I finally made it to the midpoint of my first draft. Yesterday I wrote 5000 words (I know, right?) and simultaneously 'won' CampNaNoWriMo, made it past 40,000 words and finished the 'Fun and Games' beat of my novel. Phew.
I'm a very goal oriented person. Small, manageable goals are what work best for me in my everyday life so I'm not all that surprised this is what is working for me as a writer. But, let's be real, getting here might have taken less time than I expected but it was no picnic. Yesterday was an excellent day and has really re-vamped my motivation but earlier this week I experienced a real crisis of confidence in the premise of my story and my ability to put it off. I had zero inspiration. So how did I get past that?
Well, the first thing I want to say is that if you just write when you are motivated you are never going to get where you want to go. Being a published writer means being a professional writer. So you have to behave in a professional way - you need work ethic. If you - like me - have a goal of writing 1000 words minimum per day, you better sit your arse down and write those 1000 words. Waiting for motivation and inspiration comes from a place of absolute privilege that most people do not have. So pull your finger our and sit at your computer and write something that moves your story forward - even if it is trash that needs completely rewritten at a later date.
The way I see it, it's like a fitness goal. If you only go to the gym when you are motivated, you're never going to be able to deadlift 100kg or run a 5k in under 30 minutes or fit into last summer's shorts - whatever your goal may be, you get the picture. At some point if you are serious about your goal, you need to drag yourself to the gym even when it is the last thing you want to do. You might not be happy about it at the time - it might seem like a lot of painful, hard work. But in the end, when you close the button on those daisy dukes, it will all be worth it.
Solution 1 - Refill the creative well
When you're in a slump it is - of course - difficult. But there are steps you can take to make things better. The first of these is refilling your creative well - watching, reading, listening to media that will ignite your creativity.
What worked for me this week was watching a couple of YouTube documentaries and listening to a podcast about the historical event my novel is building up to - The Glencoe Massacre.
One of my all time favourite podcasts is In Our Time - a BBC Four production hosted by cranky but loveable Melvyn Bragg and featuring different academic experts on the topic of each episode. I've been obsessed with the history episodes for a long time but I had no idea until two days ago that there was a whole episode on The Glencoe Massacre. None. Listening to that episode - which covers the historical events in the run up to the massacre thereby encompassing the whole timeline of my novel - sparked the magic in my brain anew. I have researched this topic thoroughly over the last few years, so I didn't necessarily learn anything new, but as they talked through the various events I could so clearly picture my plot and my characters happening alongside the facts. And that was it. Creativity revamped.
Of course it needn't be something so specific to your book. Watching a movie or a TV show with a similar narrative or set in a similar time might inspire you. Or, of course, good, old fashioned reading a book! What I'm saying is, if you feel the creative brain drought - take action. Actively seek out and consume media that will help to make the juices flow again.
Solution 2: See the bigger picture
Listen, I'm only half way through a very messy first draft so I am no where near actually needing to work on anything like a query letter or a Twitter pitch. BUT thinking about these things can be really helpful when you're feeling a bit down on yourself about your book. When drafting you are looking at the minute detail of your project, word by painful word. This week one of the things that really helped me was thinking about the bigger picture.
I was listening to an episode of Write of Die podcast (which if you have not already listened to, stop reading this blog post right now and put it on, it's amazing) and the subject of Twitter pitch contests came up. In case you've never heard of this before, pitch contests run at various times throughout the year and during the contest writers with polished manuscripts ready to query post a tweet with a short pitch for their book, hashtagging the relevant contest. Agents and editors can see the tweets and will 'heart' anything they would like to see a query for - something you can then mention in your query to them. Anyway, I was listening to the WOD girls talking about this process and started thinking about how I would pitch my book. When I got home I sat and tried to distill the hook of my book down to the relevant amount of characters - which meant I was thinking about the big picture of my story instead of the difficult scenes of this second quarter of my book I've been focussed on. And suddenly, voila - inspiration increased.
Similarly, I watch a lot of YouTube videos about querying. I find the idea of writing a query both terrifying and tantalising and I love hearing people talk about what makes a good query. Sometimes I sit and work on how I would query the book I'm currently writing. It's pointless because everything could change in revision but it's also kind of fun because there's no impending sense of doom. It's just a nice way to take a step back and think about the story as a whole.
Essentially, what I'm saying is avoiding the problem of a lack of motivation or inspiration will not fix the problem. So quit whining and find a solution. Your book will not write itself!