This kind of motivation is hard to find. The motivation to stick with a project–specifically a writing project and specifically a novel–isn’t just conjured out of thin air. Sometimes is sheer force of will that sees that novel to the end. Sometimes it’s because people are waiting for the next installment/chapter, or you have an editor waiting for the first draft. Sometimes it’s a set deadline, and sometimes it’s something more.
First of all, if you have no willpower, you will not finish your novel. Period. There are going to be times when it’s tough. You won’t want to write another word, and you won’t see the point in completing this chapter or event the sentence you’re on. If you can’t grit your teeth and stick with it, you’re not going to get anywhere. It is hard work, but it’s also very rewarding when you have a completed manuscript in your hands.
In the past when I would post chapters of my writing on the forums of a game, the guilt would become overwhelming if I waited to long to write the next chapter. That, with the combination of nagging readers–or worse, the ones who say they’ll love whatever you write no matter how long you wait to post it (guilt-fest!)–is a surefire way to get my fingers typing like mad. This method works especially well if you’re not self-motivated and need an external force (a due date, for example) to get you working. Programs like NaNoWriMo and Write or Die (links can be found in Writing Links and Writing Websites under Writing References) are also helpful when you need a kick in the pants to get writing.
If you are self-motivated, there are lots of tips and tricks to get you writing. Here are just a few:
- Break out the M & M’s! Reward yourself with one piece for every 100 words.
- Provide yourself with bigger rewards for bigger landmarks. If you finish a chapter, take a bath or go for a walk. If you reach an increment of 10,000 words, see a movie. Done with the whole manuscript? Buy a few books (and support your favorite authors!) that you’ve been dying to read.
- Set a deadline and work toward it every day. Make sure that it’s reasonable and reachable. Also, if your daily word quota is more than you can handle if you miss a day, it’s not going to work. Things happen, so plan ahead.
Lastly, there is something more that urges you to stick with your novel. Some might call it love of the project, but it can’t just be that. It has to be stronger than love. It has to be the inability to survive without your novel. You have to want to write it so much that you can’t stop. You might hate every word that comes your brain provides, but you write those words anyways because without them your story wouldn’t go on. Your characters would be stuck, frozen forever in an uncompleted scene. Not finishing that manuscript would be like losing part of yourself and leaving a character mid-scene would leave him or her teetering off the edge of obliv–
Finish what you started.
Sticking with it until the end,
I am very self-motivated when it comes to long-term goals, such as finishing a novel, but I struggle with the shorter ones. ”Why do I need to write 100 words to eat an M & M? It’s right there? I can just pick it up and eat it now and be done with it.” Then, I do just that. I do reward myself for bigger accomplishments, like chapters and finishing the first draft, but that’s not what propels me to finish. For me, it’s definitely the inability to live without my story. I need it written so that it’s not inside just me anymore. I can’t risk forgetting details, so I have to write it down. That’s why I tend to write in spurts: 20,000 words in August, break, another large quantity over a long weekend, break, etc.