You may have heard that writing a book is a marathon, not a sprint. While some authors may finish their books faster than others, it’s still not done overnight. (At least, not as far as I know.)
With any challenging creative process that takes time to complete, it’s normal for your level of motivation to vary throughout the journey. Some days, you’ll be hard-pressed to stop thinking about your project, and others, you’ll want to do everything but think about it.
First, forgive yourself for not feeling motivated to write your book all the time! As I said, it’s totally normal and is in no way indicative of your skills as a writer.
Second, accept that writing is a craft and like any other craft, it can be hard work. Sometimes, you have to stick your nose to the grindstone and find motivation through action.
Here are some things that can help you not lose motivation when writing (or at least help you work through it when you do).
Other posts you may like:
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- 5 Ways to Feel Connected to Your Story
- How to Win at the Mental Game of Writing
How to Not Lose Motivation When Writing
Get clear on character motivations
The driving force of every story is the protagonist’s motivations and the conflict they face as they try to fulfill those desires. Usually, it’s the antagonist’s motivations coming in direct conflict with the protagonist’s motivations that fuels the drama.
Knowing what these motivations are is your guiding light. What is your protagonist going to do to get what they want? What is the antagonist going to do to get what they want and how do these two things converge?
Even if you don’t have an outline and are pantsing it, these key things will help you find your way through the dark. Know your characters (especially the protagonist and the antagonist), their desires, and how they get in each other’s way.
Create your love lists
Have you ever written down your favorite (and least favorite) elements in fiction? If you haven’t yet, this can be a game-changer.
Taking the time to create a list of what you love in fiction gives you a bank of ideas to pull from whenever you get stuck. You can include things like:
- Character traits
- Plot elements
- And anything else you’re frequently drawn to in the fiction you love
Also, make a list of what originally drew you to the idea for the project that you’re working on. Why did you feel compelled to write it? What excites you the most about it? Whenever you start to lose the motivation to work on it, go back to this list to renew your connection to it and to make sure you haven’t strayed away from what made you fall in love with the idea in the first place.
Keep your creative well full
Staying inside your writing bubble can create a sort of echo chamber where you’re recycling the same ideas and ways of thinking. If you’re feeling bored or stuck, this could be the issue.
That’s why it’s important to engage with other sources of fiction, art, and even educational things like documentaries and non-fiction on a regular basis. A consistent flow of fresh ideas will keep your own creativity from going stagnant because it constantly has new resources to pull from.
The fiction you engage with doesn’t have to be in the same genre as what you’re writing; for some writers, they prefer to stay away from anything similar. Keeping some kind of fiction in your life, though, can help keep things like story structure fresh in your mind. Creativity fuels creativity.
You never know what could spark your inspiration or give you an answer to a plot hole.
Don’t write in chronological order
This was a big breakthrough for me recently! As someone who likes to be very organized, I’ve always preferred to write in chronological order. But recently, I was feeling stuck on some of the scenes I’d outlined for the beginning of my work-in-progress, so I decided to jump to some of the scenes that were really clear and vivid in my mind.
Wow, what a difference that made!
Especially for a first draft, this can break through the resistance you’re feeling and help you get to know your characters and the story via the scenes you already feel the strongest connection to.
Instead of forcing yourself to write in chronological order, try writing whatever scene you are being called to next. If you have an outline, this will give you a sense of adventure even within your planned structure.
Develop an outline
One of the biggest triggers of procrastination is not knowing what to do. Lacking direction and dealing with plot holes are major vibe killers.
If your story is particularly complex, an outline is especially helpful so that you can work out all of the details before you get to the writing stage. This frees you up to focus on the characters and the story without interruption once you start writing.
Not all outlines are made the same. You can outline a little or a lot depending on what works for you.
- You can develop a deep outline, like James Patterson’s method where you outline every scene in detail
- You can outline only the major story beats like the ones in Save the Cat (I find this to be the most helpful because it gives you a good road map of the most important points even if you don’t fill out the details around it)
- You can simply know the most important points at the beginning, middle, and end
- If you’re a true, hardcore pantser and prefer to stay completely away from outlines, you can stick to using your characters’ motivations and love lists as a guide
Going in with a plan always increases your chances of seeing it through to the end. What that plan consists of depends on what works for you. Experiment with your process and iterate as you go.
You’ve got this!