A few weeks ago, Beyond the Trope, a group of local writing podcasters asked about the hardest part of writing a novel. I didn’t even hesitate.
I do have some tricks to get past that first word hurdle, though. Some days, it takes all of them to get going, but it’s worth it. The manuscript waters feel great once you get in. Here’s how to convince yourself to take the daily plunge.
- Learn to love the timer. Most days, the first step in my writing process is picking up my iPhone and telling Siri, “Set a timer for 25 minutes.” Siri usually responds with a list of movies vaguely related to timers, at which point I repeat the request louder and more clearly, and we’re off to the races. Telling myself I’m going to write for a specific amount of time works well to break through whatever resistance I have to getting started on my day’s work, and a lot of times I end up writing past when the timer goes off.
- Back up before you dive in. Whether I’m working on revisions or new material, I like to scroll back to the beginning of a scene at the start of a writing session. Inevitably, I find a few things to change, and those tweaks start the flow of words that will propel me through the rest of the day.
- Quit before you’re tapped out. It’s a lot easier to start on a new day’s writing if you know where you’re going. Some writers swear by stopping in the middle of a sentence, but that just frustrates me. Instead, I try to end each day at a spot with a clear view of the road ahead. It works really well to pack it in just after a question is asked. By the next morning, I can’t wait to type that answer!
- Two words: bribes and rewards. The first time I did Nanowrimo in 2001, The Sims had just come out for Mac and I was hopelessly addicted. Since the game required a CD to run, I had my husband hide the disc each morning before he left for work. He’d only give up the location once I made my daily word count. It worked a charm.
- Invite the shame. Okay, maybe not shame, but accountability for sure. I’m a big fan of Twitter for this. Even if you don’t have a regular writing partner, you can usually find a companion to cheer you on and hold you accountable there. When you tell Twitter you’re going to write, you’d better get your butt in the chair and write. I like the #1k1hr hashtag. Even if I rarely write that quickly, a thousand words in an hour is an achievable goal, and there’s a almost always a few writers there eager to sprint.
Rarely a day goes by when I don’t need to employ a cunning ruse to force myself into writing. Luckily, I have a lot of them up my sleeve. What’s your best self-motivation trick?