Writing a novel is a marathon—it’s not something you can bang out in an afternoon or a long weekend. It takes persistence and focus over months, sometimes years, and no matter how passionate you are about the project, there are times when motivating yourself becomes a challenge.
Here are thirteen ways I keep myself motivated during the long slog to ‘The End’.
1. Write A Timeline.
One of the most demotivating things about writing is being confused. Go through your notes and chapters and make sure you have a detailed timeline for your novel. Keep it current, it will make your life so much easier.
2. Small Rewards.
Get a bag of MnMs or jellybeans, Written?Kitten!, or even paint one finger nail at a time and use these tools to reward yourself every 200 or 500 words.
3. Big Rewards.
Reward yourself big for major milestones. Not just dinner somewhere nice, but something you’ve been wanting or needing for a long time. When I finish my seven book romance series I have every intention of buying myself a new gaming laptop.
4. Have A Dance Break.
Every fifteen or twenty minutes, put on your favourite dance song and leap around the room like a racoon on crack. Increasing your heart rate will increase the blood flow to your brain and you'll sit down at the computer operating on full capacity again. A one minute dead sprint on the treadmill will do the same job.
5. Have A Daily Achievements Buddy.
I always have one or two friends I speak to every evening, just for a few minutes, so we can report our writing achievements for the day. Word counts, pages edited, timeline planning--whatever we've done, we share and congratulate. Shared enthusiasm is contagious.
6. Keep A Pinterest Board For Your WIP.
Or several. I like to have one board for locations and setting, one board for fashion of the era/world, one board for each of the main characters with their clothes, weapons and any celebrity doppelgangers they may have, one board for NPCs and minor characters and another for monsters/beasts/technology in the setting. Look through it when you're feeling unmotivated, or use it to help you with description and details.
7. Read Your Favourite Scene.
Keep bookmarks on the best scenes in your favourite novels and re-read them when you're stumped. Just try to avoid the temptation to spend the afternoon reading. For several years, when I was stuck I would read passages from ‘On Writing’ by Stephen King. Which is why I still have some of them memorised.
Don't know how? Look for some clips on youtube. You'll be surprised what 10 minutes of mental silence can do for you. It's like a soft re-boot of your brain. That brain silence is what your mind is looking for when it compels you to clean the bathroom when you're stuck on a scene, but meditation is a little more focused.
9. Read Your Thesaurus.
Or baby name book. It's good to have physical book copies of these, as it gives your eyes a break from the computer screen.
10. Physical Coordination.
Do something that requires physical coordination. I know most writers are naturally quiet, geeky types. However sport, dancing, yoga etc all form important new connections in the neural pathways that make writing so much easier.
11. Write A List.
I love lists more than I love chocolate. Get creative. Write a list of the first twenty things you'd do if you won the lottery. Or the top five things your main character would want if they were marooned on an island. Or the top ten reasons you want to finish writing that scene today.
12. Learn A New Skill.
Find something you know absolutely nothing about and learn how to do it. Bee-keeping, weaving, thatching roofs, smoky-eye makeup, changing your spark-plugs, growing orchids, baking a pavlova. Learning new stuff stimulates and brain and for a writer, no knowledge is useless.
13. Make Word Goal Jars.
A little like small rewards, Word Goal Jars are a physical version of ‘levelling up’ in writing. Every 500/1000 words, or every scene, you move a little glass bead from one jar to another—which effectively keeps track of your word count in a way you can see and touch and gives you that momentary rush of success. It also really motivates you toward the end. 6000 words seems huge, but six glass beads is nothing.
As you can see, the photo for today’s blog is my Word Goal Jars. I made them myself from two vases, some silver lettering from a craft store and those little glass bead things. They were cheap to make and are totally awesome. (That’s Ori ‘helping’ with the photograph.)
Do you have anything to add to this list? How do you stay motivated?