As an unpublished writer, keeping the faith in a project is hard. With no one to tell you to keep going, no hooked readers, trickles of sales or even friends and family passing on comments of encouragement – having constant motivation can be elusive.
Yes, I have a compulsion to write – that’s why I do it. But that is the compulsion to immerse myself in my imagination – not a compulsion to see one project through to completion. As many writers will know it would be easy to write aimlessly, stopping and starting projects as the belief in them wavers.
To complicate it further I’ve also decided not to do things the easy way. The project I’m working on is a series of three short novels (around 60 thousand words each). They’re all going to be nearly finished before I move onto the challenges of publication – as that’ll distract me from the writing process. And with working full time as an English teacher, the hour I’m spending daily is already a stretch.
It is going well though – I currently have the first book in second draft, which I’m starting to feel happy with. The second one is approaching first draft form, but it’s a mess at the moment, and I’ve yet to even think about the third. It has been a tough, but enjoyable journey far – I have managed to keep focus, and I will finish it.
Here are a few things I do to make sure I keep the faith to chip away day after day:
Write fast and edit slowly
During the writing process, my only aim is to get words on the page until I reach the end of the story. I don’t edit, read back, show other people, or think about anything which isn’t the next chapter at this point. This time is just about writing – what I’m writing definitely has a long way to go at this stage, but that’s ok.
Leave breathing time
When I reach the end of a stage (finishing a draft for example) I need to leave time for the project to rest. When I’ve written or edited a complete draft I put it to one side for at least six weeks. I need to let my mind forget about it, because then when I look back over it I’m fresh and can see it critically.
Look at the whole story – don’t worry about the details
I made this mistake with my first draft – to my frustration. I leapt into the editing process trying to correct all the little mistakes when there were much larger structural things I should have dealt with first. Overlook the small things to start with, they can be corrected later – first of all is the story compelling? Does it make sense and flow as it should?
Read books from the start of a writer’s career
I’ve found this really useful – often you will read a novel which is the writer’s 10th, 15th or 20th. When you do this obviously you feel inferior – “I can’t do that!”. Not yet you can’t no, because that writer has written a million words over the last fifteen years! I’ve started looking for writers’ early works or specifically looking for new inexperienced writers – reading their work has given me real confidence in my own. These people are still successful writers, and their work is closer to mine.
Keep a log of new ideas
Don’t allow yourself to get distracted by new and shiny ideas – unless perhaps you’re writing short stories, then you can move from one to the other quickly. I keep a note of all the ideas that occur to me, at some point I will look back over them – but not right now.