As this calendar year slowly dwindles to a bitter end, so too does my hope of finishing my beloved novel.
This is heartbreaking because I was so sure that I would have it completed by the end of the year. Then, you know, a publisher would fall in love with it by mid-January and I would be, like, the second unpublished author ever to get a six-figure advance. People would love my novel the way they loved Emma; it would be as wildly popular as The Hunger Games and I would have to open two more bank accounts just to keep track of all of my incoming royalties. All of this by the summer, of course.
It is okay to have big dreams. If we didn’t, then we would certainly lose sight of our goals while trudging through the many obstacles we face as writers.
“If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough!” Somebody smart and insightful said that.
“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.” Colin Powell said that, and we all know what a hard-ass he is. We know this because he is successful. Because he followed through on his plans. He sweated through hard work to achieve his dreams.
I do my best thinking in the shower. It’s also the only eight minutes of alone time I have in my crazy household (if I lock the door). Whatever. I come up with good ideas in the shower. Plots for great new novels come to me in a flash, and I grab my iPhone to make a note. Sometimes I forget to dry my hands and drop the iPhone. Sometimes I have to leave it in a bowl of rice for a day. The point here is this: even though I am working to finish my novel, brilliant ideas for new ones still come to me. Would I like to lay my novel aside and pursue the plot and maybe even write the first chapter, giddy with excitement and in love with my new characters. Yes! I would! But you know what that would get me? A lot of unfinished work.
Maybe it’s the same for you. You can’t resist fleshing out a great idea, but when the new and the motivation fade…all that is left are outlines, first drafts and fragments. And fragments don’t make best seller lists.
After much soul searching and a little research, here are a few tips that are helping me:
1. Know How Your Story Ends
Seems obvious, right? Well that’s because you are smart and experienced. But I have found that, for me, even roughly sketching the last scene helps me write toward the end. It is akin to training as a runner. Unless you have a realistic stopping point–a goal–you’re defeated before you even start.
2. Gather Some Low-Hanging Fruit
You know when you’re writing one scene and your mind keeps wandering to another, more exciting one? I say go ahead and write the one you are dying to write…when you complete your current task (or three more chapters–whatever). Use the fun parts as incentive to get through the tough ones.
3. Use an Outline
I know that all of the “pantsers” out there are cringing right now. But for me, sketching an outline magically reveals the next move (or four or six) on my chess board. This is another reason that I am such a fan of Scrivener–the corkboard index card really allows me to get what is in my brain…out.
4. Set Some Milestones (And Meet Them)
Sadly, my sweet baby novel cannot be my first priority right now. I hate to admit that; it is so very important to me. It seems that something always happens to eat up my writing time. With the very real pressures of life and family, any real creative time can dissolve in a flash. Setting milestones has helped. Whether it is completing a major section of the novel, getting in a certain number of words per day or week, or completing that first draft, setting realistic milestones, and keeping them, is how the turtle sets a pace and wins the race.
5. When All Else Fails, Give In To The Voices
I had a particularly persistent idea that popped up every single time I sat down to type. I tried to ignore it; tried to just make a quick note of it like so many others so that I could come back to it later, but this idea just wouldn’t go away quietly. Eventually, I had to make an outline of it (on Scrivener’s corkboard). I have left it there, and while I think about it from time to time, it doesn’t consume me or distract me from my current work anymore. I feel like I gave it enough attention to appease it for awhile, and now I can pick it back up at my earliest opportunity.
Being a romance writer is fun and exciting, and a dream come true for me. It is also a learning process.
Luckily, I catch on quick.