How I, a Slightly Distractible Person, Write Novels

The honest, ugly truth

Sarah Lofgren
6 min readSep 3, 2021


Hello. I write novels. I haven’t published anything, but I have finished three novels, which feels like a huge accomplishment for someone who isn’t entirely certain if she remembered to floss her teeth last night.

I’m not an expert at any of this. There are far better novelists out there, ones who have actually, oh, I don’t know… published and sold books. There are also deeply focused writers who churn out pages like frenetic typing Kermit gifs. They wake at 4am every morning and spend 3 hours working on their novels before they go to work. Those authors have their shit together. They don’t get sidetracked for a month because they decided to learn Sindarin for no good reason. They’re great.

They ain’t me. But I have completed books and that should count for something.

Tip One — Don’t Burn Your Apartment Down

The idea comes first. There’s a perception that ideas are sacred, magical whosiewhatsits, but there are actually way too many of them. Some are buzzing around my head like maniacal flies right now. They take ownership of my brain when I should be focused on remembering to turn the oven off after baking a batch of my patented Macarony & Cheese Tacos™.

There are tons of people whose heads are stuffed with ideas. You don’t think so? Tell any rando you’re a writer and they will immediately share their big idea for a blockbuster, barn-burner of a book. They might insist you write it for them, in which case you carefully lay out your fee: 50k + royalties and naming rights for their first child. If they’ve already given birth to their first child, insist they change its name to one of your choosing.

It’s important not to undervalue yourself when you’re a writer.

Tip Two —Figure Out Your Favorite Movie

But how do you know if your idea is a good one? Is it worth taking any further? There are, after all, plenty of other things you could be doing with your time. You could get really into kombucha or bother strangers at bars by making them guess your favorite movie. (I assume that’s what normal people do.) (I don’t have a favorite movie.)



Sarah Lofgren

Engaged in inadvisable wordsmitheries and other creative acts.