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Much as I enjoy the revision side of writing, it's hard work.  I find it all too easy to let myself get distracted - usually by the Siren call of a good story idea. 


However, I know that if I ever want to succeed in this business, I need to learn how to focus on the task at hand. 


I’ve been thinking a lot about self-motivation lately. If you ask me, it’s probably the most important quality a writer can possess.   


Of course, natural ability helps too, but I suspect there are thousands of naturally gifted writers who give up on writing without ever getting published, while other, less-skilled, but better motivated, folk stay the course, work hard to learn and improve their craft, and go on to achieve success.   


I’ve got a lot of writing-type work to do this month. After getting myself in all manner of tangles during my last run through of Waking up Jack Thunder, I set it aside for a few weeks so that I could come at it again with a clear head.


Aside from the usual prune and polish work, and a few POV boo-boos that need fixing, I need to figure out what to do about an info-dump in the last chapter. If I’m to get this done by the end of August, I need to knuckle down and get on with it. 


With that in mind, I turned down an offer of some copyediting work last week, and I’ve set myself some daily ‘must get this much done today before I can play with my LJ friends’ targets, to help me reach my goal of having a (near as dammit) finished version of WUJT by the end of August.  So, if you don’t see me around it means I’ve been a lazy boy. 


As a further incentive, failure to achieve a daily goal means no McDonalds coffee the following morning.

Eek! I thought long and hard about that one, but sometimes drastic measures get the best results.


On the positive motivation side, a reward for achieving each day’s goaI is time to work on some micro-fictions I’d like to write and/or revise. Hopefully this carrot and stick combination will help me hit my target.


How about you? What little carrots and/or sticks do you use to help yourself reach a tough writing goal?

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( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 3rd, 2009 06:20 pm (UTC)
I frequently go with accountability to another person - someone who will be supportive of the goal and encouraging, who'll cheer for accomplishments and express a bit of disappointment if I skip my time or whatever, because I tend to be a pleaser, so I really don't want to let other people down (whereas I let myself down all the time).

Have fun in the cave of revision. And I sure hope you qualify for your daily coffee!!
Aug. 3rd, 2009 07:53 pm (UTC)
I hope so too, or my handwriting's gonna get real shaky by the end of the week :)

By the way, Kudos on the Jane Austen blog club reviews. I can see she's an author dear to your heart :)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 11:35 pm (UTC)
She is indeed. My primary work-in-progress (2 years and counting) is a biography of Austen in verse using period forms. So there's that.
Aug. 3rd, 2009 06:35 pm (UTC)
Go, Jon! We all have different strategies for success. I'm still finding mine :).
Aug. 3rd, 2009 07:54 pm (UTC)
Lol, me too :)

I'm already having second thoughts about the coffee thing... No! Must be strong :)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
Sometimes it's lunch, sometimes watch some TV or a DVD, sometimes I get to go out and 'play,' sometimes just get up. In the last case, it's always a hard deadline and I don't leave my seat until it's done. We all have different carrots.
Aug. 3rd, 2009 07:59 pm (UTC)
I've done my tasks for today, but the goals get harder by the end of this week. Hard deadline's are fine when someone else is depending on you, but when I'm the only one I'm letting down, I find it harder to push myself.

Hehe, I'm sure there's some psychological self-worth stuff in there somewhere :)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 07:04 pm (UTC)
Connie Willis says she works in coffee shops and the library to avoid the distractions of housework that needs doing. She rewards herself with coffee and pastries.

The biggest motivator there is, for me, is being able to read the damn story/book all the way through.

Aug. 3rd, 2009 08:04 pm (UTC)
Coffee AND pastries. I like the sound of that :)

Most mornings, I spend about an hour parked outside McDonalds with a large coffee. I'm with Connie on the avoiding distractions thing. I do most of my read-throughs, rewrites, outlines there.

Thanks for sharing :)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 07:18 pm (UTC)
confession of a revisions convert
I'm with Karen: the biggest motivator is being able to hold your own story in hand, and say, ah, it's complete at last!

This article has made a convert of me (in terms of going from fearing revisions to looking forward to them):

Taken from the closing paragraph:
"I've found that the moment of revision is in fact the most exciting time...You know much more about what you're doing by that time. Your characters have already revealed so much of themselves to you...."

That familiarity itself is a great motivator.

It's another shot at the ball coming across your plate--only, each time the ball arrives in a straighter line so you can really whack it. Okay, so maybe you fall on your @$$ swinging a little too hard. That happens, too. Speaking strictly for myself: I'm not a natural, so my ONLY shot at the back fences is through revisions...

Aug. 3rd, 2009 08:35 pm (UTC)
Re: confession of a revisions convert
Interesting article. Thanks for the link :)

I can't say I've feared revisions, but do find writing new stuff so tempting :)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
Re: confession of a revisions convert
Fear wasn't the right word.

Especially in light of Asimov's(?) observation that one of the experiences new writers must undergo is...watching stories crumble in their (inexperienced) hands.

Aug. 3rd, 2009 09:39 pm (UTC)
Re: confession of a revisions convert
Hehe. Then it's just as well you've got such an nurturing mentor :)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 07:37 pm (UTC)
First, good luck!!

When I was writing my first draft I'd set an hour timer for myself and then allow myself something "fun" after that hour..going online to my favourite writing forum (absolutewrite.com)) or to play with my cats, or call my mother...whatever kept me in the seat till reward time.

The big rewards don't seem to work as well for me, ie, I'll buy myself a new *insert whatever worldly possession I am coveting at the time* when I finish 10 chapters. I need the little goals...the little carrots to get me through to the bigger goals!
Aug. 3rd, 2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Absolutely, big threats and little rewards work best :)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
Best of luck with your revision!
Aug. 3rd, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I'm determined to finish, with or without coffee :)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 09:38 pm (UTC)
Carrots/sticks :}

Let me see--a submissions window at an otherwise closed house is a good carrot/stick. So is Laurie Halse Anderson's WFMAD, or some variation on that theme, when I'm drafting. When I'm revising, the revisions themselves can be carrots, depending on the paying work I'm dealing with at the moment. You know, 30 minutes of revisions before I start a copyediting project for the day.
Aug. 3rd, 2009 09:43 pm (UTC)
I find I need the stick more than the carrot to get me started. Once I've got going, I'm usually okay with the carrots :)

Have you had a chance to wear any of those hats yet?
Aug. 3rd, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)
no java?? goodincentive, but I couldn't write.
Aug. 3rd, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
Lol. I've a horrible feeling I might be the same :)
Aug. 3rd, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC)
Try chocolate it does a body good.
Aug. 4th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
Chocolate's a good one, but do you get it as an incentive, or deny yourself chocolate if you fail to hit reach your writerly goals?

Congrats on your upcoming book :)
Aug. 4th, 2009 09:09 am (UTC)
Unfortunately, I don't have a stick or a carrot.

I do try to remember though, that if I don't write I won't see any results from my talent. I do so love having completed stories.

I've been in a funk lately, so maybe I need to try something different in order to get back in gear.
Aug. 4th, 2009 05:30 pm (UTC)
You could always have a bash at those 25-word flash pieces :)
Aug. 4th, 2009 09:32 am (UTC)
The concept of a finished story that's as good as I can get it is a big motivator. I'm less than 20k off finishing the first draft of CoS, and boy, am I getting excited about the idea of getting stuck into the editing!

I know the excitement will wear off in time, and it'll turn into a pain in the proverbial, but the thought of having it finished is a good one. Of having something I can actually think about sending out.

For motivation, I also need accountability. If I can, at the moment, post up on findyourwords with a number bigger than 2,000 every week, I feel as if I'm doing well. When I'm done with the first draft, I'll look at maybe counting how many pages I can get edited in a week. But I'll be keeping on with writing something new at the same time, as the lure of shiny new things is always there :-)

(The fact that I have a few people who're poking me for a draft of CoS that they can read is also highly motivational. Knowing that people actually want to read it is good!)
Aug. 4th, 2009 05:34 pm (UTC)
Oh yes. The first draft is truly its own reward.

Seeing the project through all the revisions and rewrites is what I find I have to work at - not least 'cause of all those other first drafts rattling around inside my head, all clamoring to be written :)
( 27 comments — Leave a comment )

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