Novel Tips for Fantasy Writing: Motivation Station

Writers are famous for their motivation problems. It's why we have a phrase for it: writer's block. And if you think about it, it's not unreasonable. After all, writing is inherently an act of creation, and that takes a lot of energy.

That's why today's tip isn't necessarily confined to fantasy writing: ways to keep yourself motivated! I've heard all kinds of suggestions over the years as I struggled with this problem myself.  These are the best methods I have been able to come up with, all of which have lead to some incredible progress on my novel in the last year and a half. Some work, some don't, and your mileage will inevitably vary.

1. Always quit while you're ahead.

I'll be straight with you - this is the hardest tip on this list. When you're writing, NEVER stop at a "convenient" stopping place or when you finally run out of gas. If you do, it's much harder to get started again. You'll think to yourself, "oh I just completed that chapter. I'm taking a well-deserved break." You'll think to yourself, "I'm not sure what I want to write after this section. I need to think about it before I write again." And then you don't write, for days which become weeks which may become months or years. Sound familiar to anyone?

Stop writing while you have momentum behind you. Stop in the middle of a chapter, stop in the middle of a page. Hell, stop in the middle of a sentence. 

It's hard, and it feels so wrong, because you're on fire! You want to keep going! But you will not regret it the next day, when you return to write. You'll look at what you wrote and say, "oh, yeah, I remember what I wanted to finish this chapter with." You'll start writing, and you'll get over that initial hump of actually starting much faster.

The biggest concern people may have with this method is forgetting what they were going to write. If you think you'll forget, write short notes to remind yourself - I do this all the time. But don't write full sentences. Save that to start your metaphorical engine for your next writing session.

2. Create a motivation board.

In practice, this can be whatever you want it to be, but it should be something you can stick in a prominent place that will remind you every day of why you write. Any time you're struggling, you can look at it and remind yourself why you do this despite the frequent difficulty.

For myself, I'm amassing quotes from my favorite writers, the ones who inspire me to be better (and that I wish I had one tenth the talent of). I'm also taking things from people I know here on Quora, like tips from Marcus Geduld's wonderful blog and the comment from Nan Waldman on the prologue to my novel. 

3. Learn what your best writing environment is.

Everybody is different, and everybody writes in different ways. You need to figure out the best environment for you. If your environment doesn't maximize your productivity, then you're not going to be as motivated to work.

You may choose to write on a computer, or you find that too distracting (too much Facebook and Twitter, for instance) and opt instead for handwriting. I write best on my laptop, because I can sit on my favorite chair and it allows me to make instantaneous and non-messy edits to my work. But that may not be for you.

You may write in silence, or with TV or music on. I write best to music, and specifically dubstep, which is exciting but doesn't have many words for me to get distracted singing along with. (Yes, I'm well aware I've got at least ten screws loose). So I created a Pandora station to fit my needs, and I run it while I write to keep me motivated.

Change it up. If a particular environment isn't working for you, experiment with something else. Go outside, or inside. Write on the floor. Write in your bed. Write by hand, or get a recorder and dictate (and then type it out later). Figure out how you work best.

4. Gamify your writing.

I love board games and video games, so this idea always made sense to me. Generally speaking, I am motivated to play games and to win at them. I mean, let's be real: most people want to win. So I've experimented with this a couple of times and found great success.

I did with my senior thesis in college. I came up with "Achievements," much like you would receive for playing an Xbox game, for doing certain things. Most of them were premised around page count or word count, but I tried to be clever about them. I posted them on Facebook once I had gotten the Achievement. I was more exciting about coming up with Achievements than I was about the thesis at times - but it kept me writing. I was always looking forward to posting the next one and seeing my friends' reactions, and in order to post it I had to write. So I did.

Lately, I've joined a website called HabitRPG, along with several friends. HabitRPG allows you to gamify your life, not just your writing, by giving you money and a health bar that fluctuate according how often you do the tasks you set for yourself. You can even go on quests with the equipment you've bought. So I set one of my Dailies as writing 500 words. If I write 1,000 words, awesome - I get twice the credit. It helps me stay on track because I don't want my character to lose any life! 

5. Make it a competition.

Related to the previous suggestion, make your writing a competition. I can be insanely competitive, and nothing motivates me faster than throwing me up against someone else. This is a large part of the reason why I actually finished NaNoWriMo this year. I had three friends all working on novels too, all tracking their progress on the NaNo website, and I simply DID NOT want to be in last place.

If competition floats your boat, grab a couple of like-minded friends and track each other's progress. You can make it as intense as you like - maybe the last person to finish their book has to buy the other people a drink or something like that. 

And then get writing! You've got a novel to write!

What motivates you to write? Share your tips with me in the comments - I'm always looking for new ones!

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