As my adored and esteemed writing friend Tracy L. Jackson once wisely said, “Writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint.” Good advice! Completing a marathon–just like completing a novel–takes endurance. And, despite our hard work and passion for writing, sometimes we lose our motivation. Why? What are the internal hurdles that get in our way?
The main hurdle is fear. I’ve never finished a book before–I mean, really finished, as in multiple drafts rewritten and polished to completion (notice I didn’t say “perfection.”). Over the past couple of years I’ve knocked out first, second, and thirdish drafts of three novels, and the process has taught me a lot, but now I’m working on a novel that I really want to take all the way to publication, and I want to do the story and characters justice.
That’s scary. Maybe there are some writers out there who write and write and rewrite and let nothing stand in their way until their novels are finished. Maybe I’m not that ballsy, but I am no less committed. For me, the process of writing (and finishing) novels includes figuring out how to get past the hurdles.
For example, I recently stood at the glorious precipice of two blissful weeks of winter break: no work to report to every day, pretty much all the free time I wanted, and yet I found myself stalling, stalling, stalling and finding a million reasons not to work on my novel. To get past this hurdle, here’s what I told myself:
Close Your Eyes
Then. . .
Visualize Your Success
For me, visualizing success means seeing a row of my published novels sitting on a shelf. That simple, but it still wasn’t getting me working on my novel. There were FAR too many other, fun, easy ways to occupy my vacation time: playing with the dogs, checking out my husband’s woodworking projects, blogging, finding out why the neighbors are moving, playing online word games. Everything except writing. So I asked myself:
Do You Want to Publish Novels?
Of course, my answer was a resounding yes. So . . .
Find a Way to Get Excited about the Novel
I reached into my bag of tricks and found something to get me excited about working on my novel–the kind of excitement and enthusiasm that supersedes fear.
In this case, I recalled how one of my dream agents told me that, even though she’s currently closed to queries, she will accept my mine. . . as long as I send it before the end of January 2016. (Yikes, that’s coming up soon). Remembering this got me excited and served as a powerful motivator to work hard at finishing my novel.
Set Goals and Track Progress
Setting writing goals has helped me enormously over the past few years, so when I hit that “stall wall” at the beginning of winter break, I sat down and decided on a reasonable writing/editing goal of two hours day (including weekends). Then I did something I’ve never done before: I created an Excel spreadsheet to track the time I put in each day. “Clocking in” on that spreadsheet and seeing my writing time add up has been indispensable for keeping on track with my writing goals. Here’s a copy of my Writing Time spreadsheet in case you’d like to give it a try.
Most of us probably can’t afford to reward ourselves with new cars or spa days for achieving our writing goals, so what I did was pay a visit to OrientalTradingCompany.com and buy myself a set of stickers. Yep, that works for me because, in my world, no one is too old for stickers! And I’m not too proud to admit that I gleefully pore over that sheet of stickers and choose exactly the one I want to reward myself with when I complete my writing goal for the day.
Doing all of this helped me climbed the “stall wall” and, as always, the more I work on the novel, the more I fall in love with it, which makes me WANT to return to it each day.