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

 

 

 

My Name is Eve, and I am a Recovering ‘Pantser’

pantsing

I’m one of those writers you might call a ‘pantser,’ you know, the kind who writes a novel with reckless abandon — sans plot outline — until I reach the semblance of an ending.

It’s fun! It’s exciting! It’s FRESH.  And I’m afraid if I don’t write like that I’ll overcensor myself , or worse, get bored because I already know what’s going to happen.

But.

Revising a pants-style, mutant pit first draft of a novel takes a really, really, really, really long time.  I’m not saying I’ll never pants a novel again, but I’ve done it twice now, and the first novel was such a complicated mess I had to stick it in a drawer until I became “a good enough writer to tackle such a complicated plot.”

This second full-length novel, a YA fantasy, I’ve been revising for dozens and dozens and dozens of hours…reordering scenes, consolidating bits I had epiphanies about later in the writing, just, you know … Clean-up on aisle seven…and twelve…and one…and fourteen.  Clean up the whole damn store.

But hey, writing and revising a novel should take as long as it needs to, right?  And who’s to say I would ever have been able to come up with the cool, out-there things that happen in this story (don’t mean to brag, just sayin’) if I had NOT let my imagination flow 100% unhindered, not even by a plot outline?

But.

I’m not as young as I used to be (I’ll admit) and have a lot of stories I want to write. So many.

Yet here I am, dozens and dozens and dozens of hours into revising and fleshing out this first draft into a flow, a scene order, that tells a cohesive story.  Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel — I’m three-quarters of the way through — but I’m not even talking about all the fun edit-y things like crisping up dialogue, bringing out sensory details, polishing prose.  I’m talking about just getting the first draft into an order that makes sense.

Outlining would have been so much easier.  More importantly, it would have been FASTER.

Then this morning a lovely thing happened.  A brand new character, with a brand new story, in a brand new genre (still YA), danced herself right onto my computer screen.  And she brought a LOT of her story’s plot with her.  God bless her.  When I’m done with this YA fantasy, I might just be able to write a novel using a proper outline.

HALLELULAH.

Now if I just knew the best way to outline a novel.  Any suggestions?

–Eve Messenger

Books Choose Their Authors

Michelangelo's

Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Salman Rushdie said, “Books choose their authors.” This concept of a complete work of art waiting in the ethos to be carefully released by the artist, helps me. I find it reassuring to think of my novel not as an evolving thing but as something which exists and is merely waiting to be discovered. With each editing and writing session, I chisel away at the marble to expose the True Work within.

As I move well into the first revision of my YA fantasy novel, do I see the True Work revealing itself? Yes, the characters, the magic, the plot twists, the history, they’re all very exciting to discover. But the thing I can’t seem to reveal — the thing that is kicking my excavating arse, quite frankly — is the most important element of all: what the main character truly, truly wants. She wants a lot of things. She wants to buck convention; she is very curious and wants to know where the massive structures on her otherwise bucolic world come from, who built them, what their purpose is or was. She questions the True Mission of her people and wants to turn against it. I’m having a hard time solidifying that into EXACTLY what she wants. I get this feeling that the answer is right in front of me but I’m not seeing it.