This list was inspired by a thread in the NaNoWriMo forums. I thought about it after I’d read it, and realized that I used to have that problem, but since I’d decided to take the 50,000 word challenge, the problem had mostly disappeared in November and was greatly reduced the rest of the year.
Here is how I get over that “hump”– where the first flush of success has worn off, but the story is nowhere near it’s halfway point:
- Be interested in your story — don’t write something that you feel you ‘should’, or characters that you think are cool even though you despise writing about them. It’s very hard to mull over the details of a story when it feels like schoolwork.
- Don’t get distracted and start something else — I get good ideas all the time. I write down what I know of the idea, and go back to my original project, that way I don’t have a lot of false starts lying around. Instead, I have a lot of notes and finished draft.
- Make sure you have an ending in mind — This ending may change as your story develops, but it’s good to have in mind a goal, so that you have a place to write to.
- Be flexible, let the story suggest itself — If the characters are shoehorned into doing something that they wouldn’t and the reader knows they wouldn’t, the reader feels betrayed. Let the characters speak; you may not be writing the story you think you are writing.
- Do it all during Nano — this one isn’t necessarily only for Nanoers. It means find the situation in which you work best (under pressure, in the bath, in complete silence). Try to get yourself into that situation as often as possible, and do as much writing as you can when you can.
- Keep notes — nothing gets done all at once. If you try to write the details the first time around, you might miss the bigger picture. Rather than going back and fussing, keep notes about your ideas. This sort of dovetails with the first point — keep notes so that you know what ending fits with the current incarnation of the characters.
- Don’t worry — Some people want to get every sentence perfect before moving on. Maybe this works for them, but it slows down momentum, and then boredom sets in, and then the story is in danger of being abandoned altogether. Some people also worry that what they are doing has been done before — well it probably has. Shakespeare didn’t write much that was original, he just did it better.
- Don’t wait for inspiration or motivation — this is big. To those who wait, inspiration or motivation will never come. Write even when you don’t feel like it, or when all you have talk about is the color of the rug.
- Let others motivate you — Tell your trusted friends what you are doing: sometimes the best motivator is a friend asking about your latest project. That way you can say ‘oh, I finished that months ago’ and wait for their impressed exclamations.
I wrote these with fiction in mind but it can be applied, with a little tweaking perhaps, to many projects.
And yes, I’m still working on labeling and optimizing those pictures I took in Portland.