As some of you know, I’ve been working on a MG novel. And, the week before last, I finished it! Yay!! It’s not done-done, it’s just ready-for-critique-done. But all the big pieces are there, plus a lot of the little ones, and I’d been wondering if I’d ever reach this goal.
This story has a long history – seven years of it. During that time, I’ve had varying degrees of both inspiration and motivation to write it. Sometimes it poured in like a waterfall, and sometimes it was hardly a trickle. A question that’s been buzzing around my head lately is this: what kept me going on this story for so long? I certainly wasn’t inspired for the full seven years, nor was I motivated. I even set it on the shelf for years at a time. So why did I keep coming back to it?
I wasn’t really sure, so I sat down to examine the life of this project. Turns out it was shaped like a regular story.
With all my new ideas, there is no shortage of inspiration or motivation. The words almost come too fast for me to keep up, even when I’m in the planning stages. The same thing happened with my MG project. When the initial idea fell into my head, I got so excited that I wrote and wrote for weeks on end. The more I planned, the bigger the story got. But when I started writing it, it got smaller. So I went back to planning, then back to writing, planning, writing, etc. I kept going in this circle until I was so dizzy I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was something wasn’t right, and I didn’t know how to fix it. It irritated the heck out of me, so I set it aside to work on something else.
After writing my first YA novel, I went back to my MG project to see what I could see. Again, I got really excited about the idea and set to planning. Again, the words flowed freely and I could hardly keep up. Then, I went through the same cycle as before. But I was determined to work through the problem this time. I even wrote separate pieces of the story, out of order, in an attempt to spark a solution. Nothing worked, and I was even more frustrated than the last time. I threw the story back on the shelf, then huffed off to work on something else.
After writing my second YA novel, I didn’t go directly back to my MG project. Instead, I sketched out another YA story. When I had a rough, high level plan, I closed one eye and peeked at my MG project. I don’t know why I was treating it like it was going to jump out and bite me, because it was still in the same state I’d left it. :) This caution turned out to be beneficial, though. Instead of letting the idea carry me away, I took out the high-level plan and spread it out on the floor. And then, something happened...it all clicked into place. I had almost everything I needed, but it wasn’t in the right order, and some of the characters were playing the wrong roles. I switched those things around, and then *more* clicked into place. That required some new pieces to the plan, so I added those. Pretty soon, my floor was covered with a plan that made sense, really made sense, for the first time. I sat down to write the story, and the words flowed. It was like a dam bursting. I guess since they’d been stuck in my head for seven years, they just couldn’t wait to finally get out. This is the strongest first draft I’ve ever written...but that’s probably because it’s really the 200th draft. : )
But why did it take so long to get to this point? Quite frankly, the story required writing skills that I didn’t have, and I didn’t know how to go about learning them. It took seven years to first understand how to write it, and then to realize that I didn’t have those particular skills way back when. I still have plenty to learn, but at least I know enough to give this story what it deserves.
I also discovered that, through all this time of varying degrees of inspiration and motivation, these two remained constant:
Inspiration – I love the idea behind this story. Plus, I’m an explorer at heart, and I wanted to see where this idea would take me.
Motivation – The underlying themes are a huge part of myself. Sorting through them allowed me to grow internally, which made me a stronger, more confident person.
In other words, from the day the idea hatched in my head, there was never a question that I wouldn’t finish it. I will. It’s just a matter of time.
What keeps you motivated? What do you do when your motivation goes on a vacation?