When I’m writing and feeling my way through a manuscript, sometimes it seems like there’s no end in sight. Even though I know that like a runner in a marathon, I just have to keep moving forward, putting one foot down and then the other, when I’m in the middle of a book it’s easy for me to lose motivation.
Maybe I should clean those cupboards out instead, I think. (In fact it’s fairly safe, if you should find me cleaning anything, to just assume I’m in the dreaded middle of a book). Or, Maybe I should set this book aside and start a different one. I’ve been in this game long enough now that I never fall for that one, but that doesn’t make it any easier to face those empty pages.
What does help, as I’ve learned in these past twenty-something years of writing novels, is to promise myself little treats for every milestone reached.
When I’ve hit fifty thousand words, say, I can buy myself that Shiny Thing on eBay I’ve been coveting.
Or, when I’ve finished this next section, I can have chocolate (or maybe a Jacobite Ale).
Carrots, not sticks.
For the novel I’m working on now I’m so close to my deadline the writing is almost continual, and that makes setting the milestones trickier, but I still set them. (The cookies, above, were my treat for completing a difficult scene).
But the carrot, by this stage of every book, is always bigger and better than any reward—it’s the new, bright idea that’s starting to shape itself into the next novel, beckoning just out of reach, that will carry me through to the end of this current one.
That’s my reward for the end of a book, really: Getting to start the whole process again with the words, “Chapter One”.
What helps you get things done? Do you have any tricks of your own, when you need motivation?