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TL;DR: How do you approach to writing? What part of the work do you enjoy the most? And how do you keep the motivation up?


I often ask myself if I really like to write. I mean, I have a lot of ideas that pop into my mind and often think "mmm, that could be a good story!", but when it comes to write it down I suddenly feel, don't know, demotivated and lost, or I don't like the idea anymore, so after a few pages (or even rows) I quit.

All I could wrote were two short stories, one of twenty and one of three pages, and I had to sometime force me to write to finish them, but in the end I was really satisfied.

I'd really like to know your opinion, and know if this is a common feeling or if it is just me.

So how do you approach to writing? What part of it do you enjoy the most? And how do you keep the motivation up?

Very thanks for your attention and have a nice day!

  • Hi, and welcome to Writers. Stack Exchange is not like other sites. We are not a discussion board. We require practical, answerable questions which have the potential to help others. There's a seed of a good question here, something like "How do I stay motivated to do the hard work of writing after my initial burst of enthusiasm?" If you can edit your question (and title) more along those lines, so it can apply to others, the community can help you. – Lauren-Reinstate-Monica-Ipsum Jan 28 '15 at 14:35
  • Very thanks @LaurenIpsum, I edited the question, hope it's better now – Solaire Jan 28 '15 at 15:12
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    It would be nice if writing were all about inspiration, but in reality, the most successful writers are the ones who approach writing like it is work. Because it is. Hopefully satisfying work, labor of love kind of stuff, but in the end, it is still just work. – Kit Z. Fox Jan 29 '15 at 21:42
  • @KitFox so true. "Be as you wish to seem", is just this, in the end. – Solaire Jan 29 '15 at 22:59
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This is a very common problem among writers and I personally experience it in two distinct flavors.

Sometimes, I fall in love with a story idea and just charge into writing it without spending any time on story design, character development or plotting. When I give in to this temptation, the results pretty much parallel what you are describing above. I get a dozen or so pages written, then loose direction. Having firmly captured the idea which originally got me interested in the story, I falter and the writing stops. This is the easier of the two flavors to deal with because all that's required is a little discipline. I'll get back to that in a minute.

The other flavor of anti-finishing syndrome springs up from an overly fertile imagination. Sometimes, I've done all of my prep-work, I know where my story is going and I'm motivated and determined to finish it on time; then another story idea blind sides me and I loose all interest in the work in process. I have found no good solution to this source of unfinished stories, but I find that jotting down some quick notes about the new idea, with a promise-to-self that I will return to it once the current work is finished, sort of helps. This technique doesn't revitalize my interest in the original story, but it does lessen the distraction of the new story.

Back to the blight of the un-plotted tale. Any story longer than a few pages needs structure. A simple one page outline is often enough, but you, the author, should know the entire scope of your story before committing any permanent words to paper. This saves you from the motivational black hole called indecision.

Stories are living things with each scene leading to the next. When your pen falters because you don't know what your character should do next, the momentum dies and sometimes the story follows it into the grave. Knowing what scene comes next allows you to always be writing towards something.

It also grants you two freedoms which are not available to the unstructured writer.

  • You don't have to write your story in the order that your readers will read it. If during a particular writing session you're feeling adventurous, write the fight scene or the high tension scene. If you're in a more mellow mood, work on the love scene or some of the character development scenes.
  • You can leave candy bar scenes along the path of your story for those nights when you just don't feel like writing. Candy bar scenes are those wonderful character plays which spring forth complete in every detail. They are practically self writing and they are a blast to get down on paper. Whenever I am designing an story's outline, I put a star next to the scenes that I am looking forward to writing. These become my candy bars and I go to them whenever I loose interest the hard work of writing.

Story design, outlining and plotting are tremendous tools which enhance the quality of any completed work, but they are also valuable tools in managing the author's motivation and in making sure that the work actually gets completed in a timely manner.

Writing schedules with deadlines are also useful, but this answer is too long already. I'll leave you to discover the motivational magic of writing under pressure on your own.

  • Wow, that's a very long answer, thank you very much for your time! I really appreciated your help and personal thoughts. I especially agree on the two points about the "why I get stuck", while I was reading them I was thinking "wow that's me!". I already try to design my story before start writing, but sometimes I find more ways to continue it if I write, it's like if I'm not IN the story I cant see how it goes on. Thank you again for your advices :) – Solaire Jan 28 '15 at 21:18
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Believe it or not, there are many writers out there, real writers, who don’t particularly like writing very much.

It’s true! Some find the process tedious, even torturous, and find it difficult to stay focused for the length of time it takes to finish.

Like many writers out there, I’m someone who finds writing really difficult. I ultimately derive great pleasure from the writing process and feel incredibly fortunate to have the time to devote to it, but that doesn’t mean I find every moment riveting.

What burns in the heart of writers varies from person to person, so you’ll have to find what works for you. But here are some ideas that might help keep you in the writer’s chair.

  • Cultivate Your Fear of Failure. Despite what Yoda might have you believe, fear does not always lead to anger, hate, and suffering. Fear is one of the best motivators you have. Invest in the idea of your novel. Develop the idea that you’re letting yourself down if you don’t finish it. Put pressure on yourself. Be afraid the regret you’ll feel the rest of your life if you don’t accomplish your dream. Fear is a feeling that can keep you going.

  • Set Deadlines With Teeth. Deadlines don’t actually work that well for me personally (they tend to just stress me out), but I know people who swear by them. The trick is setting a deadline with teeth. If you secretly know that the deadline you’re setting for yourself is a soft one, it’s not going to have its hair-raising, stress-inducing maximum effect. So either you have to learn to be scared of yourself and your own punishments or you may need a partner in crime who can help you keep to them.

  • Daydream a Little. It’s okay to imagine what would happen if your book blew up and you were on the cover of fifty magazines (do those still exist?) and you were the toast of the literati and a gazillionaire. Don’t let those dreams become expectations to the point that not getting those things gets you down, but give yourself the freedom to imagine those best case scenarios.

  • Befriend Writers Who Have Finished a Novel. Before I knew real writers, the idea of writing a novel seemed so impossibly vast it seemed almost magical. But then you get to know the people behind the books, and there’s not as much of a secret to it: They are people who sat in place for as long as it took to write a novel. Get to know them. Lean on them. They may give you a blank, pitying, horrified stare when you start fretting you’re never going to finish, but that blank stare will get you back to the keyboard in no time.

  • Write Something You Love. It may be tempting to try and chase the flavor of the moment or what the industry says is selling or the novel you think you should write, but that doesn’t work. You need to love your novel unconditionally if you’re going to finish.

What about you? What motivates you?

This is from http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2011/11/five-ways-to-stay-motivated-while.html

  • That's a very good article, thank you for the reference! – Solaire Jan 28 '15 at 21:01
  • Please feel free to push the check mark just below the upvote and downvote arrows beside my answer if you think i did a good job – Trevor Clarke Jan 28 '15 at 21:09
  • Sure, I will consider all the answers before decide, thank you :) – Solaire Jan 28 '15 at 21:20
  • This is a good answer. I would rephrase slightly in this way: If a story haunts you, possesses your soul, body, and mind, and simply will not let you go until you finish it, you will finish it. If a story does not do those things, there is a HIGH likelihood that it is not captivating enough to be published anyway. There is absolutely nothing wrong with letting things sit in a drawer (or on a hard drive) until they come back up to the surface in a more mature, well formed way (or just die off). Don't waste your time and effort on stories that can't hold even your own attention. – JBiggs Feb 19 at 1:37
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If your idea is really good, trust me, it'll come back to you. It'll drag you out of bed and say, "Hey, I'm still here! Get out and let's create something beautiful!" So, if you decide to quit, well, maybe the idea wasn't that good.

But I understand, sometimes inspiration slips away. So here are some motivation boosts:

Choose a font that you can't stop staring at.

Not sure if anyone have figured out this yet, but having a sexy, nice-looking font can make you write for hours. Here's mine (Gentium Book Basic):

enter image description here

Remember what excited you about your idea

This is similar to a relationship: you have fights, arguments, moments of hatred, but you can always smile again by remembering the first date. Do the same with your story.

Remove the bits that make you bored/unmotivated

If you're feeling bored or unmotivated maybe it's because the scene/chapter you're writing is not as exciting as your original idea. Therefore delete it.

Think about how your story will change the world

One of the greatest joy in life is to help others and contribute to society. Think about how your story will accomplish that.

Don't stick to only one story if you don't feel like it

You want to develop a story that had been in the back of your mind? Do it. You can always come back to the previous one. I won't run away. (Unless someone steal it, but that's another story).

Coffee/tea/booze (optional)

Coffee is a stimulant (to become imperative). Alcohol is an uninhibitor (to let unfiltered ideas out). I know what they say: you don't need drugs/chemicals to be creative. But let's be frank. They help. It's no coincidence that Hemingway, Salinger, and Bukowski were drunkards.

And finally remember this: you're the only one who can finish your story. No one else can. So you have the responsibility to bring that story to life, show it to the world.

(By the way, Henry Taylor is right: deadlines help.)

  • These are very good points sir, especially the second and fourth! About the last one, I want to propose another option to stimulate new ideas and get better overall: meditation. Trust me, give it a try and you won't be disappointed :) – Solaire Jan 28 '15 at 21:09
  • Yes! A good font is surprisingly helpful. It makes you feel professional and invested (or something), like "this is what a real writer's writing looks like, and this is my writing, therefore I must be a real writer!" – Kit Z. Fox Jan 29 '15 at 21:40
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There are some very good answers posted here. I have read the one you marked as the answer, and glanced at the others, but none seem to mention the thing I find most obvious. Keep in mind they are great answers, and should definitely not be disregarded. However, I believe this is your problem, as it is with so many others:

Why do you write? What are you trying to do with your story? Are you just writing to get it out there? Or do you actually have something to say, something to prove to your reader? Based on your question, it sounds me like you lack a theme.

Theme is what you are trying to say. It is the thing you know to be true, and feel your readers need to know to be true, also. The urge to write often starts with inspiration, but the flame is kept alive by the need to tell your readers something. If you feel, really feel, that your theme is important, and that everyone should know it, you will be passionate about getting it on the page in the best form possible. You will be fired up about writing, not just for the first few pages, but from beginning of development to publishing and beyond.

So, do you get bored with your writing once the initial excitement dies down? It is likely due to a lack of theme, or perhaps because your theme is not strong enough. Here's a hint: what issue (political, religious, moral, whatever) gets you fired up? What can you go on for hours about? What really gets you where it matters, makes you feel the need to do something about? Make that the theme of your next story. You can go on for hours about it, right? How can you lose interest in that?

I would highly recommend Donald Maass's book, Writing the Breakout Novel. Chapter fourteen is entirely on theme, and the instruction is invaluable.

@Henry Taylor I would be interested to hear your opinions on this.

  • True, I was thinking about that today and yes, every good story has a theme, and a deep meaning inside. What makes me want to write is the urge to spread emotions into the reader and at the same time make him think, stories that don't finish when you close the book. I love this stories, and I really want to give that to the others. After I opened this thread I re-started working on my short-story and said "Ok, I believe in it, and I want to finish it", and I kept writing with pure pleasure. Maybe I just have to start to work seriously on my projects. Thank you, I will certainly read that book! – Solaire Jan 29 '15 at 22:26
  • (and sorry for my bad english, I'm italian, but hope to improve soon!) – Solaire Jan 29 '15 at 22:27

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