I never thought about the others on her list. It amounts to walking in your characters shoes.bridal-636018_640

  • Bathroom habits.
    • Never thought about my character’s bathroom habits. Have you?
    • Do they wax, or shave? Shower or bubble bath? Blow dry or curls air dry?
  • Fragrance.
    • Try wearing your characters favorite fragrance. Is it Vanilla, Floral, Musk, Lavender, Old Spice…man-948205_640
  • Location.
    • Visit, either physically or virtually.
  • Music.
    • Fill your house with music, not the kind you enjoy but the music your character enjoys.
  • Beverage
    • If you’re a coffee drinker but your character enjoys tea, switch for a day or two.
    • Martini or cold beer? Try the one you envision your character drinking.
  • Colors.
    • Wear the characters favorite color.
    • Add something in your bedroom or living room in their favorite color.
  • Vehicle.
    • Go to a showroom and sit inside the type of vehicle the character drives.
    • Take a test drive.
    • Ask a friend.
    • Need a tractor go to a farm
    • Historical novel, visit a historical society.
  • Purse/Pockets
    • Look in your purse, handbag or pockets. Do you carry any of the things your character would? Maybe you can add something.
  •  Fashion
    • Clothes horse?
      • What type?
        • Vintage, couture, bargain?
  • Bedroom
    • Is there a way you can change something in your bedroom to mimic your characters? Maybe add soft bulbs in the lamps. Switch sheets to scratchy bargain 300 thread count or spring for luxurious Egyptian Cotton or sexy satin.
  • Computer
    • Literate or a newbie
    • Laptop or Ipad
  • Handwriting
    • Practice writing as you think they might with a beautiful script or an ugly chicken scrawl using your right or left hand.
  • Entertainment
    • What does your character do for entertainment? Watch TV, go to the movies, read books, newspapers or magazines? Whatever the answer is you need to follow in their footsteps here too.

Number 19 on her list was  my favorite.

  • Possessions.
    • She suggested the writer should think about the possessions of the character and search for something they might like to own. To find a small article to use for inspiration as you write.

What a great idea! Thrift shops here I come!

As I wrote my own list, more and more ideas popped into my head.

What about you? 

Can you add another tip to the list?

Any of these tips new to you?

Do you use any of these techniques in your writing?

Will you use any of them in the future?

Which one did you like the best?

To read the entire article look for the link at the bottom of this post.

I’d love to hear from you! Click to write me or contact me on Twitter @jeancogdell, Facebook at  jean.cogdell and, stop by and say hey!

The lights are on and I’m waiting.

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Writing: 20 Ways to Make Progress on a Self-published Novel Without Actually Writing by



21 thoughts on “How to make progress on your novel without writing

  1. If some of these seem too frivolous, try these:
    • Jot notes or outlines of your problems scenes. Brainstorm them, don’t worry about how well they work.
    • Write a short story about a minor character in your novel. Or a series of flash fiction pieces about several minor characters. The stories don’t have to relate to your novel.
    • Read novels similar to your own and see what other novelists did. Joyce said all artists steal. The key is how well we do it. Did another author solve your problem? Great. How can you adapt that to your novel in a new and interesting way? Did another author come up with a really crappy solution? Even better. How can you spin that terrible solution into the perfect solution for your novel.
    • Have Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime? Binge watch movies and series to prime your creative pump or recharge your batteries. Then sleep on it for a couple of nights. Suddenly all those ideas will start stirring in a huge pot at the back of your mind.

    And when you move past the problem, start reading in several genres and watching films in several genres too. Get over your favorites. Your a professional now. Act like one and invest in your business. Don’t watch passively any more either. Always take notes mentally. What did this writer do, or this director do? How could I compose this shot as prose? You’ll be surprised how much easier your novel will flow the next time around.

    Liked by 1 person

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