With National Novel Writing Month upon us, I thought this would be apropos.
A lot of writers and interviewers talk about the muse. What is your muse? That’s not the same as motivation. A muse is something that inspires you to write, something that creates that niggling of an idea in your head.
But, what about when you’re blocked? Maybe you’ve let your story or manuscript sit around for awhile. I think most of us get busy. Our lives kind of take over, and whatever project we were working on suffers a little. I imagine all of us have had that happen at some point. So, what techniques do you use to get back in the mood, to make yourself finish? Maybe you do a free writing exercise. What writer hasn’t felt they were a little rusty from time to time? Maybe you just sit down and plot out your next novel. Sure, that can be motivating. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, doesn’t it?
Case in point, I struggled this year with such a thing. My first historical romance was published in February. I knew I wanted to make a trilogy out of it. I even had some scenes down for the other two books. But, the sequel just wasn’t happening very fast. One day, I thought, “Just do it! Get it done!”
What is that saying? There is no time like the present. Even if you’re only doing a couple of pages at a time, that works too. I have one connection on Facebook who posts how many words he gets done every day. Well, that’s great!
So, you may ask how I did it. I wrote as much as I possibly could. Then, when I needed to research a location, a time period or little nuances of a character, I slowed down and focused on that. How? I created an agenda. I made notes of what I needed to focus on, and I put them in a place I couldn’t ignore. I researched every detail I could until I was so sick of it I thought I was seeing what clipper ships looked like and diary entries from sailors in my sleep. Then I used that information to make it seem natural to the story and the character. Of course, I did other types of research too. I researched every port that was visited. I looked into the décor of the time period. I grew to enjoy what I was learning. Well, if I’m not excited about it, I guess my readers won’t be. I even learned about dueling, and the code of honor.
I’m really digressing here, aren’t I? My point is that all of the information created fuel for the fire, the fire being the story and the writing of it. Having that kind of information on hand as I encountered certain scenes was so much easier. So, instead of throwing up my hands and tossing the project aside, I dug into it. I forced myself to do it. Needless to say, it took me awhile to finish writing the sequel. It probably lasted a year. But, believe me, that is nothing compared to how long it took the first one. Now, I’m still polishing the manuscript so I can send it off, but I feel that sense of accomplishment, you know? I haven’t slowed down with other projects though. I am still writing.
So, are there other kinds of motivation? Sure. I’m sure a lot of you are shaking your head at me and saying, “It can’t be this easy.” Of course not. If it was, everyone would do it. But, the motivation really helps. I’m not saying a lot of other stuff isn’t involved. You still have to have developed characters, a good plot, a resolution, et cetera.
I have learned other ways to motivate myself. I have not only published traditionally; I have self-published fifteen books. And each time, I built a system of how I could finish my books. Obviously, this doesn’t work in every case and I don’t suggest it if you use certain types of publishers. It won’t work with traditional publishers. You’d better have a perfect or as close to perfect copy as you can with them.
I used Lulu.com for my self-published books. I spent a lot of time editing and proofing each copy. About nine or ten books in, I decided, “This is too hard. I need to see it to know what to do.” My approach to writing is kind of random. Scenes can come to in any order and more often than not, they do. Occasionally, I can think about where I left off last and something will come to me naturally. But, the muse has her own plans. Sometimes I may have the beginning written, but then the end comes to me. Later, a scene that fits in the middle suddenly pops up. So on and so forth. Eventually, I have a collage of scenes that are in order, but there are a lot of empty spaces. These spaces can seem a little daunting.
So, when I approached my self-published books, I had these book projects on hand. I wanted the stories to turn into actual books. As aforementioned, around the ninth or tenth attempt, I was ready to hang it up. Then, an idea popped into my head. Eureka! Since Lulu doesn’t distribute widely until you’ve proofed the final copy, I thought, “Okay. What the hell.” It only required a small investment really, but at least I knew what was missing. So, I had the proof copies for each project printed up. When I received one in the mail, I could read through it for edits, then tackle the sections that needed work. Suddenly, just seeing it in print motivated me to write more scenes and finish the book. This worked for the rest of my books, except for Upon Your Return. That was traditionally published. But, there are different ways to motivate yourself. Just a thought, of course.
In lieu of this crazy method of mine, printing a chapter might work too. Seeing it in print might actually help. You can catch mistakes you might not have noticed, and add scenes you didn’t think of before. We are not infallible. Sometimes I think being so close to that computer screen doesn’t really help so much. Well, anyway, that’s my motivation for my self-published books. Somehow, seeing those sections missing actually motivates me to write more. Perhaps it’s the annoyance of having work unfinished that does it. But, whatever the reason, it has worked for me.
Maybe for you it is the dream of being published that motivates you. It certainly did for me long ago. I think another thing comes into play for me. More than anything, I just want people to read my books. I want people to enjoy reading them. Nothing else could be more satisfying.
So, what is your motivation? What makes you put your nose to the grindstone and write that book? I’d be interested to know.
Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and three cats. She has been writing for over twenty years. She has more works in progress than she can count on two hands.
At the tender age of nine, she began writing stories. Her imagination fueled a lot of her early child’s play. Even growing up, she entered writing contests and received a certificate for achieving the second round in one. She majored in Creative Writing in college because that was all she ever wanted – to be a writer. While there, she published two works in a university publication, and was a copy editor on the staff of an online student journal. After graduating from college, she sought out her dream to publish a book.
Since then, Marie has published sixteen books. Marie Lavender’s real love is writing romances, but she has also written mysteries, literary fiction and dabbled a little in paranormal stories. Most of her works have a romantic element involved in them. Upon Your Return is her first historical romance novel. Feel free to visit her website for further information about her books and her life. Marie is also on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Fara Bellamont has been back in society for a year after leaving Cluny Abbey, where her uncle sent her long ago. When he chooses a suitor for her for marriage, she fears that she will be forced to marry a stranger and live a miserable life. But, Fara finds herself thrust into an adventure of a lifetime when unforeseen circumstances cause her to place her trust in a strange man for protection. His intervention not only saves her, but puts her in an even more compromising position. Grant Hill, a trading captain, is enchanted by the young heiress not only because of her beauty, but because she is hardly conventional. Underneath her ladylike exterior lies a tigress. Grant cannot help but offer his protection as she is in need and he is far from immune from her charms. Fara just never bargained on the passion that she feels for Grant Hill. As events unfold, she must decide whether her desires and the dictates of her heart should trump the rules of society…