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Reasons You Can't Write a Novel and How to Overcome Them.

Updated on November 15, 2010

I don’t have enough time.

Let’s face it, unless you’re independently wealthy, have a full staff taking care of your chores and no children, pets, friends, family or other hobbies there are always going to be things in your life that will distract you from that book you haven’t written. If you are serious about writing you have to make the time to write. Sometimes that means allowing the dishes to sit in the sink an extra day, or letting friends know you’re just not available to hang out tonight.

There are always people who say that they truly, genuinely, inescapably have far too much going in their lives to find the time to write. I actually believed them too until I met a woman with 6 kids, a day job, and three published novels with a few more on the way.

Before most famous writers were famous writers they were people with families, jobs and responsibilities just like you. They were bankers, journalists, farmers, teachers, governesses and librarians. They had children to take care of and houses to keep clean and running smoothly. Today some of these people are the most renowned and respected authors on the planet. Because they made writing a top priority and stuck with it no matter what came their way. If you are serious about writing than you are going to have to do the same.

I don’t have a computer.

Not having a computer will certainly make it harder to finish your novel. Harder, but by no means impossible. At the bare minimum you will need paper and a pen or pencil. A pen is ideal. Your life would be a little easier if you also had a flash drive or a rewritable disc. The disc is a little cheaper but will hold less storage. Unless your novel rivals War and Peace, you should be okay with either.

Armed with your storage device you can walk into any library (you’ll need a card at most) or internet café. Most libraries and some café’s have computers for public use. Type up your handwritten work and you’re on your way. Later you can print your work out and continue the edit by hand.

If even a flash drive or RW CD are not available to you there is another option. Websites like Google, Yahoo and Hotmail offer free email addresses with a fair amount of storage space. Create an account and send your work to yourself or save it in drafts. That way every time you can access the internet you can access your novel.

I know it won’t be good, so why bother?

Well, first of all, you need to get over yourself. Very few people manage to write something great the first time around. Just like anything else, writing takes practise. Practise makes better, and with every completed short story, novella or novel you are sure to get better.

Keep and open mind, learn from your mistakes and allow other people to read your work. When they do, listen to what they say and take it to heart.

I have learned one trick that really helped to take the pressure off and got me to the end of my first novel. Set out to write a bad novel. Don’t worry to much about the actual writing. Focus on creating the story and the characters. Once your bad novel is done you can either rewrite it until it’s good, or start again. With one novel (even a bad one) under your belt you will find the ice broken and the going a little easier.

I kant spel worth anything an dont eaven get me started on gramer.

 This one is pretty easy to fix. English grammar is difficult to master but that is why so many people have written books on the subject. Your local library will be filled to the brimming. Even people confident in their mastery of the English language should at the very least browse through them. A personal favourite of mine is Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss.

As for as your spelling goes, that’s what spell check is for! Use it, and use it well. After you’ve written your poorly punctuated, poorly spelt novel, ask friends to look it over. I promise your spelling and grammar will get better over time. 

I don’t know where to start/ I have no inspiration.

One handy tool if you don’t know where to start is to start at the end. Working your way backwards has the added benefit of not getting lost along the way. This is also a fun challenge for people who write regularly.

If inspiration is your problem than you are in luck because the world is full of it! There are so many things that have the potential to inspire a novel.

  • A character
  • A genre
  • A time (future, 1800’s)
  • A theme or subject (love, war, adventure, world domination)
  • A dream of yours
  • Something inspired by your life or a friend’s
  • Read the news for inspiration
  • Read other books for inspiration
  • Read Hubs for inspiration!

What if’s are your strongest tool when trying to come up with a story or when moving your story forward.

  • What if people where the size of ants?
  • What if money was suddenly gone from the world?
  • What if we ran out of fuel?
  • What if you write novels and become rich and famous?
  • What if dancing was outlawed?

I have pain that keeps me from writing.

Due to back injuries, disabilities or muscle strains from other aspects of life some people have problems sitting, typing and writing things by hand. I know this one well and I have found a few different ways to cope.

I have fairly recently developed fibromyalgia syndrome and when once I could sit at my computer for hours with little strain to my hands, wrists, neck and back writing had suddenly become a physical challenge, far more than a mental one. This was a very discouraging place to be.

If your hands get sore from typing and writing for too long you have a few options. One is to start each writing session with a short hand massage. Just rub your thumb into your hand muscles the same way you would with a foot massage. You can do this with lotion or with dry hands. You’ll have to wash the lotion off afterwards though as your hand with slip off your pen and make your key board oily. Then take breaks where you stretch your hands out every 10-30 minutes.

Another option is to use the sound recorder on your computer or buy a voice recorder. Try telling your story verbally, then you can either transcribe it yourself using the method above, or find a friendly helper to transcribe it for you.

If you have back and neck pain that stops you from writing for long hours than don’t. Sometimes I can’t sit at my computer or write by hand for more than 10-15 minutes. 10 minutes of writing is better than no writing at all. When you start to get sore or stiff take a break, do some stretches or some yoga, take a walk or lay down. Once the pain has subsided get right back to it!

I have problems with eye sight/ eye strain.

For eye strain I suggest turning down the brightness on your computer screen. You can also consider writing by hand when you’re feeling inspired and either typing in short spurts or having a friendly helper transcribe your handwritten novel.

If this is not an option for you, or if your concern is one of eye sight not eye strain there are still ways to get around this particular problem. There is technology that can be bought that will transcribe your spoken words into written ones. Software can be found at Nuance, BigHand and more. The software can run between $100 and $600.

If that’s just not in your price range you can also try the solution I mentioned above where you record your voice either using the sound recorder on your computer or by buying a voice recorder. It will cost way less than $100. You will of course need someone to transcribe your material. Either a paid transcriptionist, or a friendly helper. 

There is no reason not to write a novel that doesn’t have a ready solution. Anyone and everyone can write a novel, but is only those with determination and discipline that will.

Thanks for reading,
Good luck and get writing!



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    • Alexandra Kaohi profile image

      Alexandra Kaohi 

      6 years ago from Honolulu, HI

      A helpful artice for new Hobbers! I'm a new Hobber and currently i published a new poem. This article helped me on how to write a story! I appreciate and praise on your article. :3

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      6 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Thanks Whowas. There really are no excuses to leave!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Marvellous work, ar.colton! You smash down the barriers and leave us with no excuses and I like that.

      I have often said - and if you don't mind, I'll say it again - that a novel of 60,000 words can be written in a year at a rate of just 160 words a day. If you could find just 10 opportunities in the day to write two 8 word sentences, that would do it.

      Great article and a real convincer! Voted up. :)

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      6 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Good luck! I hope this article helps. Remember that the only thing that can really get in the way of your writing is you!

    • That Grrl profile image

      Laura Brown 

      6 years ago from Barrie, Ontario, Canada

      I was all set to start at the beginning of this year. Then family descended. I only have enough sane time to write articles. Short things. But, I did find a book which I was using, something about 90 days to writing your novel. I liked the book. I should have my life back this fall sometime and I'm going to start trying again then.

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      I'm glad I could help ginalily. That comment you made about sacrifices, it's also a really good thing to remember when writing your novel. The sacrifices your characters make to acheive the things they wanted (or thought they wanted) are a goldmine!

    • ginalily profile image

      Gina Montoya 

      7 years ago from Miami, FL

      Thank you for this Hub. I've encountered some of these problems along the way, so it's inspiring to stumble upon blogs like this. It's nice to be reminded that in order to achieve your dreams, sacrifices have to be mad.

      Once again, thank you!

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      7 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Glad you like it RedElf, I hope your friends benefit from it too.

    • RedElf profile image


      7 years ago from Canada

      I think you may have covered every excuse I have heard so far. Thanks - I have a few people to point at this article.

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      8 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      That's exactly what I did Shelly and at the end I had a fairly good (or at least entirely readable) novella. It definitely gives you that sense of accomplishment.

    • shellyakins profile image


      8 years ago from Illinois

      I have conquered most of these barriers in the past (although not enough time rears its ugly head once in a while) but I still struggle with "Is it good enough?" I like that you said to write a bad novel. I can do that. I rock at revising and if I could just get to that place as in first-draft-on-paper I'd be unstoppable. I'm going to make a goal of writing a horrid novel that no one wants to read. Then at least the bones are on the page and I can go from there.

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      8 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Glad you enjoyed it! My mother is a writer to, albeit one with discipline problems and I do try to tell her that all the time. The fact is though you can't get over your problems of discipline without putting some serious work in!

      Glad you enjoyed it:)

    • ACSutliff profile image


      8 years ago

      When it comes down to it, excuses are just excuses. I want to tell my mother that, but that's another story. I am interested in your idea about writing a bad novel just to be able to say I wrote a novel. I know my novel isn't 'bad' but knowing that it doesn't have to be good to be finished takes the pressure off a little. And yes, I know being able to say I finished it would give me crazy momentum toward starting another one. :)

      Great tips! Stay motivated!

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      8 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Thanks Rishworld. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • rishworld profile image


      8 years ago from Dreammie Kreatiw World..

      great hub.....very much informative. now looking further to write someting...... Thanxxxx

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      8 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      I love hearing stories like your's equinelover. It's wonderful when people manage to do something that can seem impossible.

      Congratulations! Doesn't finishing a novel kind of give you that "Now, I can do anything" feeling!

    • equinelover909 profile image


      8 years ago

      I absolutely LOVE this hub! I have multiple serious medical problems, my spelling is horrid, and, being younger than the author of Eragon, I have been told too many times to count, "You can't write a novel!" Well, a lot of hard work and 94,000 words later, I proved everyone wrong!

      Well, thanks again for the great hub and inspiration. =)

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      8 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Thank you mquee, I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

      For me grammar is a bit of a crutch. I have a love affair with commas, but the more I edit for grammar the better my content becomes!

    • mquee profile image


      8 years ago from Columbia, SC

      This hub is full of good advice. I specifically like what you had to say regarding grammar and spelling. I have read things by people who can't spell, but have a talent for written expression. Practice is everything. Thank you for an article that can be read over and over again.

    • ar.colton profile imageAUTHOR

      Mikal Smith 

      8 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      Thanks Besure!

      Time used to be my problem too but I realized pretty quickly that the only person who was sad about my not finishing my novel was me! And, the only person who could make it happen was me!

      Glad my hub inspired you. Good luck on your novel. With determination you can definitely get to the end.

    • besure profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you for this excellent hub, I am writing a novel but the time is just my problem, now by reading your hub I will make sure I make time to finish it.

      Thank you.


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