I recently listened to a podcast by Marketing Science Fiction and Fantasy who interviewed Elle Casey. For those of you that don't know, she's an extremely prolific writer, churning out about one 85k word novel a month. This got me thinking - our motivations (or lack thereof) can determine how much, if at all, we end up writing.
While I don't want to produce a novel a month, partially because mine tend to be longer than 85k words, I've recently required a bit of a reality check with my writing.
I'll get into that in a minute.
I wanted to pose a question: how many books will you turn out in a year if you write 0 words a day?
*hushed gasping and dramatic fainting*
I got a little away from my writing in the last couple months and had a serious sit down (well, a couple...let's be honest here) to motivate myself to get back on the writing horse.
So I'm here today to help you, in case you find yourself in the same boat that I was in.
Readers beware: this post might seem like an over-excited cheerleader cross trained to become a boot camp instructor. Consider yourself warned.
First up: everyone's favorite, the analysis!
Are you not feeling your novel anymore? Do the characters not speak to you like they once did? Are you too exhausted to sit at your computer and write?
The first step to remedying this is to figure out why you're in a writing slump.
For me, this was a switch in concentration from writing to wedding planning. Any available time I had in the day went toward venue hunting and wedding décor Pinterest boards. I'm particularly bad at obsessively concentrating on one thing and letting everything else fall behind. I know this about myself, but it's going to be an obstacle in the coming year as I try to obsess over more than one thing at a time.
Getting too far away from your characters and your plotline breeds an unfamiliarity that makes writing that much harder to get back to. Know anyone who's lost weight recently? Everyone says that starting to workout is harder than maintaining, because you have no energy in the beginning. Working out expends energy but after a while it gives you more energy rather than sapping it all.
Writing does the same thing. Once I started to get back into my character's heads and telling their stories, my energy for the novel came back.
Are there other things distracting you? See if you can eliminate those tasks or figure out a better way to balance your writing time with your other responsibilities.
You have two options: write something else, or fix it.
Most of us will feel too far invested in a WIP to quit it and start on something else. I would opt for fixing it if you (and others) think your story has potential. You've probably invested a lot of time and effort into that novel, so it's a big decision if you decide to abandon it.
If your novel just doesn't seem spectacular, what would improve it? Look at your characters - are they living, breathing human beings? Do their decisions in the novel align with their past experiences? A lot of new writers or first-time self-published authors make the mistake of neglecting their characters. It takes a lot of time to get to know those characters, but it's important that you do. No one likes phony or stereotypical characters in a novel.
Conflict is something that can be boosted simply by adding subplots. You add subplots based on who your characters are and the problems that they face. One of my characters, Myra, has a love interest in a boy who doesn't see her that way. She's secretly in love with him but then something bad happens to him (I'm not saying what, for obvious reasons). This is intrigue related to the plot, but that doesn't directly concern my protagonist.
Look for opportunities to boost not just your main characters, but the supporting characters as well. Think of your favorite book, movie or TV show and consider how many subplot points center around the supporting characters. If you didn't have those subplots, you wouldn't care as much for those characters, would you?
Part of me is glad for my two-month break from writing because it taught me something.
Writing is almost cathartic for me.
I already knew I loved to write, but doing something that you love doesn't always mean it relieves your stress. (I used to love riding horses...then I got thrown twenty feet through the air).
In many ways, I just assumed that writing made me happy. It wasn't until I took a break, though, and then came back that I realized that it actually makes me feel better.
In the weeks prior to this one, I had been feeling a little down. I was frazzled from my job, from traveling, from the wedding planning, from the house-hunting. I was stressed.
And then I motivated myself to sit down and write again even though all I wanted to do was watch a scary movie.
By the end of the writing session, I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It literally made me feel more confident and capable to handle the tasks I needed to handle.
What's my take-away from this story?
You need to realize why you need writing in your life. This part isn't just about wants. For me, it provides much needed stress relief.
Figure out what your need is!
There's certain luxuries that I desire that full-time writing brings. I want to be able to set my own schedule and be my own boss. I don't want to wake up at 5 a.m. anymore (I honestly don't think it's natural but that's a whole other topic altogether). I want to spend time with my family and be with them, because I've come to realize they're more important to me than anything else.
Will I have to hole myself up in a room until I get my writing done, or force myself to maintain a schedule so I'm still productive?
But I'm doing that all for another reason. So I can spend more time with my family.
Since this post is all about it me, it seems, I'll continue the trend. I want children one day. I can't fathom the idea of only taking 3 months off of work for maternity leave. I don't want to leave my infant child at daycare so I can go to work to pay for said daycare. I don't want to miss my child's first steps or his first funny cuss word (cause that's soo important!).
I want to be able to juggle a writing career and my future children so that I can be a part of their learning and development from day one. You only have one chance to raise your children, and that's a large part of my motivation to be a full time writer.
Yes, I know that a lot of my writing time now will be taken over by screaming infants and dirty diapers, but if I can write to support our family and be there for my children, then it's a win for me.
What would you consider a win for your long term goals? Think realistically about what you want in life and pursue those things like a madman/woman!
Tip: If you already don't, consider making monthly or quarterly goals! It's easier to push yourself if you lay down a specific plan to get something done. Break it down and get it crossed off your to-do list!
This might be TMI, but I have to force myself to brush my teeth. It's not something I've ever wanted to do, but I do it because I don't want my teeth to fall out when I'm 40.
I do it for a reason.
I write for a reason as well, and it's as simple as the above example: I want to be a full-time writer one day.
Is writing easy? No, because it takes a lot of time to write a novel and develop the skills necessary to write well.
I brush my teeth so they don't fall out when I'm 40. I invest my time in writing so I can be a full-time writer one day.
In many cases, the best way to get out of a writing slump is to force yourself to write. There are days (like today for me) when you're chomping at the bit to write. But there are others when all you'd rather do is watch Netflix or play a video game (or look at wedding stuff).
You might not want to hear it, but you have to force yourself through these moments.
Do you really like writing fight scenes? Do you feel that explaining your setting is just a drone?
You have to get through the parts you don't love to get to the parts that you do. And the faster you get through those parts, the faster you get to the parts you really enjoy writing.
Plus, there's an added bonus: the more you do something, the more you understand it, and the easier it is to do and/or like it. A lot of times, we don't like the things that we don't understand. While this doesn't go the other way exactly, we might be a little more likely to not hate describing a setting if we master everything there is about it.
This isn't a guideline or strict rules you need to follow to stay motivated. They're different for each person, but the gist is this: figure out why you want to write and then tell yourself that over and over.
I don't want to wake up at 5 a.m. so it's easy for me to think about that motivation when I'm groggily taking the dogs outside.
When I get home and want to relax all evening? I think about how miserable I feel getting up that early and suddenly I'm a lot more adamant about writing that day.
You've heard this before, but I feel like it's my mantra at this point. If you want to be a writer, all you have to do is write.
Please share your realizations and/or tips for fellow readers! Have you ever pulled yourself out of a big writing slump? How did you do it?
If you haven't already, be sure to check out some sneak peaks to my novel The Elysian Prophecy, out now! It's a YA Fantasy novel about two siblings thrust into an ancient war between two secret societies. Mystery? Check. Thrills and romance? Check. A bit of a dark side? Yup. It's cliché to say, but it's got something for everyone! I've gotten some great responses to it and I'd love to hear what you think!