Keeping myself motivated

It can be hard writing all the time when things are so unstable. I know some people who love that uncertainty, and to a point I do, too. However, I do like a little stability. I like to know I’ve got a job or can get one. I like to know I’ve got money to keep a roof over me and food on my plate. There have been times during this adventure when those things haven’t been so certain and it’s then I find it hard to sit down and write.

I spend too much time thinking about things that aren’t writing. Life problems, you might say, in a sense.

Of course, everything is a wave. There are highs and lows. Now that I’m on a rise, I can think clearly and put everything in perspective.

Sure, I can write a blog post or a short story at random times but for a larger project, like the novel I’m working on now, I like a bit of a stability. Which leads me to…

Getting into a routine

One thing I learned at university was a routine. If I could write at roughly the same time of day (or night) each day then it’d be easier for me to get into the flow and get more done. That has worked for me in the past, but I do like having a set space to work from, which isn’t easy when travelling.

When you get regular hours at a job, then it becomes easier to get that routine going. It might be worth writing at the same time even if those times vary through the week. It’s training your mind to know when it’s time to be creative and work, and that 9-5 mentality is exactly the same.

Seeing other people’s success

This is a double-edged sword but when you see friends and colleagues doing well, you feel happy and want to support them however you can.

Then comes the jealousy.

It’s not that they’re better than you, but they have something of market value then. That just means you have to think about your ideas and what’s out there now. It also means you need to keep trying. Don’t compare their journey to your own, just focus on doing what you do best and do it well. One day, it’ll come to you.

Yes, I’m also telling myself that. We all need to hear it at times.

The occasional pep talk

I’m grateful for the friends I’ve got who keep me going when things look hopeless. A lot of these are writers in similar situations to myself, and I’m more than happy to return the favour. We’re all still young in the grand scheme of things and it’s nice to get a little bit of encouragement amongst all the rejection we get from publishers and agents.

The same rings true for life in general, and those uplifting feelings can transfer to other areas when we need them most. If you know a creative and they’re a bit down, give them some encouragement and offer some criticism to help. You might not be an expert, but you can appreciate it. Let them explain some of their craft to you, let them feel like their skills and knowledge is valuable.

Again, the same is true in life. Look out for people who could use a little lift. Good things can be passed on really easily.

Looking back to how far I’ve come

It may sound a little cliché but it’s great to look back at where I’ve come from – in terms of my journey as a writer. I look back at the projects I’ve completed and remember thinking that I’d never be able to finish it.

These aren’t masterpieces by any means but compared to my writing now, I can see how I’ve changed, how my style has grown, and it makes me proud. I look forward to pushing on and seeing where I’ll be in the future.

Of course, hopefully that involve a published book or two (or ten, maybe more) but the more I travel, the more I learn about myself and there are always things to do and learn. Maybe it’s not what’ll happen but until I know for sure, I’m going to keep trying.

You should, too, whatever your goals may be.

Why I have multiple projects on the go at once

We’re all different, and we do things differently as a result.

That’s great, as variety keeps life interesting. Another way to keep things interesting is to have more than one project on the go at once. Now, I’m talking about writing here, specifically, but it’s advice that can apply to many aspects of our lives.

It’s not for everyone; I know plenty of writers – and people – who prefer to focus on one thing at a time and get it out the way before moving onto the next. That’s absolutely fine but I’ve found it can make things a little…monotonous.

That’s why I mix things up a bit from time to time.

The benefits of switching projects

I’ll be honest here, staving off boredom is sometimes a challenge for me. I write longer pieces of fiction most of the time, and novels feature a big part of that. However, there’s blog posts, freelance work and short stories to do, too.

Balancing all of these projects can be tricky but if I waited until the last one was finished, I’d never do anything else for a year or more (leaning more to the more here, especially as I’m travelling and working, too).

There are also times when I find myself stuck. Call it writer’s block, call it boredom, call it whatever you like – I need to do something different to take my mind off what’s stopping me.

Now, if it’s a problem I’m trying to work out, writing something different can sometimes reveal the solution. Sometimes, it’s just good to finish something – or a draft of something – to add some extra motivation.

However, it’s not as simple as just switching from project to project on the fly.

The downside to doing so

Going back and forth between projects, while refreshing, does make it much easier to lose your flow and get confused. Details from each story might cross over inadvertently or plotlines might merge and confuse the reader.

It also means each project will take longer to complete. The difficulty here is deadlines.

Even if they’re self-imposed, deadlines are important. It’s goal and lets you manage your time – and this goes beyond your writing. It’s okay to respect that things change, and life can get in the way, but if you set a deadline, it’s important to try and meet it.

That said, if, like me, you like switching projects, you’ll need to accommodate for this in your deadlines. Don’t make them to short or you’ll get stressed.

That’s not good for anything.

How I cope with changing over

The biggest tip I have is to plan ahead.

There are times when I feel like I spend more time planning my projects than I do writing them (and even editing, as hard as that is to believe).

Not only does this help with the writing itself, but it means every time I switch from one project to another, my plans and notes are so comprehensive that I know exactly where I’m at and what I need to do next.

Now, my plans and ideas can change during writing. That’s okay and its part of the editing process to make sure it all fits together neatly in the end. It’s why no one ever gets to read my first drafts – they’re far too embarrassing!

As with everything, you’ve got to find what works for you. I’ve found my balance and until it stops working, I’m sticking with it. What about you?

The Joys of Editing

So, as I mentioned last time. I’ve been kind of here and there lately. I lost my job in June and spent the summer getting another one. That’s done and while it’s a very good job and I’m really enjoying it, it is causing challenges.

The time it takes to travel to and from work is much longer now than I’ve been used to since finishing uni…actually, since I started working eleven years ago! This is tiring for me and I don’t want my life to be work, write, sleep and repeat. I’m still trying to get that balance.

One thing I have been doing is writing.

I’ve been putting off editing my novel thus far – I’m just not ready. So, when I’ve finished the draft of my current project (which involves a fair bit of editing) I’ll come back to it and take another look and decide whether the time is right.

After discussions with a few friends and writers, it’s interesting to see the different ways of editing a project so I thought I’d take a look here.

Digital vs print

When it comes to editing, I find it very difficult to do on a screen. I find that my eyes start glazing over after a while, which makes me miss even the most obvious mistakes. When I notice this happening while I’m writing, I know it’s time to take a break since, for me, it’s easier to get on a roll while writing compared to editing. It’s a big problem.

My method is generally a quick once over to spot glaring mistakes and then I print it. In its entirety. I find a pen (of any colour though red is a popular choice) and make notes. Scratch out words and letters, put arrows to rearrange things, make notes to re-write parts and a lot more. I find this is also good to help me escape the increasingly digital centric world we live in.

It’s amazing the things I can spot – and often ask myself how thick I am to make such a silly mistake in the first place!

I’ve found a lot of people actually agree with me on this and do something similar although some handle editing digitally better than me. Kudos to you all.

It leads on to the second part of the discussion, however.

How long should you wait?

This is actually more fascinating and there’s a much bigger divide here.

So, let me pose you the question: how long should you wait upon completing your draft and beginning to edit it again?

Unless I’m faced with a tight deadline (possibly due to being lazy or a change of plans) I try not to edit anything without giving it at least a month’s breathing time. This is because I feel like I’m too close to it. When I read a book and pick up mistakes, it’s because of a fresh set of eyes. The more often I read a book, the less mistakes I notice. I become used to it, and know what to expect.

Editing is a ruthless business and I can’t afford that luxury. Every word is at risk, as is every letter. When I finish a draft, for both writing and editing, I put a reminder in my calendar for a month later as that’s when I can go back to it.

Other people are different. I’ve been told by people who don’t wait and dive straight in. Their minds are still on that level and they feel more comfortable keeping it there. I’ve tried it but it’s not for me. A few people have told me they send it to others after every draft. That can slow things down and I only do that when I’m at a stage where I don’t mind people reading it.

It’s very interesting to find out how we all work.

Going forward

In the end, I know what works for me and that’s the most important thing. Every writer is different but it can take a long time to figure out what works best for you. Don’t be afraid to try something new – especially at different times as we don’t stand still for long.

The blog has been left alone recently and I apologise for that but I’m starting to get my act together. Having a plan/schedule makes a huge difference! Be sure to keep checking back for the latest news and thoughts.

I’m writing a lot more short stories at the moment and there are a lot of competitions coming up over the remainder of 2015 and going into 2016. I’ll be sure to share the best ones with you soon so you know what to start working for.

As always, good luck!

Regarding NaNoWriMo

I’ve been taking part in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) every year for the last ten, eleven, twelve years or more. This year, however, I won’t be getting involved. I just don’t have the time or energy to commit to it.

While I would use it as a kick to keep on with my current project, I’m hoping to have it done by November (wishful thinking) and I’m happier going at my own pace now.

I’ve completed it once, back in 2010, and that was a great feeling but since then I haven’t had the same level of motivation, which is a shame. I’m not even entirely sure why yet. Maybe it was the challenge of doing it? Who knows.

If you’ve ever thought about, I’d definitely recommend getting involved. Find people in your area doing it and get involved with the meet-ups. You’ll meet some people you won’t forget any time soon!