5 Tips for Staying Motivated When Writing a Novel

By on September 22, 2017

This is how you do it: You sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until it’s done. It’s that easy, and that hard.” Neil Gaiman

Every writer, even the famous ones, and especially me, knows what it’s like to get stuck: a character that’s not fully formed yet, a stilted piece of dialogue, a setting that isn’t completely visualized, a plot twist that isn’t packing enough punch.

The initial enthusiasm for your manuscript has all but dissipated and you’re losing heart. It feels like a slog and you’re on the point of giving up. Don’t! A blank page need not be a road to nowhere. Here is my 5 top tips for staying motivated and in control of your creativity while you work on your novel.

Tip #1: Write something else for a while

Unless your editor is expecting your finished manuscript next week, put it aside and do something new. The annual NanoWrimo competition challenges you to write a 50,000-word novel in a month. An online portal keeps track of your word count and the intensity of the total immersion in the project keeps your writing fresh and exciting.

Tip #2: Try a different scene

There’s no rule that says you have to write the scenes in order. So if one scene just isn’t coming together no matter how hard you try, set it aside and start working on a new one. Chances are you’ll be swapping scenes around during the editing process anyway so don’t be precious about finishing each one in turn before moving onto the next.

Tip #3: Take a (short) break

Instead of staring at the screen in paralysis, walk away and do something physical for a few hours, preferably something mundane and repetitive, like gardening, going for a walk or swim, or doing the ironing. That way your brain will still be ruminating in the background while your body is working on something else. BUT you must return to your writing at the end of it and try to do a little more. You might surprise yourself at how much creativity is released by a few exercise endorphins.

Tip #4: Reward yourself

This really helps you focus on the positive. Set small targets (the next 1,000 words, a completed chapter, a new character fleshed out) then reward yourself with something small that will make you smile: buy a new notebook, meet a friend for coffee, go and see a film. A novel takes a long time to write so break up the work by planning small treats for yourself on a regular basis.

Tip #5: Read something

Good writers also read. It doesn’t matter what – a book, magazine, newspaper – anything that submerses you in someone else’s writing for a while. Read like a writer – pay attention to style, language, learn new words and fall back in love with your own writing again. You don’t need to read to the end, just dip in enough to get some ideas and inspiration for your project.

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