The Motivation to Write Your Novel

The question I get asked a lot and I know gets asked of every writer: How do you finish a novel (or screenplay, pilot, fill-in-the-blank)? I don’t have a magic potion or secret formula but what I do have is tenacity.

Here’s what I do: I sit down with my calendar and pick days that I’m going to write, rewrite, or plan an outline then I write down—Tuesday, five pages. Or maybe it’s—Wednesday, revise June story line with Connor. I plot it out over the course of a month and then I stick to it. Now that doesn’t mean that I don’t waver and write 3 pages instead of 5 or I only finish a chunk of revisions. Either way, I keep the date with myself.

I’m training for my very first 10K and it’s very similar to trying to write a novel. Every day I’m chipping away at a section. In running, I’m building up from 2 miles to 2.5 miles, slowly but surely. With writing, my 5 pages on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday add up to 15 pages in a week, 60 pages in a month, etc.

You might think, “I don’t want to be so regimented with my writing. I just want to write when the muse hits me.” Sure, I used to do that. But this way I’m making actual progress. The most important thing about writing is actually writing. Not just saying, “I want to write a novel,” but you have to show up and get the words on the page. It sounds easy, but trust me, I’ve done enough dishes and cleaned enough rooms to know that when it comes time to write, I’ll think of any excuse to get out of it. So these dates are important, even if I’m kicking and screaming, I’m showing up to do the pages.

Try it. You might surprise yourself.

4 Comments on “The Motivation to Write Your Novel

  1. I love the comparison to working out. I’m trying to get into the habit of riding my bike around town and on a Missouri bike trail we have here, and I put up such a fight to do that. It’s the same fight when it comes to writing whatever I need to write. But once you start and finish, you feel great, and you’ve been super productive.

  2. Great analogy, Jenn. Having the word “run” pencilled in my date book seriously ups the odds that I’ll actually get out there and run. Makes sense the same strategy would work for writing. 🙂

    • I’m reading a great memoir right now by Haruki Murakami called “What I Talk about When I Talk About Running,” and it’s a memoir of him running marathons while also being a novelist. I think both take discipline and time but slowly and surely, you can build on what you have day by day.

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