Eleven Ways to Motivate Yourself to Write

Dreaming up stories and watching them come to life on the page is pure magic. It really is. I love being a writer. So why is it that some days facing my manuscript is the hardest thing to do in the world?

Because writing good books is HARD.
lisa-simpson-writing.gifWriting and editing can feel like wading through quicksand. Life’s distractions can pull so hard away from the writing desk that it feels impossible to muster the mental energy to write.

That’s when I pull out the big guns.
Image result for cannon firing gif

When my writing resistance is at its highest, I take out my writing motivation checklist. If I’m lucky, I’ll only need to do a couple of items before I feel pumped enough to write. Other times–when writing-resistant inner me throws a particularly nasty tantrum–I might need to hit all ten items on the darn list.

Ultimately, the list helps me overcome resistance to writing. Maybe it will help you, too. And if you’ve discovered other effective ways to motivate yourself to write, I’d love to hear about them in the comments! 🙂 — Eve Messenger

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CHECKLIST FOR MOTIVATING YOURSELF TO WRITE
by Eve Messenger

#1 Breathe.
So simple yet so effective. You’d be amazed how much the simple act of focused breathing can perk you up to write.

#2 Get your energy up.
-Listen to a song that gets you pumped.
-Do jumping jacks.
-Flap your hands.
-Dance.

#3 Make sure your physical needs are met–hunger, thirst, room temperature, etc.
I’ll admit, sometimes I’m not that self-aware. I might think I’m resisting writing but am actually hungry, so I grab a quick bite and then I’m good to go.

#4 Acknowledge your emotions.
We’re writers; we get down about things, but we can’t let that hold us back from our dreams. If emotions are dragging you down, acknowledge them, call a friend for a quick “attagirl,” then move on.

#5 Set a specific time to write.
Make sure it’s a block of time that works reasonably within your schedule. When the clock strikes that hour, sit your bottom down in a chair and write. No matter what.

#6 Give yourself a goal to work toward.
For example:
-write 500 words
-edit for one hour
-edit X number of manuscript pages.

#7 Promise yourself a reward.
A bowl of ice cream, a nap, Netflix (and chill?), a new pair of shoes, even a sticker will do. Give yourself something special to look forward to after you’ve tackled your writing goal.

#8 Reassure yourself it’s okay to write badly.
As John Greene puts it: “I give myself permission to suck.” What a freeing notion! Even if your first pass at a daunting writing task turns out to be weak, at least you’ve managed it, and more often than not, your efforts won’t turn out badly at all.

#9 “Sprint it out.”
Tell yourself all you have to do is blaze through as many words as you can during a five-minute word sprint.  Even if all you get out are those words, you’ve accomplished writing for the day. More often than not, you’ll find that once the momentum has started, more writing will come.

#10 Block distractions. 
-Block social media.
-Shut off your cell phone.
-Turn off the TV.
-In a noisy environment, use earplugs or noise blocking headphones.
-If your home is one big distraction (AKA kids, chores, bills), get thee to a library or coffee shop. If you can afford it, trains are a super fun place to write. Writing in different locales reduces distractions and can add adventure to the writing process.

#11 Visualize your ultimate goal.
If your passion is to get your stories out into the world, then visualize fans tweeting and emailing to say how much they enjoy your writing. If your dream is to have a successful writing career, see yourself as a successful, published author. Remind yourself you’re worthy of happiness and success. Say your affirmation out loud. Then sidle up to that computer and write your dreams into reality.

Happy writing!

Eve Messenger

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Writing a Book is Hard #amwriting

Writing a book is hard. Wait, let me clarify: writing a good book is hard. The thing to remember is that people do it. People actually publish books, good ones–even while working full-time, even while raising families. Publishing a good book is doable and worthwhile. But it takes

A

Lot

Of

Work.

Start Your Book

First you need to come up with a story, something unique that can grab readers (and agents) in an elevator pitch of 15 words or less. Yes, you’ll need to write that elevator pitch and synopsis, but first the book…

You must decide how to start.

If you’re a natural-born plotter and/or smart enough to learn how, you plot your story in great detail before beginning to write the actual book.

On the other hand, if you’re a pantser, your book-writing journey will be much longer. If, like me, the only way you can come up with story ideas is by letting them flow organically while writing, so be it.

In other words, pantsers:

  • write a lot of pages just to get an understanding of the story and characters.
  • Read through all that pre-writing, take notes, plot everything in a way that makes sense.
  • Then write the real first draft.

-You create characters, each with their own quirks, histories, fears, goals, and desires–and conflicts, especially conflicts, both external and internal.

-You write all three acts of your book, yes, all three, even when you reach act two and realize, whoah, a book is big, so super big, way bigger than the original story idea I had. At this point you remind yourself that you are not a bad writer, you are not a bad writer, you are not–that the first draft is always bad. Verify this by reading what all published authors say. (ALL writers say their first drafts are bad.)

-You write all the scenes for your book, all of them, around a hundred. You ensure that each scene has a dramatic arc and an emotional arc and that the pacing is right–not too slow, not too rushed.

-You make sure your book falls within the standard word count for your genre, aware that agents and publishers are more receptive to first books with word counts that fall into the lower range. You remain calm as you logically deduce that the reason publishers prefer shorter books from first-time authors is so they don’t waste as much money on you in case your book bombs.

Revise Your Book

  • You rearrange all the scenes in your novel until the narrative makes sense. You add scenes, delete scenes, and completely rewrite scenes.
  • You make sure dialogue for each and every character is distinctive and packs a punch.
  • You craft your story in such a way that it’s not too ambiguous but also not too on the nose because you’re aware readers like figuring out things on their own.
  • While editing your book, you take multiple passes through it, each time focusing on only one or two elements to avoid becoming mired in an overwhelming mass of details that will make you. . .

Losing mind - businesswoman

Maintain Sanity

Balance is everything. While writing and editing, you maintain your sanity through:

  • social interaction
  • commiserating with fellow writers
  •  physical exercise
  • spiritual whatever.

Work with a Critique Partner (CP)

After you’ve written, revised, and brought out the shine in all elements of your novel, you hand your manuscript over to another person, preferably a critique partner (CP). But first, you must find said CP. This means putting yourself out there on social media, websites, local writers’ groups, workshops, wherever you can find fellow writers/potential CPs who understand your genre and are willing to swap full novel critiques.

You must read other people’s works in progress (WIPs) so they will read yours. It’s a fair exchange, and the time is well spent. When critiquing someone else’s work, not only are you helping out another writer, you are learning a LOT about what makes a manuscript work.

You make more changes to your novel based on CP feedback. 🙂

Work with Beta Readers

You send your manuscript out to beta readers. Again, you need to do the legwork first. Interact with fellow book lovers on blogs, Goodreads, wherever readers of your genre dwell in the wild. When your book is ready, summon the courage to ask those people if they’d like to read and provide feedback on your novel.

Make further revisions to your novel based on beta reader feedback. 🙂

Read, Read, Read

All the while, you read as many published novels as you can, not only because you love to read, but also to gain an understanding of what’s being published in your genre, what the trends are, and to get ideas on what you’d like to strive for and avoid in your own writing.

Research Literary Agents

In between all the writing, editing, and networking, you also research potential literary agents. And they can’t be just any agents. They must be agents who: represent the kinds of books you write, are good at what they do, are open to queries. Which means:

  • Every time you pick up a novel, you read the acknowledgment page (often it’s the first page you turn to), keeping an eye out for agent shout-outs.
  • You visit promising literary agents’ Twitter accounts and blogs, agency websites, and check out their #MSWL (manuscript wish lists). And you do web searches for their interviews to ensure they’re looking for what you’re writing.
  • You create a free account on querytracker.net to check out what other querying writers are saying about agents you’re interested in.
  • You study agents’ submission guidelines and follow them to a T, fully aware (without letting it freak you out) that literary agents are so inundated they’ll look for any reason to reduce their submission load. This means that every detail of the query letter, email, manuscript format, synopsis, etc. that you send prospective agents must exactly conform to their specifications.

Network with Other Writers

You make friends in the writing community who will console you when you’re overwhelmed with how hard it is to write a book, especially when you need to write a synopsis, which means summing up your entire novel up in 1-5 pages. That is really hard.

Follow Your Favorite Authors (not required but, oh, so fun)

Another thing you’re probably doing—though not specifically required—is daydreaming and getting ideas for your own writing career by following your favorite authors; seeing what they’re up to on their blog and tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest,Vine, Goodreads, Facebook, maybe even meeting them at book signings (a thrill every writer and reader should experience).

Maintain an Online Presence

While writing, revising, networking, reading,and researching agents, you also maintain your own blog and social media accounts, hoping that by developing an online presence as an author you’ll look legit to future agents, publishers, and fans.

Whew, good luck. Write and publish that book!

–Eve Messenger

 

 

 

“Dear Editing. . .” An open letter to the friend I’d like to make. #amwriting #amediting

This year I made two New Year’s resolutions:

#1 – Stop asking “why.”

#2 – Learn to love editing. Here’s what I had to say about that in a guest post for Melanie Noelle Bernard’s blog. . .

What I Learned as a Writer in 2015 #writerslife #amwriting

In pursuing my ambition to publish great YA novels, here are some things I learned over the past year:

  1. Beyond the thrill of being able to express my passion for writing and books, there are great benefits to blogging, the best of which is getting to know creative, supportive fellow writers and book lovers, many of whom I now consider friends. I see you, Tracy L. Jackson, Beth @ betwixt-these-pages, Kelly Deeny, Elena Johansen, FamilyRules, Wallace CassAnnika Perry,  Pat Sherard, The Glitter Afficianado, Stephanie @ Eclectic ScribblingsMelanie Noell Bernard, Nate Philbrick,  Sabrina Marsi BooksJennifer F. Santucci, Mackenzie BatesStephanie @ yourdaughtersbookshelf Karen @ MyTrain of Thoughts,  Amanda d Bat,  Carolyn @ A Hundred Thousand StoriesErica @ Books the Thing,   the bookwormgirls123.
  2. I am better at editing a first draft on the computer than on a hard copy, even though a lot of advice-givers recommend against it.
  3. A style sheet is helpful, especially for tracking important plot dates.
  4. Literary agents are regular folks and book lovers just like us.
  5. To write first drafts without censoring myself.
  6. To create headers for each scene in Word so I can easily find them later using the navigation screen.
  7. To  keep a “book blurb” Word file for when I feel especially excited about my novel and get ideas on how to pitch it in future query letters.
  8. Short stories are not my preferred medium; what I truly love is writing novels (and I’m sort of learning it’s okay to be better at some things than others.)
  9. Flash fiction is fun…and challenging.
  10. Collecting images for novel inspiration boards on Pinterest is a blast and really does stimulate ideas.
  11. It’s still great to be able to hold a book in my hands, but reading novels on electronic devices won’t kill me.
  12. I want to get more into #bookstagram and #booklr.
  13. Saving the previous draft of a story before making editing changes avoids a lot of lost good writing.
  14. All writers, even the most successful ones, find writing novels to be really hard work.
  15. When I stay away from my novel for too long, I forget I’m actually good at writing it.
  16. Even when I’m afraid to work on my novel, I do have the discipline and faith to always return to it.
  17. Daily writing goals and rewards make me a much more productive writer.
  18. My writing really does improve with practice.
  19. Beta critiquing other people’s novels makes me a better writer.
  20. Google Docs is a really handy tool that allows me to work on manuscripts on my phone, home computer, out-of-town relatives’ computers, and hotel lobby computers. . . but I still always keep multiple back-up copies of my work.
  21. A change purse is a great place to keep a flash drive.
  22. I really am dedicated to publishing YA novels and maybe, just maybe, I am worthy of success.

Liebster Award!

Thank you to writer Wallace Cass for nominating me for a Liebster Award. With a desire to meet other writers online and to gain insight into my journey toward becoming a successful published writer, I started blogging about three months ago. If my blog were a baby, it would just now be learning to raise its head and chest when lying on its stomach; open and shut its hands; and follow moving objects. In other words, I’m still getting the hang of things, and it’s nice to be acknowledged.

According to the Liebster Award rules, I must now:

  • Answer a list of questions
  • Nominate other bloggers.
  • Pose eleven  questions of my own.
  1. Do you feel that Writing is a Craft or an Art Form?
    I believe that writing is an art form but that writing novels is a craft.
  2. Where we came from is as important as where we are going. Agree or Disagree?  Embracing and overcoming my past is an essential part of who I am, but striving toward the mission of becoming a successful published writer is the most important thing in my life, so I’ll go with DISAGREE: where we’re going is more important than where we came from.
  1. I believe in hopeful futures. What do you believe in?  I believe in being positive. Through my teen years I was a worrier and a pretty negative thinker, but at 20 I made a conscious decision to be positive, and it changed my life — all because of a fortune cookie.
  1. What is your dream vacation?  Every time I see a clock at 11:11, I wish for a vacation to Europe, starting with my ancestral homeland Scotland.
  1. Did that last question snap you out of deep thoughts?  The last question snapped me deeper into thought.
  1. It has been said that everything has already been written. What are your thoughts on that?  I pretty much agree that all stories have been written, but they haven’t been written the same way.
  1. This is a long list of questions, isn’t it?  It’s not too bad.
  1. What do you like to read most?  I adore reading novels and always have.
  1. It has been said that Truth is stranger than Fiction. What is one strange truth that you know?  I think it’s remarkable that, as complex as human beings are, a fully formed one can be “built” in nine months.
  1. Is it possible to truly agree to disagree?  We don’t have to like it but, yes, it’s possible to agree to disagree in most situations.
  1. Did you find these questions interesting or difficult? Please be honest.  I thought the questions were pretty interesting, but I don’t think “interesting” and “difficult” are mutually exclusive. In fact, I find many difficult things particularly interesting.

Now *drum roll, please* the new nominees for Liebster Award are:
Eclectic Scribe
Kristina Stanley
Kelly Deeny
Dale E. Funk
Stephanie Flint
Glitter Afficianado
Linda Maye Adams
Jay Dee Archer

Here are your questions, nominees. I’m curious to read your answers.

1. How important do you think it is to network with other writers?

2. Do you ever read books more than once? Which ones?

3. What’s the scariest or most challenging thing for you about writing?

4. What is the most amazing thing about writing?

5. Where is your favorite place to write?

6. When’s your best time of day to write? Why?

7. What are three of your favorite words?

8. What’s one thing that would tell you you’ve “made it” as a writer?

9. In terms of writing or reading, what’s the best thing anyone could say to you right now?

10. Do you have any rituals, superstitions, or preferences related to writing or editing?

11. In the face of all the rejection that comes with being a writer, what advice would you give to someone to help them stay on a path toward achieving their dreams?

Progress, Reflection, and Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee singing
Peggy Lee was at her most beautiful when she sang.

When chanteuse-poet-businesswoman Peggy Lee was still just little Norma Delores Egstrom from Nowhere, North Dakota, she carried around a piece of paper on which she’d written: “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon . . . must inevitably come to pass.” She was maybe all of ten years old at the time. I’m much older, but that is also what I am doing: vividly imagining, ardently desiring, sincerely believing, and enthusiastically acting on my dream of being a successful published author of many bestselling novels.

This summer, while on break from my job as a music and language teacher, I’m throwing myself more into writing than ever, and I’m educating myself on how to break into the publishing world. In between bouts of plotting and writing novels and short stories, I’m “attending” Google University in earnest, blogging, tweeting, and happily connecting with other aspiring writers. I also purchased a Duotrope subscription to more easily find markets and track short story submissions, and I’ve been researching literary agents.

When I feel defeated, frustrated, worried, nervous, or especially when I compare myself unfavorably with great writers, I tell myself that there are all kinds of books, all kinds of writing, all kinds of writers, and I’m writing, writing, writing to improve and move myself forward.

Since starting summer break in late July, I’m proud to report that I’ve gotten a lot done. I wasn’t sure if I should include all this navel-gazing in my blog, but here goes.

  • Completed fourth draft of YA fantasy novel and sent to freelance editor for developmental editing suggestions. This was big, people; SO many hours went into completing that fourth draft.
  • Half finished researching and plotting new YA time travel novel, Firefly. 4,000 words written. Super excited to write this because it’s my first time travel story, but I’m nervous because I think it’s going to take me to some emotionally dark places (but in a good way?).
  • Recently submitted two short stories, Tilly of Lurra and The Girl I Choose to Write About, to print publications. I started with the most prestigious literary magazines, where competition is the stiffest, so I’ll let you know if I hear anything back.
  • Researched numerous literary agents, narrowing down to top 20, including three dream agents.
  • Thanks to shark/agent Janet Reid’s blog, I tried my hand at a couple of flash fiction pieces, one of which got an honorable mention in her blog.
  • Completed rough draft of a new short story, tentatively titled August Days, for eventual submission to “On the Premises” contest.
  • Outlined a new short story, We Were Vaudeville, to be submitted to Brilliant Flash Fiction Magazine.
  • Coming up: three short stories I wrote during last school year, Thorns, Hi-Fi in Eastern Kentucky, and 17 You-Me Reality Planes, will need a couple more revisions (and probably new titles – I’m titling impaired, unfortunately) before they’re ready to ship out to short story markets.

If you’ve read this far, thank you! I really appreciate being able to share my progress with you.

Eve

Just Keep Writing

Just Keep Writing

Lately, my writing has been hindered by an insane workload in my job as a teacher.  To complicate matters, a couple of days ago my YA fantasy adventure seemed to morph from a comforting creature into a monstrous vermin.  With 286 pages written and the second draft halfway done, I stepped back from it in horror.  I have so many ideas that it’s hard to remember to keep things simple, and I’m afraid of not being able to bring it all together.  But the answer is, and has always been…

Just keep writing.