Creating Momentum in Writing
One of the hardest aspects of being a new and emerging writer is creating momentum in your writing; the ability to make writing a consistent part of your creative life, whether it is for starting a new project or maintaining a current work in progress.
In a new and emerging writer, the first spark of creativity produces a flurry of activity and a rush of new ideas, hastily committed to paper. Into the primordial soup the new writer throws down words in an act of creativity where worlds are created, universes explode in spiralling arms of stars and the waters are gathered into one place to separate the land from the sea.
But it isn’t finished yet. You may have only written the first three paragraphs or 500 words. Or you’ve only written the first draft. There is no rest until it is finished and you can see that it is good.
You put it aside, meaning to come back to it tomorrow, or the next day, but no later than Sunday.
However before you know it, your work in progress is languishing in the corner of the room like a forgotten object because life gets in the way: the goldfish requires a burial at sea, no one has replaced the empty toilet roll. You know, the BIG things in life.
You look at it from time to time, guilty about neglecting it, but you don’t know what to do or how to go about it. Once the bonfire of the initial creative act fades to embers, works are left unfinished.
In order to produce momentum the new and emerging writing requires practice, discipline and forming the habit of writing.
But how do you add fuel to the embers, ignite the flame and build momentum to make writing a habit?
Begin by setting targets.
- a daily or weekly or monthly word count;
- a certain number of stories or chapters written in a month, two months, six months or a year.
Keep yourself accountable by recording your progress. I use a spread sheet to keep track.
Plan To Write
Set aside time to write. Timetable it into the week where it fits for you. Or whenever you can scrounge ten minutes of spare time. Take a pen and paper to the bathroom. It’s quiet time; use it.
Plan What You Are Doing
Waiting for the right time is not going to work to build momentum. Nor is sitting in front of a blank page or computer screen and waiting for words to drop into your lap. Think about what you are going to work on: the next chapter of your novel, a new piece of flash fiction, edits for a short story or planning for your next novella.
Preparation builds momentum because it focuses your attention and goals.
It is dangerous as a new and emerging writer to “wait for the right time.” There is no Muse waiting for you. Put your backside into the chair and write. Even if it is rubbish, write.
You build momentum by consistently turning up to the page to write.
You may like to have multiple projects on the go at different stages of completion to build momentum. If one project is stalled, you can move on to something else.
A word of caution: have some measure of consistency. Jumping from one project to another without continuity could make your work read like the gospels of a madman.
Minimise the Distractions
Oh look, shiny things. My attention span makes a goldfish look intelligent. I can focus, but I have to work hard at it. Try this post from Jodi Cleghorn on Destroying the Distractions.
Nothing destroys momentum like social media and inane pictures of cats.
Record Your Ideas
I carry a pen and notebook wherever I go. Each page is dedicated to a single idea to allow for notes and planning.
If I am at my computer I record ideas on a Sticky Note (Mac application) or open a new document and throw down the initial ideas, a few words or paragraphs. I usually transfer the idea to my notebook at the first opportunity to have a central location for my projects.
It builds momentum because you’re composting ideas in your head all the time so when it comes to writing, you have something to work with.
Hoard your ideas
Scrounge them from every place imaginable. Build a bank of potential story projects. Having a notebook full of ideas allows your brain to subconsciously think of them, developing the narrative. Flick through your ideas from time to time. One may have appeal and give you an opportunity to work on it.
Use a blog to record your progress, trials and tribulations as a measure of accountability. Sometimes writing non-fiction can be a break for your brain. And in the process of writing about your progress in a current work in progress, you may find a solution to your planning presents itself.
Use The Down Time
The mundane activities of life are a great way to build momentum for your writing. As I’ve said before here, the washing up is a great place for me to think through ideas. The physical activity of washing dishes allows the brain to wander aimlessly through a current project, shining a torch into the dark corners and under the couch cushions.
A new character may appear or you suddenly work out how to kill off your hero. Or you have left your hero dangling by her fingertips (literally or metaphorically) and a solution to her predicament appears in the guise of a monster truck traversing through the breakfast cereal aisle.
Finish What You Started
There is a great sense of accomplishment when a piece of writing is finished. It encourages you to look forward to the next piece.
But what happens when momentum slows down, when the bonfire of enthusiastic creativity collapses in on itself in a shower of sparks, leaving naught but coals and embers?
You are allowed to let things die down from time to time. Give yourself permission to have time away from writing. Like all creative endeavours, you need to refill your creative well. Watch a movie, read a book, take a walk through the aforementioned breakfast cereal aisle of the supermarket late one evening.
I know there are certain parts of the school term (I teach high school English) when writing is all but impossible. I make best use of the time I have available to me. At the very least, if I am not writing, I am reading, making notes, scrounging ideas for blogs or stories.
Don’t let the fire go out. Keep writing.
* This article first appeared at Write Anything