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Are you looking for tips on how to stay motivated writing a novel? Are you losing the motivation to write and need help to reignite your enthusiasm and perseverance?
Whether it’s trying to find the inspiration and drive to finish writing a book, finding a writing motivation app to boost your productivity or making a start so you get the motivation to write in the first place, check out these top 15 tips on how to stay motivated writing a novel.
It's Common to Lack Motivation When Writing Your Book
Writing a novel is similar to running a marathon. There are plenty of people who think they can do it, yet many of them who try will fail. Running a marathon is fine for the first few miles, but once you get into that longer distance, there’s more to finishing than just fitness. It takes mental strength and drive.
The same goes for writing a novel.
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Maya Angelou.
Most people can throw out a chapter or two. But 60,000 to 100,000 words? That takes dedication and a great deal of motivation, dedication, time, effort.
One of the key factors when writing a novel is maintaining motivation. If you can’t keep it going and build your manuscript, that best-selling thriller, romance, memoir, or fantasy epic is going to fizzle out and die pretty quickly, buried and gathering digital dust on your laptop hard drive.
Here I take a closer look at novel motivation, what it means and how to keep it going, not just at the beginning but right through to the end of your book.
Losing the Motivation to Write: What Causes It?
One day you can be completely in the zone, the next you’re staring at the screen with an empty head. Loss of motivation can take many forms.
Lack of passion
You’re not totally invested in the story you are writing. Maybe you decided to write a novel for the wrong reasons – perhaps because you’re fed up with your job or you dream of becoming a published author.
Passion for words, passion for stories, passion for narrative – whatever writing means to you, you need to have that investment emotionally, mentally, and physically. Without it, it’s hard to keep going.
You're not sure about grammar rules or you have trouble constructing sentences that flow. You don't know how to connect scenes or you feel there is too much or not enough dialogue. These are all areas that can be remedied.
What matters most are the story, the plot, and the characters. If you get these down on the page, you can deal with the rest later.
Not enough time
We’re all time poor nowadays. There’s work, then the family, catching up with friends, that latest boxset you want to watch. Time management when you’re a writer is essential. Very few of us have enough time to write.
You have to find it, however. Once you start looking, you’ll be surprised how many opportunities you can find to sit down and construct your novel.
Your story has stalled
The biggest problem when writing a novel is the plot stalling or when you suddenly decide to go in a different direction, therefore creating inconsistencies or plot holes in what you've already written.
We’ll take a closer look at plotting versus ‘pantsing’ later but, for now, just accept that your novel is going to run into a brick wall or two. Don’t let it stop you.
Procrastination is your biggest enemy
Motivation and procrastination go hand in hand when it comes to writing a novel. It may seem that you can find a whole time slot to do other things rather than sit down and work.
The fight against procrastination is a very real one, so you need to have a battle plan before it negatively affects your writing project altogether.
If this is a big problem for you, try Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art to help with your motivation when writing a novel.
How to Stay Motivated Writing a Novel – 15 Top Tips
So, how do you get the motivation to write? Before you even switch on your laptop, you need to catch that initial motivation to write, and then carry this with you throughout the whole process.
Maintaining motivation for more than just a day or a week isn’t easy.
1. Commit to Writing
Decide to make this commitment. Writing isn’t a hobby. It’s a job. You are an author.
You may not yet have a finished manuscript to hold up and show the world, but you are now a solid, bona fide writer. Believe it and commit to writing. No ifs or buts.
2. Have a Good Story
The key to getting from prologue to ‘The End’ is the story you want to tell. It may sound obvious, but a good story is far easier to write than a bad one. This comes back to passion, yet also knowing the story you have not only works but is something you can tell.
Whether it’s horror, chick lit, autobiographical, period drama or crime, you have to love the plot and characters and believe in the project with all your heart.
3. Carry a Notebook
As a novelist, you will quickly realize that ideas come to you at the strangest times.
Treat yourself to some new stationery, and get into the habit of carrying around a notebook and pen or use your smartphone to write down your ideas. Have it with you at work, when you are out and about, and by your bed at night.
Not all those ideas will be useful, but at least they will be there for you to refer to rather than be lost forever.
4. Connect with Other Writers
ne great way to motivate yourself is getting to know other writers. Join a local club if there is one or connect with forums and groups online – there are thousands of them to choose from. Here are just a few online:
Online groups are very supportive and can help you get through the bad times when writing your novel or nonfiction book. They also provide a lot of inspiration.
Reach out and connect, and you’ll find a whole new and exciting world to get involved in.
5. Read, Read, Read
Stephen King once wrote that he carries a book around with him wherever he goes and reads whenever he can. It's great advice for any author.
Read books in your genre and books that aren’t. Read good and bad books (you’ll be surprised how much you can learn from reading a bad novel). Be prolific and, above all, critical in your reading habits.
Try Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them by Francine Prose.
6. Stop Dreaming, Start Doing
Writers can spend a lot of time thinking and dreaming. There’s nothing wrong with that, but sooner or later you need to get down to the work.
Switch on your laptop, clear your mind and get on with your novel.
7. Don’t Stop to edit
Many a great novel has been affected by someone stopping to edit. Albert Camu’s The Plague has a character that is continuously revising their first page and has been for many years.
Editing too soon stops you moving forward. And that’s really what you want to be doing, right to the end of the book. Editing and revising, unless absolutely necessary, needs to wait.
8. Combat Writer's Block
Whether you think writer’s block is a myth or not, there are going to be times when writing is hard.
Don’t let this sap your strength. Push through the pain and continue to write, even if words are not coming easily.
Not just hard; really, really hard. Check out my article 5 Writing Exercises to Overcome Writer’s Block to give your writing a jump-start.
9. Use a Writing Motivation App
Technology may not rescue your manuscript, but it can help you keep on track.
There are a few writing specific apps and software out there, including:
10. Create a Writing Space
Having a dedicated writing area is very important for motivation. It sets the tone for your activity and gives you a space that you can call your own.
Ideally, find somewhere that is quiet which you can tailor to your needs.
11. Set Aside Time to Write Regularly
Ideally, you should set aside the same time each day to write. That may be early in the morning or for an hour or two when you get home from work. Having this set routine should motivate you to keep going, even when you don’t quite feel like it.
Another way to look at this is to set a target word count every day if you can't dedicate a set period of time and only have half an hour here or there.
If what you've written is not complete or the sentence structure is not flowing as well as it should, a target of 500 words (or more if can manage it) will help to focus the mind and at least you'll have something to build on the next day.
12. Don’t Sweat the Quality
The story and the process is everything. Don’t worry about quality, spelling mistakes or bad passages of prose.
You can work on the quality and polish your novel later in the second draft stage. For now, you just need to get the story down and build those pages.
13. Milestone Rewards
Some people find it useful to give themselves little rewards.
This may be something as simple as a nice meal when you have finished a writing session or a trip out to treat yourself after you have finished a chapter or specific word count.
14. Love Your Characters
You can’t write effectively unless you know and love your characters.
Don’t make them two dimensional, think about them constantly, flesh them out and bring them to life. You should care about and invest in everyone, even the most sinister and amoral members of your cast.
15. Always Move Forward
Keep moving – don’t let your writing stall.
You should always be looking to move the plot onwards and upwards to the final denouement.
Don’t get stuck on describing a view or a scene unfolding in great detail when you should be showing what your protagonist does next.
How Do You Find the Motivation to Finish Writing a Book?
Of course you don’t just want to sit down and write and make it a regular thing; you want to finish that book.
Pop on to any author’s hard drive and you will no doubt find several unfinished novels and aborted attempts to create that enduring bestseller.
Starting is easy.
Finishing is very, very hard.
Plot vs pants
If you’ve already have some writing completed, you’ll have heard of this dichotomy ‘Plotting is self-evident’. You map out your story first so you know where you are going. You can do this in great detail with individual scenes or just have a bare outline.
Pantsers start writing without any idea where they're going and keep going until they have finished.
Take the quiz Are You a Plotter or Pantser? to see which you are.
You can be one or the other, or a mixture of the two. Pantsers, however, can lose motivation quickly, especially if they head in the wrong direction. If you want to ensure that you finish your novel, become a plotter and map your way ahead.
When the End isn’t Quite the End (Not by a Long Way!)
Once you’ve finished your first draft, you can sit back, pour that celebratory glass of wine, set off fireworks, phone your friend, scream from the roof – whatever floats your boat.
Finishing that draft is probably going to be your single most important writing accomplishment. You will have run the literary marathon. You will have your book, and no one can take that away from you. It’s there in black and white.
But this isn’t the end. The next stage of editing, rewriting and polishing your novel is going to take even more work.
The good news? You have that amazing base from which to work. Editing and building your novel can be quite an enjoyable process. For the moment, however, I suggest you leave that first draft for a while. Let it breathe.
You want to look at it with fresh eyes and read it right the way through without editing first of all. You’ll find moments of inspiration that you didn’t even know you could write. There will also be passages to improve and prose to modify– don’t worry, the editing process will put these right.
If you’re wondering whether to hire a professional to help finalize your manuscript and correct any errors, inconsistencies and help with formatting, check out my article Do I Need an Editor for My Book or check out myBook Editing Services to help (UK English only).
The motivation to write (and how to maintain it) is going to be different for everyone.
Some people have a burning message they want to get across. Others want to entertain. Some just enjoy the process of crafting a story or creating pictures with words.
Others look for relief from their lives and some want to be the next J. K. Rowling or Stephen King, Dan Brown or Jacqueline Wilson.
What they all have in common is an understanding of the time and dedication that goes into writing a novel. Not everything will go smoothly. You will sometimes lose that motivation. The trick, whatever your method, is to keep going. Be true to your writer self. It’s the engine that drives your motivation.
Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly. Franz Kafka.
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