Posted by on Jul 25, 2017 in Evergreen, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), On Writing: Craft and Commiseration | 0 comments

You can always tell when I’m catching up on my inbox when I do a lot of mailbag posts in a row. Relatedly, here’s another one:

We met last year during NaNoWriMo (October 2016) in preparation for our arduous month ahead. Thanks for all the great info. I wrote 50K words that month and almost completed my suspense novel. I have perhaps 20 pages to write for the action sequence/chapter needed to resolve the story, but I find myself w/o motivation to complete it. I have several people willing to review it once finished, including a playwright and a literary agent, but still no movement. Any suggestions?

Alas, you’re not really going to like my answer. The fact is, everyone hits that wall at some point in a project where they have no motivation to keep working, Either they lose their enthusiasm for the project, start to think their idea is silly or stupid or just get bored with the whole thing.

There are a lot of reasons this happens. Often it’s because of where you are in the story as middles are notoriously difficult to write and can arrest your momentum. Or it’s because you’ve hit a section of the book where you don’t know enough about something (character motivation, someone’s backstory, how something works, not enough research done to understand something fully, etc) and can’t move on until you figure it out. And, lots of times, it’s because you’re bored with the section you’ve got to write which usually means the reader will be bored there too so go on ahead and skip that section because you’ll only end up cutting it later anyway.

No matter which one sounds like you, the remedy is always the same: keep writing. If you don’t feel like it, you’ve got to force yourself until you get to the point when you get excited about your story again (which should happen as you get closer to your climax). The only way out is through.

This might mean skipping around to the parts you’re excited to write. It might mean stream of consciousness, mind mapping or other free form writing until you figure out the issue that’s stopping you cold. Or it might mean writing a new, completely different version of the next scene every day until you figure out which is the right way through. Back-up to the last scene you were able to write and try alternate outcomes. What if the exact opposite happened? Play with it and, eventually, the knot will untangle.

Then move forward with the rest of the book. Even if you’re certain that what you’re writing is no good, that’s fine. Just get all the way to the end. Once you do that, you’ll be going back to the beginning to go over the whole thing again. And again. And again. Revision and editing are cycle and a whole new learning process. And then, once it’s as good as you can possibly make it, you can finally show it to the readers clamoring for it.

But even though you’ll be going over the book dozens of times in the revision process, it’s still essential to get to The End that very first time for several reasons. It will show you exactly what needs to be in your story and what can go. It will help solidify how the book should begin (as endings and beginnings always go hand in hand). It will let you look at the book as a whole and show you exactly where you need more information to be able to tell the story the right way. It will give your book a shape that you can mold and correct later as needed.

And, most of all, pushing through and forcing yourself to finish what you start, even when you really don’t want to, will teach you more about writing than a thousand masterclasses and books on craft. It’s because THAT, that feeling of wanting to do literally anything else but writing anyway is what you need to cultivate and work at if you want to have success as a writer.

You need to keep writing long after it stops being fun. Yes, that’s the point where writing becomes work but it’s also when you start to really get somewhere and watch your story come to life. And that is tremendously fun.