Writing is difficult. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s not. My stories start in my head. I hear dialogue, I see scenery, I even hear the exposition. Getting it down on paper and keeping my tushy in the chair is another thing entirely. It can be downright challenging. Here are some ways that may help you to stay motivated.
Take a short time to organize. I’m a ‘plotzer’ – cross between a planner and pantzer I use a basic story outline to know my story’s direction. For me, detailed planning prevents my characters telling me where things are going. I know that sounds strange, but detailed planning for me (and I stress for me), interferes with some of my creativity. So, I use a basic outline and character study (index cards or notes). It’s the character study I find most valuable and where I spend my time. I get close with my characters. Once I know them well writing flows easier and easier writing keeps me motivated. If I get stumped, I go back to my outline, character study, or do some ‘what if’ scenarios. It recharges me and keeps me writing.
Set Deadlines. Deadlines work for some people. For me, they definitely are part of my day job and I had aggressive ones with my editor. I know the punishment for missing these deadlines but what would really happen if I missed a self-imposed writing deadline? Move the date? Besides, I’m a real softy. Ask my kids. So to quote Nathan Bransford “The trick is setting a deadline with teeth. If you secretly know that the deadline you’re setting for yourself is a soft one, it’s not going to have its hair-raising, stress-inducing maximum effect. So either you have to learn to be scared of yourself and your own punishments or you may need a partner in crime who can help you keep to them.”
Daydream a Little. Picture what it will be like when you book is completed and you ship it off for query to an agent/editor. Dream about the possibilities of a successful novel, keynote at RWA, Pulitzer (when they have a romance category), and movie option. It all depends on completing what you write. Tuck the daydream in a nice cozy place and come back to the present and make it happen.
Journalize. Writers usually keep a journal or pad handy for jotting down story and character ideas. Use your journal to clarify your obstacles, then think of ways around writing problems, like plot difficulties or difficult decisions about how to organization your story. Perhaps solving these difficulties will motivate you to keep on going.
Just start typing. Momentum can be invaluable in making progress. Even 10 minutes of uninterrupted writing can be helpful. Find time during the day to write, at lunch, commuting, waiting in line at the grocer, at soccer game practice, you see what I mean.
Skip ahead. I tell you this technique but admit I do not follow it myself. I am a linear writer. I find it very difficult to write ‘out of order.’ However, just because it doesn’t work for me doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. So, if you’re stuck about writing the next thing, skip it for now and try jumping ahead to the next piece you’re excited about. You can come back to the part you skipped later.
Talk with your critique partner or someone who supports your writing. For me, talking about my work in progress gets me excited. Sometimes that is all I need to stay motivated. I was stuck on a fight scene and spoke to my son (he’s grown) and Rayna Vause (a writer who is also a martial arts expert). Both gave me the support I needed and valuable insight. And while it’s not true of everyone, a lot of people—both writers and readers—are flattered to be asked to talk with a writer about a work in progress.
Move Around. Sometimes you need to move out of your space, physically, to reset your mind. I get up and go downstairs to the kitchen for a glass of water or cup of tea. (Sometimes even chocolate.) I come back to my desk renewed.
Write what You Love. Don’t try to catch a fad. It may be tempting, but most times it doesn’t work. You need to love your novel unconditionally if you’re going to finish it.
Your turn. What about you? What motivates you?