Monday, August 10, 2015

Staying Motivated After the Excitement of Beginning Your Novel Wears Off

Starting a novel can be an incredible rush. New characters, an idea that just seems so original, who wouldn't want to pick it up? I begin each of my books so confident that I convince myself this will be the book that I get published. This will be the first of many chart topping successes. And most importantly, this will be the one that lets me quit my day job.

A few days in to writing and the infectious excitement inevitably wears off and you have a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde moment. The demon on your shoulder whispers convincingly in your ear, "You think this is good? Your characters are all watered down versions of what you had in mind. Your story is boring. And you don't know how to fix any of it. Maybe you should just step away for a few days to think about it."


Coming from someone who has listened to that demon, don't do it. Sure, the story may be turning out different than you expected, you may have trouble finding the right words, and your characters seem a little blah but (let's see how many cliches we can apply) Rome wasn't built in a day, each journey starts with just one step, and..that's it. Two. I could only think of two.

The important thing here is that we remember that this feeling is going to come and we prepare ourselves to face it head on. I'm about 7,000 words into a new novel right now that doesn't have a clear arc or direction. There are three main characters and I am having an incredibly hard time staying focused. The demon on my shoulder whispers for me to give up because if I'm having a hard time focusing on my own book how can I expect anyone else to want to read it? Touche, demon. But I'm not going to give up, instead I'm going to ride myself a little bit harder.

Free stock photo of schedule, startup, to do, whiteboard

I think I'm having trouble focusing because I haven't really given myself undivided time to think through my story. I got the initial idea, I rushed through some basic outlining and character development, and I jumped into writing.

Now I've written the titillating start of the book and I'm in the awkward story arc climb. Everything I write seems simultaneously info-dumpy, vague, purposeless, and unorganized. But I can't listen to my demon because I know what will happen. I'll take a breather for a few days and then never come back again! I'm not kidding. I have half started manuscripts to prove it. In fact, I was so uncomfortable with my first book that, once I finished it and took the suggested six week breathing period to distance myself in preparation for editing, I never opened it up again. I printed it (Oh! All that wasted ink and paper...) but I never touched it.

I'm trying something new now. I've created a to-do list full of must-dos for the week, broken up into day increments so I don't find myself crying under a pile of unfinished tasks on Friday. Along with household, fitness (or my sad excuse for such...), and school tasks, I have included writing tasks. I don't mean just "write 1,000 words," which I have plenty of, I include items that will be fun, challenging, and productive.

I currently have two projects: this blog and my new novel. The tasks that I assign myself are designed to be inspirational and help me move forward. For instance, some of my tasks are to read other blogs. Now, before you go thinking this is a sad excuse to use my would-be productive time for something wasteful and unimportant, I'd like to point out that other authors inspire me to keep going. They write relatable posts about their own struggles to plow through their stories. They also help me come up with ideas of what to write about. For instance, this post was inspired by a Writer's Digest post about author Cherilynn Veland and the 5 challenges all writers face.

Other items on my list include time devoted to brainstorming, writing blog posts, writing short stories unrelated to my book (which may seem counterproductive but it really does help get the creative juices flowing, and I'll get to share some of them on the blog, so...two birds, one stone...), and doing research into topics covered in the book. It's amazing what a medical journal article about gender reassignment surgery can do for your creative process.

Speaking of creative process, get one. You don't necessarily have to stick to it, but get one. It will help you fight your demon into submission so you can write in peace. My current creative process is the to-do list. I give myself time every week to contemplate what I want to get done the following week and I make sure each day has plenty of writing along with plenty of other stuff to keep me motivated. Other processes could be to write at a specific time every day with no distractions, go to a favorite coffee shop, or start each day with a walk to focus your thoughts.

To wrap up my thoughts on the matter: write when you don't want to, do whatever it takes to motivate yourself, and kick your demon's ass if it asks you to step away from the book. Do not step away from the book.

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