Writing a novel is just freaking weird, man. Feels like you’re wandering through a dark forest with a lantern whose meager light is cast by a flock of disgruntled and unpredictable fireflies. It’s like a Miyazaki film up in this bitch. It’s hazy and dizzy and dreary and giddy and did I mention weird? Weird. Weird, weird, weird. It is exodus, epiphany, and egress all rolled into one.
So, it helps to have a plan. Further, it helps to track your plan as you go. Now, that doesn’t mean having an outline if you don’t want it — though, an outline is certainly one way to do this. But even if you just figure out how much you need to write per day to get the novel done by so-and-so deadline, you’re already a little bit ahead. Word count matters. Your schedule matters. Track that shit on a spreadsheet — no, no, I hear you, a spreadsheet will burn the tender fingertips of the creative writer the way an angel’s lusty secretions will blind a demon by cooking his eyeballs in his fool demon head. Still, I’ve learned to love the spreadsheet, just so I know where I’m at on my word journey.
You have all manner of plan at your disposal: spreadsheets, mind-maps, outlines, treatments, beat sheets, notebooks filled with your lunatic scrawls and inked in your own tears and urine, etc.
Use them. It’ll help put a boot on the neck of your sanity as it squirms and screams and tries to escape your house through the cat door. Anything to keep yourself on target and not ape-bat insane.
I have no plans to write a novel, currently, but I'll keep this handy, just in case.