Monday, August 10, 2009

Inspiring to Motivate

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 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?


Nayuleska said...

Heaps of congrats for finishing it (for critques). That's quite a journey you've been on.

My motivation? My muse. Seriously, she's quite a character in herself. Plus I want to see my books out there, on the shelves. When I lose motivation, I remind myself of the (few) dire books which I've read, and how even my drafts are slightly better than them. Plus, that the alpha readers loved the story, so if they like it, hopefully an agent will.

Andrea Coulter said...

I also have a story swimming about in my head that I know I'm not ready to write yet - maybe after I write a few more novels :) Congrats for keeping with it!

When my motivation takes a vacation, I usually let myself take a day or two off as well--usually that's enough to bring it skipping back to me :)

Katie Salidas said...

Congrats on finishing and good luck with your critiques.

PJ Hoover said...

Yay for your project!

I try to force my motivation by doing something. Go through a junk drawer. Clean out the fridge. And then I read a book or think about a different WIP.
Sometimes, though, it really is hard!

Jim Danielson said...

I just got my MG novel back critiqued after a round of revisions. I hope your critique(s) are as helpful and hopeful! Strangely, my story dates back seven years too.

Kelly Polark said...

Good for you to keep at it! Seven years! Congrats on finishing it and good luck with revision!

Anonymous said...

That's the best: when you know, in your gut, that you've done your story justice. Congratulations!

Anna Staniszewski said...

That's so exciting that things have finally fallen into place for you! I had a similar experience with a YA novel that I've been working on for almost four years and it's finally, FINALLY ready for submission. It went through so many revisions that it's almost unrecognizable from the original version. I think what kept me going was the story. Every time I came back to it, I loved the world it was set in and I felt like I needed to find a way to tell it. I knew I had it in me - it was just a matter of maturing as a writer and figuring out the best way to get the story across.

C.R. Evers said...

Yay! Congratulations! That's a huge accomplishment! Now go celebrate!

Casey Something said...

I can't tell you how much I appreciate this post. If you've been reading my Wed posts, you know I've been struggling with my story for awhile. As of last Wed, I thought I had it figured out (again), but I don't.

I'm right where you were when you were spinning and frustrated, but the idea simply won't let go. I have to write it.

So anyway, you've given me hope. It might be time for me to put it away for awhile. I've suspected for some time that I simply don't have the skill to do it justice, but my critique partners have been insisting I do.

Hopefully I can make a decision soon--put it away or push forward.

I wish you the best on this story. It sounds like it has all the makings of being your break-in novel! Keep us updated.

Tabitha said...

Yuna - that's great motivation! :)

Lynn - it's good to know when you're not ready to write something yet, isn't it? I wish I had known this seven years ago, but I just kept banging my head against the wall instead. :)

Quixotic - thanks!! :)

PJ - yeah, that and going for a walk. Both work wonders for me too. :)

Jim - thanks!! I've already gotten some feedback, and boy am I jazzed to start revisions. :) And let me just say that my critiquing friends are AWESOME. :)

Tabitha said...

Kelly - thanks! :) :)

Jenn - thanks!! It sure is an amazing feeling. :)

Anna - congrats!! It feels so good to get to the submission phase, doesn't it? And it's not easy to get there, so go celebrate! :)

Christy - you betcha!! :) Drinks on me! :)

Casey - I am SO glad you enjoyed this post. Partly why I shared this story is because I hoped others could identify and commiserate. :) I'll be sending good thoughts your way, but I have a feeling you'll figure it out eventually - since you clearly love your story as much as I love mine. :) Distance worked wonders for me, so it might work for you. Good luck!!

Christina Farley said...

I am so impressed that you've kept with this project. It means you believe in it and it's going to be all the better for your persistance.

I think you are right about giving the manuscript time to allow yourself to become a better writer. I totally see that in my own writing too. And it's fun to see how i've grown and developed as a writer.

Unknown said...

Yay for finishing! I can relate to so many realizations you shared in this post. :)

Weronika Janczuk said...

Congratulations on making such progress -- that's wonderful news! And know that many of us understand your process. We're constantly growing and outgrowing are projects, and some of us are brave enough to return to things we began in the past.

Keep up the great work and I hope that your critiques will yield positive feedback.

Have a great weekend!

Weronika Janczuk said...

our projects*