So, today will be the last post until January 2nd, and I won't be spending much time on email and such either. You're still welcome to email me, of course, but it'll likely be 2012 before you get a response.
A writer emailed me to say, "I hear a story or read a book and all new book ideas pop into my mind. I never end up finishing a book because I start a new one as soon as I started the last! What should I do? How do I stay focus and interested in my old ideas?"
I think most writers deal with this to an extent. For me, it tends to be around the halfway point of my current work-in-progress (WIP). That's when the story starts to feel sluggish, when my plot lines are a bit out of control, and when tying everything together feels the most overwhelming. Then I'll find myself daydreaming about that great idea I had last week, which has even more potential than this current project, and I just know it could be my best book yet. Really, it would be irresponsible to not put aside my WIP in favor of the new project! (*Rolling my eyes.*)
If you're writing just for fun, then I say write whatever you feel like. If it's just for fun, why force yourself to write stuff you don't want to? It's a creative outlet, after all, and there's no reason to put pressure on yourself. Kinda like pleasure reading. If you're picking out a book to read for enjoyment, and you like funny, heartwarming books, why would you pick The Heart of Darkness when you could read the latest Jennifer Weiner novel?
But if you've been doing that for a while, and you're at a place where you want to take your writing to the next level, if you want to prove to yourself that you can write a full manuscript, then yes, the time has come to stay focused. Here are 8 ways to do that:
1. Make a clear goal
This is huge. Don't just say "I'm going to finish this manuscript before I start on any other stories." Make it concrete. Make it manageable. "I'm going to finish this manuscript by writing 1,000 words a day before I go to bed."
2. Share your goal
If you have a friend or family member who encourages your writing, tell them about your goal. Ask them if they would please follow up with you. It can be as simple as, "Did you write your thousand words last night?" or "What's going on in the story now?"
3. Write a synopsis or outline
Sometimes I have trouble moving forward in the story because I just feel stuck. I don't know what's going to happen next (or it's a scene I'm not looking forward to writing) and my mind starts to wander to those other book ideas I've had recently.
This is a great time for me to - if I haven't already - write a synopsis. It's just a 2ish page summary of what happens in the book. A lot of times when I do that, when I see how everything will come together, it renews my energy.
4. Brainstorm with a buddy
A lot of times I've already written my synopsis, or I'm genuinely stuck. What on earth would my character do next? Or maybe I have an idea, but it feels like a tired, unoriginal idea. When that happens, I pull in a writing friend. (Often it's Roseanna White - and today's the last day to get yourself entered to win her latest release, Love Finds You in Annapolis, Maryland.) If you don't have a friend who would be good for brainstorming, think about joining the Go Teen Writers Facebook Group. A couple times a week, it seems, there are young writers helping each other with their ideas.
5. Make a story board
I have a huge cork board in my office:
I use it for all kinds of things, but I really like being able to tack up character photos, maps of the area, articles, and various other items that remind me of my WIP.
6. Create a book cover
This isn't something I've tried, but I've heard other writers say they make book covers for their WIPs. It's something to remind them of their goal, and that the finished product is well worth the struggle. Katie McCurdy has one up on her blog for The Princess' Assasin.
I'm no artist, so I'm really not sure if this would work for me or not, but it could be a fun way to motivate yourself. (Or to encourage other writers you know - make them a book cover to express that you believe in them!)
7. Save your other ideas
8. Give yourself an "other project" writing allowance.
If you have an idea that absolutely will not let go, give yourself a time limit (1 day or 2 days) to write down everything you want for that other idea that's niggling at you. Write the first chapter, character descriptions, themes, whatever you want. Purge yourself of it, then put it away, and get back to work on your WIP.
Those are my thoughts on the matter, but what about you? How do you stay focused and motivated?
Have a great Christmas, guys! See you back here on January 2nd!