Tag Archives: WIP

Assorted writing tips #9: Sharing your work

Reader

Reader (Photo credit: Thokrates)

It’s happened to all of us. You get a great idea for a story, you spend some time frantically working on it, and then the enthusiasm dies down and you can’t get motivated to keep going. Sound familiar? I thought so.

Now, I don’t have a magic bullet answer to this. Motivation is a fickle friend and sometimes it just deserts us. Sometimes, though, there are things you can do, and today I’m talking about sharing your work.

By sharing, I don’t mean putting it out there for others to use. I mean, instead, finding someone (or a group of people) who are potentially in your target audience, and letting them read what you’ve done. There are a number of ways to do this.

  • Post online. I know that this won’t work if what you are writing is something you would like to get traditionally published one day. If, though, you are looking at self publishing, or just writing for the love of it, then it’s an option. This works particularly well if you’re writing a chaptered book, because if you post a chapter at a time then you can really get people involved. Serialising work like this can get your readers really hungering for more: two hundred years ago it was common practice. (Now, the equivalent is TV shows.) Plus, you can get feedback on how you’re going and what you’ve done so far. If you are getting comments saying things like, “post more, I need to know what happens next!”, then chances are you’re doing a good job. If you get feedback saying, “this isn’t working for me, I find character X bland and the scenarios clichéd”, then there are things you need to work on. Note, this is not for the thin skinned – but then again, neither is writing, is it? So long as people are constructive, though, then you have built-in advice - from people who might buy your work in the future
  • Join a writing group. If you’re not already part of one, this can be really beneficial. Not only do you get feedback on how you’re going from fellow writers, but meeting once a month (or whatever) gives you a deadline to get new work done. If you’re expected to have an extra 3000 words written before the third Friday of the month, you’re much more likely to do it than if you just set an internal deadline. Disappointing other people is something no one likes to do. Again, the feedback is really helpful and if your fellow writers like what you’re doing, then chances are you’ll want to impress them again next time. :)
  • Find a beta. Preferably one who’s not related to you. Ideally, it’s good to find one either through someone else, or online, because the less close this person is to you, the less worried they’re going to be about hurting your feelings. Again, though, with any luck you’ll get them engaged in the story and wanting to know more, so that will make you want to write more. Like I said above, everyone likes to be praised. Besides – and you’ll see this is a common theme – you will get feedback about what the reader likes, and what isn’t connecting with them. Assuming this person is part of your target audience, this is something that’s worth paying attention to.

So there are a few ideas for sharing your WIP and getting some feedback on it. If you’re struggling for motivation to write that next chapter, then maybe letting someone else have a look at it will spur you on to do some more. After all, who is it you’re writing for? Yourself, or your audience?

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What’s in a name?

Title page from the first edition of Jane Aust...

Title page from the first edition of Jane Austen’s novel Sense and Sensibility (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

First of all, my apologies for not posting last Monday. It was the end of a long weekend – away, no  less – and I spent most of the morning throwing up. As such, social media and networking was, unfortunately, not really on my radar. Sigh. Anyway, I’m back now and hopefully won’t be having any more days of being AWOL. :(

Today I want to talk about one of the banes of my existence – titles.

I am rubbish at titles. I don’t shy from that fact. Every story I’ve ever written has either had between six and ten titles, or landed the first one I thought of (and hated from that moment onwards). My working titles are as changeable as the weather, and perhaps as reliable too. So I am in absolute awe of anyone who can seemingly pick a brilliant title out of thin air and stick with it, because as you can appreciate it’s not something I’ve ever achieved.

Some of the best stories in literature have amazing titles. Jane Austen, for example, is someone who was incredible at titling her works; the Bronte sisters likewise seemed to have a talent for it. More recently people like Jodi Picoult or Neil Gaiman have impressed me, among others. Or, really, just about anyone who has a book out there – chances are, if it’s published (via a publishing house or by yourself), then it’s got a better title than I could come up with.

Now, I know there are tricks to it. Some people use song titles or lyrics, or variations thereof. Some use lines from well known literature, such as the quote that comprises my title today. Some can just grab a phrase from the book itself that really lends itself to that purpose, like Lee Fullbright did with The Angry Woman Suite, which I reviewed on Friday. But the thing is, when it comes down to it, I can just never seem to get it right. Am I too fussy? Perhaps. Maybe I’m just a perfectionist. But it’s something I wish I could do. Because let’s face it, people judge books on their titles. Without a snappy title, many otherwise excellent books just get put aside or ignored for their flashier rivals. And without an edge to get people to check out my work in the crowded marketplace, what chance do I have?

So here I am, asking for advice. How do you choose your titles? Are you enough of a masochist to title your chapters as well as your books, or do you leave it at the main heading and just number any segments? What tricks or ideas do you use? Because really, I’m getting a bit sick of changing my working titles over and over again until I find something that I don’t necessarily like, but just hate less than the last one. To be honest, I have quite enough on my plate just at the moment, so if I can get the hang of titling, then that’s one less thing I have to think about.

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Being fair

Too much communications ?!?!

Too much communications ?!?! (Photo credit: occhiovivo)

 

Today I’m posing a question that I’d like people’s thoughts on: Can you work on two projects at once and be fair to both of them?

I’ve always been a one-story-at-a-time kind of girl. I have never been able to devote enough attention to two different projects at once and do them both justice. One will be going fine, but the other will be neglected (and in all likelihood complain about it loudly). I’m also the sort who insists on finishing one story before starting on the next one, because otherwise I’d have a whole stable of unfinished tales out there. Now, JRR Tolkein I am not, so having a collection like that doesn’t really inspire me.

What I’ve been doing this year is working on novel #2, which has a working title of Caffeinated. (This will probably change a number of times during the writing process, but I quite like having working titles even if they do swap around every other week. It beats the situation I found myself in a few years back when I was ready to post a novel online and discovered I didn’t have a title, so I just called it the first thing that came into my head. I didn’t like what I came up with then and I like it even less now, but it seems to have caught on so I am loathe to change it.) I gave myself permission to start work on Caffeinated because novel #1 had a completed first draft. That, and I only came up with the premise just before Christmas and it was all new and exciting in my mind.

Trouble is, I’m falling into old habits. I had set aside this year to edit my first novel, the one whose first draft I completed in November. But I’ve been working on novel #2, and as such novel #1 has fallen by the wayside. I haven’t even opened it this year, let alone started editing. And while I told myself it was becuase I was waiting for a book I’d ordered about structure to arrive from the UK, it arrived last week and I still haven’t done anything about it. Yep, I’m finding myself unable to work on two different projects at once again.

I’m a little torn as to what to do about this. Should I quash my instincts and make a concerted effort to work on both at once? Or should I make a deal with myself, alternating with one story one week (or month) and the other story the next? Or should I work really hard to get a draft for novel #2 done by, say, August, and then edit novel #1 after a good nine months’ break?

What works for you?

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The next big thing?

next big thing

I’ve been tagged! The lovely Jeanette Hornby (www.jeanettehornby.com.au) has nominated me to be part of the Next Big Thing blog hop. Thanks Jeanette! And I thoroughly recommend that you all go and check out her blog at http://jeanettehornbybooks.blogspot.com.au - but be warned, it contains adult content so if you’re not comfortable with that then maybe just look at the main website.

The rules are these: Answer ten questions about your WIP and then tag five other bloggers to do the same. *wipes brow* Right. Here goes!

  1. What is the working title of your book?
    You know, this is a harder question than it should be. I was working with Echoes of Venice for a long time, but it sounds a lot more syrupy than the book actually is. Something to do with Venice, I’ll say that much. That city has an important role in the story.
  2. Where did the idea come from for your book?
    A competition I saw advertised in a newspaper, which for some reason just put a scene in my head. I tweaked the circumstances a little and voila! A story came out.
  3. What genre does it fall under?
    Contemporary romance / chick lit. To be honest, I will probably give it a final placement within one of those when I’ve done the final editing and not before.
  4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
    In my mind I’ve been using Brad Pitt and Kate Winslet. My thing, though, is not to describe my characters too much so that the reader can draw their own pictures in their heads of them. After all, everyone has a different idea of what makes someone attractive.
  5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
    Now you’ve got me. Again, this was something I was going to work on more during the editing process. How about, two people who have vowed never to see each other again are thrown together by circumstance and must deal with what that means to their lives.
  6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
    I won’t lie, I’d like an agent. However, I’m open to whatever life throws at me. In other words, I’ll play that one by ear.
  7. How long did it take to write the first draft of your book?
    Too long! Over two years. In my defence, I did scrap most of what I’d written half way through and restructure the whole thing. But yeah, just over two years. Sigh.
  8. What other books would you compare your story to within this genre?
    Another good question. Maybe something like Jill Mansell‘s Sheer Mischief, if I have to name one. (Serves me right for doing this on a Monday morning when my brain is still in weekend mode.)
  9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
    Like I said, I saw an ad in the newspaper and it just got my mind whirring. I was, I think, just ready for a new challenge and this fit the bill perfectly.
  10. What else about the book might piqué the reader’s interest?
    Snappy one-liners and endless suspense! Okay, maybe not the endless suspense, but at least a bit of it, and enough confusion and frustration to last anyone a lifetime. This is a book that I wanted to read, but I couldn’t find it out there, so I wrote it instead. I just hope that other people want to read it as well. :)

 

Bloggers I’m tagging to be the Next Big Thing themselves:

Margaret Lynette Sharp
Adam Collings
Rebecca Berto (Novel Girl)
Wordsurfer
Tracey Baptiste

Please go and check out all their blogs because they are definitely worth reading. And who knows – they really could be the Next Big Thing. They certainly deserve to be. :)

 

 

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New year’s resolutions

English: Two New Year's Resolutions postcards

English: Two New Year’s Resolutions postcards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy new year! *clicks champagne glasses*

I hope you all had a great holiday season, whatever it meant to you, and that you and your family all made it through to the other side intact and in the same number of pieces in which you started it. :)

In honour of the new year, today I’m going to talk about new year’s resolutions.

You know, I’m not normally a resolution type of girl. I don’t see much point in making decisions to change my life just because the calendar has ticked over to a new day, nor waiting for such a time to implement any changes. If I want to do something, I just do it, rather than waiting till the next January. In addition, the normal kinds of new year’s resolutions – giving up smoking, cutting down on drinking, losing weight – don’t really work for someone who doesn’t smoke, barely drinks and is probably technically underweight as it is.

This year, though, I’m making some, and they’re all writing related. Why? Well, it’s not because it’s suddenly 2013 and my life has started flashing before my eyes, or because I have a sudden recognition of my own mortality. No, it’s more because I’ve been at home these last two weeks and had time to think about where I want to be this time next year. So, without further ado, here they are (in no particular order):

  1. Get novel #1 edited to a point where I’m happy with it, and send it out to my trusty beta readers.
  2. Write the bulk of novel #2. I had the plot bunny for it suddenly attack me late last year, so I’ve written out a bunch of notes that just need to be put in some kind of order and fleshed out. If I can get the first draft done that will be incredible, but I’m not holding my breath.
  3. Get better at answering comments on my blog. If you’re taking the trouble to comment on it, then the least I can do is acknowledge that, right?
  4. In that vein, get better at commenting on other people’s blogs. I read them, but it’s normally on my phone and I have a really bad habit of not getting around to getting on my computer and actually writing out a comment. I’ll try to improve on that this year.
  5. Keep up to date with my reviewing and remember to cross-post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Again, it’s a bad habit I have of forgetting to do it and then I get to the point I’m at now of having about a dozen that need to be done. *adds it to her to-do list*
  6. Try to be more active on social media. It’s my own fault – for example, I have three Twitter accounts, all for different purposes, and in trying to keep up with them all I tend to keep up with none. But if I’m going to be professional about this writing thing then I probably need to have a bit more of a profile and really work on that. I’m not sure how hard I’m going to work at it this year (the full-on thing isn’t going to happen, for instance), but just making a point of paying more attention and posting more often isn’t a bad idea, right?
  7. Do more guest posts for other blogs, and participate in things like the Third Sunday Blog Carnival. I’ve been meaning to do it for months but just never got around to it. Better now than never, I figure. :)

So, those are my resolutions for 2013. The idea is that if I put them out in the open like this, rather than just on a piece of paper stuck to my fridge door, then I’m more likely to keep to them. (Though the fridge door isn’t a bad idea either, in that it will be something I see every day.) And if I look like lagging behind in anything, then feel free to beat me about the head a little bit. I’m not averse to a little encouragement if I’m going astray.

What about you? Are you doing resolutions for the new year, or just plodding on as usual without worrying about it? What works best for you? I’d love to hear about it. :)

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How far is too far?

No Sex Please

No Sex Please (Photo credit: Michael Jessen)

 

I write romance. Many, if not most, books have some kind of romance in their plotline, whether it be a small or large part. Overall, romance is probably one of the most overused types of plots in fiction.

The thing is, of course, that when you write romance, or at least romance between adults, then invariably sex comes into play in one form or another. And that’s where (excuse the pun) things can get sticky.

Nearly every author of romance asks themselves at one time or another, how far do I go? Do you leave it at “they closed the door behind them” or go into full, Fifty Shades of Grey detail? And this is something that a lot of people have worried about for a long time.

Me, I’ve had this conversation with myself a number of times. I have a novel up on another site, under another name, which has very strict rules about how explicit one can be, and the story I wrote had to be tempered to fit those guidelines. Some scenes never made it on there at all, as it was just too hard to tone them down enough. And to be honest, I surprised myself with how far I was willing to go with my writing. I dare say the cover of anonymity had an effect, as I didn’t have to worry about what people I knew would think when they read it, but still it was a bit of an eye-opener. The more I wrote (and the better I knew my characters), the more explicit the scenes.

With my current project, I had a few scenes that I really ummed and ahhed over. Should I include them or not? Were they too steamy? Did they fit the rest of the novel? And that was when I realised that I really had to sit down and make some decisions. What exactly was I writing? I’ve been telling people it’s chick-lit, romantic comedy, but some of the words coming from my fingers were more in the hard-core romance realm. Therefore, a line had to be drawn so I stayed consistent and kept to genre.

Eventually, I found a point I was comfortable with, which I felt kept to my stated genre yet didn’t compromise my writing at all. And what was that line? Anything I was comfortable with my dad reading, knowing I was the author, was acceptable. Anything more than that wasn’t. A simple rule, yet one that I am sure I will have no trouble keeping to.

With that in mind, my question to you all today is this: Have you ever had this conversation with yourself? If you have, how did you decide where to draw the line? And have you ever regretted that decision? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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I’ve done it!

Celebration champagne

Celebration champagne (Photo credit: Lisa Brewster)

 

Yes, folks, it’s celebration time. After WAY too long (I started this process over two years ago), I have finally finished the first draft of my novel.

*pops champagne*

It’s been a long and interesting process, and I’ve learned a lot along the way, both about storytelling and also about myself. From my decision to cut over 70,000 words back at the start of the year and restructure the whole thing, to the blogs I’ve been frequenting and the courses I’ve attended (a big hello to Lucy Clark, who has been extremely helpful), it’s been a journey of ups and downs, peaks and troughs, finally culminating in today, when the last scene was penned and the book finished.

It’s an odd feeling. I have written completed novels before, but this is the first one that I’ve felt confident enough to unleash on an unsuspecting public by way of publication. (Yes, I have other things online, under another name, but that’s something else entirely.) And I know that this is only the start – there are months of editing ahead of me. Heck, I haven’t even read the whole thing through from start to finish yet to make sure it makes sense! I have a bundle of notes that I will keep handy when I get to that point, just to make sure I’m going in the right direction when it comes to structure and the like, and I’m full of enthusiasm to get that process underway. I know, though, that I need to let it rest for a little while. Give myself a break. Because only when I’m looking at this story with fresh eyes will I be able to edit it properly.

As such, I’m taking December off writing entirely. I shall continue to blog, of course, and to read, but the novel is being put away until the Christmas and new year celebrations are over. Then, once I’ve had that break, I’ll bring out the red pen and really go through it – structurally first, then characterisation and the like, and finally line edits. I’ve chosen this order because line edits are so easy to do, and if I start with those I’ll get sidelined with those and never do the big stuff. Besides, why busy yourself with the minutiae when you know that it’s all likely to change anyway when you do the structural edits?

So there it is. I’m about to uncork the champagne to celebrate, and I’ve promised my fingers a manicure as a reward. After all, they’ve done the bulk of the work here. And then I’m putting this manuscript away until 2013, when I can hopefully attack it with fresh eyes.

Boy, am I exhausted. But really, really pleased with myself at the same time. This is a milestone and one I’m determined to mark. Cheers all!

 

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On disappointment – in retrospect

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I’ve been going through old photographs, trying to put together some photo books of the kids over the years. It’s an interesting process (did they ever look that young?) and I’m enjoying it, even if it is taking away from my writing time. Hey, I’ve got a voucher that has to be used by a certain date, so I’ve prioritised. This is fine with me.

Anyway, as I was going through the files, some pictures emerged of a bike race that we attended a few years back, in which Lance Armstrong was competing. At the time we thought it was a vague point of interest but nothing else – we’re not big cycling fans and only went because it was convenient and we thought our then two-year-old would enjoy it. We were joking that every cyclist we saw on the road at that time was Lance, whether they looked anything like him or not, and it was more comical than anything. And if nothing else, we could say that we had seen Lance Armstrong ride. Something to tick off your bucket list, so to speak.

Looking at it now, though, brings completely different thoughts to mind. Was he on drugs at the time? It’s more than likely. How many other riders were using banned substances? How much of that race was actually a race of clean riders? Sure, it’s a question you could ask with every professional cycling event, but the recent revelations about the Armstrong camp and others have cast a new light on it.

Now, we haven’t talked about it much with our eldest. We want him to continue to think of sport as something that you do because you enjoy it, not because winning is the only acceptable result. The very concept of someone cheating like that is still alien to him, and we see no need to introduce him to it just yet. For him, it’s still the innocence of participating. For us, though, those memories have become somewhat tainted. That race, which we had enjoyed, now wears a more sinister air, and I’m not really comfortable with it.

You may say, well you enjoyed it at the time, so why would that change? And to a degree, that’s right. The day itself was great. There is, though, that sense of disappointment that pervades any thought about it now, kind of like thinking about the great dates with a guy (or girl) who you later learned was cheating on you. It soils the good of the memory. Which brings me to this blog.

Have you  ever had an experience which, while good enough at the time, has since become tainted due to something you found out later? How did that affect your thoughts about it at the time? And, to put a writing bent on it, have you ever done that to your characters?

I’d love to hear about it.

 

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Working with distractions

distractions and arguments

distractions and arguments (Photo credit: Will Lion)

Who, me? Distracted? Never! Oh, look, a bird ….

We’ve all been there, surrounded by distractions when we’re trying to work. It doesn’t even matter what the work is, it’s just impossible to concentrate on it. Well, that’s me at the moment.

Of course, it’s largely self-inflicted, which I suspect is the same for a lot of people. For me, it’s the start of the international cricket season in the southern hemisphere. I have a real weakness for sport, which I alluded to when the Olympic Games were on, and it’s impossible for me to sit in a room with a television or a radio without keeping an ear on the score. Heck, even if there is no television or radio, that’s what the internet is for, right? I’m far more likely to be distracted by a sporting event than I am by Facebook or Twitter, and while the white noise that is the commentary doesn’t necessarily take too much of my attention, if something happens in the game then I’m going to turn around and watch it. During the winter it’s not such an issue, as a football match is over in a couple of hours, but Test cricket goes for five days. Hence, the distractions.

Of course, that’s not the only thing that’s keeping my mind from my work. The kids are getting excited about Christmas and much of our spare time is taken up making sure that all the shopping has been done. (Thank goodness for internet shopping, let me tell you. I’ve never bought so much at 9 o’clock at night.) Plus of course there are the usual school commitments, weekend sporting commitments and the like, and of course the sanity-saving gatherings with friends. Writing time? What writing time? It’s a good thing I’ve only committed to 500 words a day.

The good news, for me at least, is that I’m keeping to my schedule. 500 words a day hasn’t proven too onerous, even with everything else going on. I may be distracted but I’m managing to stay on target, so with any luck this manuscript will be done before I know it. I started reading it from the start the other day and didn’t want to stop, so I figure that’s a good thing. Now I just need these final bits to be done – fingers crossed by the end of the month – and that all-important first hurdle will have been overcome.

So tell me, is it just me, or is this just a generally distracting time of year? I’m trying to work out how I did the last two NaNos in November and won both, with all that’s going on. Of course, not everyone will have the same distractions as I do, but I’m sure that everyone has something that keeps them from being more productive, no matter what they’re trying to achieve. Sure, it comes down to priorities, but that’s something we all have to juggle all the time. It just seems, to me at least, that at the moment there are more competing priorities than usual.

No? Just me then? Oh well. I shall just keep juggling them like I always do and plod away with my 500 words. And to everyone else out there who is struggling to find time for everything, don’t worry. It’s just that time of year, and you’re not alone. :)

 

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Looking for motivation

English: Motivational Saying

English: Motivational Saying (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Okay, first things first. I know I didn’t do a post last Friday, so my deepest apologies. The lack of activity was due to a combination of things – a late cancellation combined with a generally crappy day meant that things just got away from me and I wasn’t able to put something together. Fear not, though, I have things lined up for this Friday so it’s only a minor blip. :)

Aside from my general lack of blogging, though, today I was going to talk about motivation. I’ve been sick lately so finding the motivation to get out there and write has been more difficult than usual. Sure, the ideas are there, but the thought of actually opening that Word document and writing just hasn’t appealed.

My way of getting past this is, oddly enough, NaNo. Yes, I know that last week I said loud and clear that I wasn’t going to do NaNo this year as I wanted to get my WIP out of the way first. However, what I’ve decided to do is my own mini NaNo, in that rather than aiming for 50,000 words during November, I’m heading for 15,000. That’s 500 words a day, and if I get that done then I’ll be, if not finished, then very close to. I’m doing okay, too – today (in my part of the world) is the 5th of November, so that means I need to have 2500 words done by the end of today. Well, I’m not there yet, but it’s not yet midday so I’ve got time, and I’m over 2000 to start with. That means less than 500 words and I’m on track.

I know that personal NaNos don’t work for everyone, though, so I’ve come up with a few other methods that might help with motivation.

1. Carrots, as in carrot-and-stick methods. In this case, reward yourself. I’ve promised that I’ll get myself a manicure when the manuscript is finally done – or, at least, the first draft is. This isn’t necessarily because I’m huge fan of getting my nails done, but it feels like a good reward for my fingers, which are what has been doing the bulk of the work in typing this story out. In other words, set up a reward system for significant milestones, like some personal pampering, or a night out with friends, or a fancy lunch, or whatever. Not a huge reward (I don’t condone celebrating every chapter finish with a weekend away, for example), but something that fits the task at hand.

2. Sticks. This is punishing yourself if you don’t meet certain milestones. This doesn’t work nearly so well as people respond so much better to positive than negative rewards, but sometimes it just works to do it this way. This has worked for me in the past when I denied myself chocolate until I’d written 1000 words in a day. (This was especially effective when I had the chocolate just sitting there, looking at me, and I was forcing myself not to have it.) Stick methods are probably better for short term goals than long term ones, or at least they are for me.

3. Competition/social deadlines. This is where something like NaNo comes in, though it’s not necessary; it could be an agreement with a friend or something at your writers’ group. It’s where you agree to have a chapter finished by X date, or try to write more than someone else in  a given time. The widgets on the NaNo website are great because you can track your progress against that of a friend or even a region (averaged out), but really any sort of arrangement will work. The idea is that you will write, even if it’s rubbish, because someone else is relying on you to do it. There’s nothing like a bit of social guilt to make you get stuck into it.

You will notice that I’m employing a combination of (1) and (3) this month – the promise of a manicure to reward my fingers when the draft is finished, along with the pressure to meet a NaNoWriMo-like deadline. Only time will tell if I’m disciplined enough to do it, but if I don’t try I’ll never know.

So, what works best for you when you’re not feeling motivated? How do you make yourself write? Or do you just take a break and wait for the inspiration to come back again? I’d love to hear about it. :)

 

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