When you set out to write a novel, you quickly learn that it takes a lot of drafts.
There’s the first draft, which is laying down the story. The second works out what the story is missing, and every draft after is refining until it becomes the finished book.
How many drafts that takes depends on you as a writer and your process. For my current work in progress, I’m on draft eight, and this draft is the third different draft I’ve worked on this year alone. That’s a lot of reading the same sentences repeatedly.
When you’re in that type of endless editing process, it’s easy to lose motivation, and I have—plenty of times. As I move through this current draft and hope there’s only one more to go, these motivational tricks are helping to keep me on track.
Motivational Tricks To Keep You Working On Your Manuscript
Find And Work During Your Writing Time Sweet Spot
For me, that’s getting up early and writing first thing.
If diving into my editing is the first thing I do when I get out of bed, I find I actually get through my tasks. It also keeps me motivated to dip back into writing throughout the day. Early morning writing also means a quiet house and the study to myself.
A sweet spot for you might be writing during your lunch break, which is also something I used to do when I worked in an office. Having a set amount of time to work on words really kicks you into the writing zone, and the habit of writing daily for most of the week is a great thing to establish.
For others, writing at night may be your only writing time. If you can get creative after dinner or when your kids are in bed, that is your sweet spot.
Find that writing time and work regularly during it and you should find yourself always in the mood to write.
Create And Go Into The Bubble
Even in a quiet house in the early or late hours of the day, you may need an extra layer to achieve focus. I call this “The Bubble.”
In my bubble, I use noise-reducing headphones and the same musical track on repeat (Hans by David Ummmo). I’ve also added a binaural beats app that plays under my music. This is a tip I learned when completing the Productivity Hacks for Writers course with the Writing Mastery Academy earlier this year. The binaural app is supposed to help you focus, and when I’m in my bubble, I definitely get focused.
A bubble for you might involve listening to soundtracks, a playlist that’s inspired by your WIP, or even having the TV on in the background. Whatever will keep you focused on your MS is what you want to surround yourself with, so create your own bubble today, and see if it ups your productivity.
Identify And Banish Your Distractions
Unless you’re lucky enough to be on a writing retreat, you will get distracted when sitting down to write. That’s the way life works.
Distractions from kids, pets, work, and responsibilities should always take priority over writing. It’s the distractions that you can control that you need to work on to keep yourself motivated.
That involves distractions like the need to pick up your phone multiple times a day to scroll social media, binge-watching “just one more episode” before sitting down to write, or having anything other than your writing program open on your computer.
These are my biggest distractions and what I have to avoid if I want to get any work done.
Banishing my phone to another room works, because when I’m not feeling the editing task, I will edit a sentence and then pick up my phone and scroll Twitter for the next half hour, wasting my precious writing time.
Not sitting down to watch an episode of something while I eat lunch is another. For me personally, I know that’s a gateway to the rest of my afternoon spent with Netflix instead of my MS.
I also need to have no email or browser open on my computer or else it’s too tempting to check my inbox or read the news. If you’re the same, shut down everything except for what you’re working on.
If you want to stay motivated to write, know what your distractions are and banish them until you’ve completed your WIP tasks for the day.
Use Time Tricks To Your Advantage
There are a lot of writers who like to work to a timer. I do this when I’m writing first drafts.
These type of writing sprints are fun, and they hone your focus. I use a sand timer (because I banish my phone from my desk) and usually get so in the zone, I don’t notice the sand has stopped slipping through the hourglass.
When it comes to timing during edits, one thing I did during my last draft was start a stopwatch as I edited each scene. I did nothing with those times—other than realize it can take me twenty minutes to work through a chapter—but the ticking clock motivated me to stay on task. Try it and see if it does the same for you.
Reset Your Focus
Even the best planner and committed person can’t be distraction-free all the time. And when you’re stuck at a point in your story or think you’ll scream if you have to read chapter three One. More. Time, it’s time to reset.
Let’s say you got up early and worked on your MS for a solid hour, but now you have to drop the kids at school, or you’ve checked Facebook for five minutes and it turned into an hour of mindless scrolling. By the time you make it back to your desk to write again, you’re just not in the mood to pick up where you left off.
That’s the time to do a reset.
I like to do this with non social media related activities, such as taking a quick walk, doing some light weights, listening to a song, or meditating for ten minutes. The focus on a non-computer/phone tasks is usually enough of a circuit breaker to get me back in writing mode and motivated to work.
Assess And Move The Goalposts
Finally, if you’ve gone into the bubble, you’re working in your writing time sweet spot, all distractions are banished, timing your tasks helps, and you’re resetting when you get off track, but still losing motivation to work on your MS, assess and move your goalposts.
Perhaps editing five chapters a day was too ambitious. Maybe rewriting while also actioning editing notes was too much. These are both goals I was trying to achieve last week and getting nowhere. Once I assessed my goals and moved the posts to only working on my editing note fixes, I started finishing four chapters a day instead of just one.
Although this will mean doing my rewrites later, when I do, I can focus on just rewrites, after focusing on just editing notes now. The one-task focus allows me to work quicker, which is automatically motivating when it comes to working on my MS.
So, set your writing goals, and if you find it’s too hard to achieve, assess them and settle on one that will work for your circumstances/reality.
At the end of the day, nothing will get your MS written other than actually doing the writing/editing/work, but these tricks help me to do that, and I hope they’ll help you too!
— K.M. Allan