Have you ever started writing and found you lost motivation a few weeks in? When you started out you were so pumped, you’d close your eyes and could see that book completed? And that thought motivated you to start, and in the beginning words poured out of you onto the paper, typewriter, keyboard? But a few weeks down, you started to find other things to do rather then write? And you’d say to yourself if only I had more time each day I’d finish. Meanwhile you spend more time reading twitter then novels and more time watching tv then writing? Or have you doubted whether you were good enough to write in the first place? I know this has been one of my long standing issues.
I’ve been there. When I was younger I thought writing wouldn’t be too hard, and so I’d write for a bit and my story sounded intriguing enough, but I wouldn’t stick with it and I’d want to start writing something else before long. Wait a minute I guess it isn’t that easy. And then I figured I wasn’t meant to write and I stopped. Why does a story seem to have a lot of potential and feel so easy, only to get harder as time goes on? During my school years when I read a book or watched a movie, I thought plots seemed simple and that anyone could write without difficulty if they had the time. Nearly everyone can crank a few story ideas out if they tried. Not only that, but they could also write a beginning middle and end without much sweat. Yet few people would call writing easy or have decided to make a goal to write something that they will complete.
It’s a lot harder to sit down and write a story then simply to think about a story that someone could write about. Many say that finishing a book is like running a marathon. You know that when it’s done you have achieved something important, something not everyone could do.
Starting to write in the whirlwind of inspiration is not too bad. But the next stage of keeping it up get’s a bit more challenging. That’s when a lot of would be writers probably leave the race. I like to think of it as the 2-3 year mark in a marriage. A friend of mine told me that 2-3 years into a marriage is the hardest, and if you could get through that then you can get through just about anything else. Though there is also mid life crisis time that to comes to mind. But I agree this is like the test of the marriage. It is when the glamour has faded and the couple are not going to be able to sweet talk all the annoying ticks under the rug anymore. This is the live or die phase. And if these problems don’t get worked out, marriages often do that, die. I hate to say it, but there is still a high divorce rate. This is exactly what someone who has huge ambitions towards finishing their dearly beloved story doesn’t want. After the honey moon magic has played, that the problems in the book become huge and ultimately kill the book.
What makes this problem so difficult is that problems in a book are often not easily solved and more easily ignored. The parts of the book that are problems are the exact parts that people would most like to ignore. Even if a book with a problem does get finished, people will notice that there is something wrong and the reviews will reflect the truth. Readers have a sharp instinct when it comes to books that are good and ones that aren’t. Unfortunately just a few issues can knock a good book to merely so-so. Not only that but editors can be very expensive these days and people can often overlook their own problems.
So how do you solve these problems and finish the book when your inspiration starts to run dry? There is sadly no one hit wonder answer to solving this. But there are a few things that can be done that can make writing go a little bit smoother through the rough patches. One of the things I do is that I constantly remind myself what I love about my story and about my characters. And I work on those areas to make them even better, sweeter. It is easy to forget why you love your story when you are in the midst of a serious problem. When all you want to do is stop writing. That is why so many people say that when writing make sure you care about your story. It will make your story much better and it will also help you stay through the tough spots.
A way to love your character is to get to know that character. It takes a lot of time and writing to get to that point though. Often the answer is that the more you write and specifically the more deeply you write in their perspective the more you will know them and also your readers will too. And once you love your character you will do a lot more for them. You’ll enjoy writing their scenes, and you’ll be sad when their hearts break. Yesterday I had to free write to rediscover my character because I found out that he might be a little melancholy. He might not though. Which goes to show you can’t just write the character completely for yourself, because you may end up with a character that isn’t as appealing to an audience.
Last is the problem of pot holes in a story and how to get over them. I know there are a lot of people who like to not organize a story ahead of time and just go, but I have found that I have often run into problems if I did not make some kind of outline early on. And even after I have made my outline and thought out many of the scenes, that I still run into story line issues. I notice them while working on the outline usually. But it is probably the best place to notice them. Because then I can make sweeping changes to the story without wasting time. When I write the story the first time, I write short chapters of only about a page to three pages long. Afterwards I can see if there are any problems, and fix it without having to change a lot of writing. Then I go back and add a lot more detail to each chapter.
I can’t emphasize enough how helpful an outline can be. And there can still be a lot of free writing to keep the story loose. But even though some can write completely without an outline it takes a different kind of focus, and personally I think it is easier to start with an outline if you are unsure if you have that focus. It is too tempting for the pantster to write too many starts of stories and never and complete something.
So finally as a playback, break out of routine now and then and do something in your writing that is purely enjoyment that reminds you how much you love your characters and need to tell their story, and work on the fun scenes you love to tell. If you don’t love your character or story or both the story is going to suffer. And then after that It comes down to basics. In a relationship, the beginning is great whether people do anything or not. But if there are issues that have not been worked out, it will come through in the relationship eventually. There will be struggles, and so the answer is to solve the problems as soon as possible and not hide to hide from them. Same with a story, if there are problems they will need to be worked on at some point. Ignoring them is only a temporary solution. The little practical things will ultimately make you achieve your goals.
Rushing to finish a book but not taking care in how it is made will often lead to the disaster of a poorly made book. But with a little care, a few rules set for oneself like writing daily, and figuring out who has the gun in such and such scene before starting the fight scene may save a lot of pain later.
I hope everyone the best in their writing pursuits. We all have different goals, but we can work together and learn from each other. What is one of the things you do to keep the writing magic alive for you on the day to day when writing your story?