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How do you keep yourself on track and motivated?

Discussion in 'The Authors' Café' started by AmericanPi, Jun 23, 2018.

  1. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

    I realized the other day that I have a serious problem with every one of my chaptered fics: I lose interest and focus waaay too easily.

    What happens is that I start a chaptered fic and then lose interest because I become strapped for ideas, motivation, and investment in the project. Most of the time, it's because I've come up with a new chaptered fic idea, and I excitedly start that one, only to lose interest in that one as well. Throughout my eight years of writing fanfiction (I started in 2010), I have yet to complete a single piece of fiction longer than 50K words (or even 20K words).

    Does anyone else have this problem? If so, what are some ways to fix it? If you don't have this problem, how do you keep yourself on track enough to actually finish your chaptered fic?
    FlamingRuby likes this.
  2. Dragonfree

    Dragonfree Just me

    Well, I just completed a 77-chapter monstrosity that took me sixteen years, and previously completed a different ~50,000-word fic, so I'd be in the "not having this problem" category, heh.

    For me I think what keeps me invested in a fic is a lot of thinking about the story and the characters and what's going to happen. I'd think about future scenes in the shower, or on the way to school/work, and about what makes the characters tick, and about the chapter I'm currently working on and what needs to be done, and that way I'm pretty much always excited about the story. I have started a couple of chapterfics that I didn't finish, but they were mostly cases where I wrote a chapter or two kind of without having too much in the way of ideas or having gotten really invested in what I was doing beforehand, and then it's easy to lose that focus. Perhaps try thinking your current idea a bit further before you start writing - resist the temptation to start until you've thought up a fair bit of what's going to happen near the start, at least several chapters' worth of structure, and don't start the writing until you know you really care about these people and are excited to write several chapters - then, by the time you've written those, hopefully you'll have gotten more invested and developed more ideas. Plotting out the entire story, with a plan for each chapter, could help you keep on track throughout, but if you're not really the planning type (I'm not), then it might be hard to create a complete plan ahead of time, although it'd probably be easier to do so after you've gotten started and gotten a feel for the characters and story (I ended up with a rough chapter plan for the rest of both TQftL and Morphic eventually, even though I didn't start with one). Either way, definitely let yourself not just strictly follow the plan as you go; a lot of the most interesting bits of my fics have happened 'off-script', and if I'd tried to religiously stick to the plan, the fics would've been a lot more boring.

    That's about all I can suggest, I think. A lot of this is kind of speculative, since I haven't actually had a problem staying invested once I'm a few chapters in; I'm probably just more stubborn than most people, what with spending sixteen years completing a fanfic started when I was twelve, so I've probably had an easier time of it than most. But I hope some of this was helpful!
  3. canisaries

    canisaries sometimes i get a deadache, yeah

    Myself, I nowadays never start writing a story before I know how long it'll be and what the general plot is. I plan ahead so that I don't have any filler, which makes me able to power through scenes I lose interest in - I have to finish them in order to get to the better stuff. So far I haven't come across a scenario where I would have lost interest in a story entirely while in the middle of writing it and I hope that doesn't happen. I do have to credit my perfectionist attitude too, as it hates leaving anything unfinished.

    Having people read your stuff and await new chapters is a big boost to motivation. Knowing that there's at least one person with interest to see the story progress is a huge help - it doesn't even have to be someone who isn't you. If you find yourself losing interest, you should ask yourself what made you want to write it in the first place and why you're not getting the satisfaction you sought out to get.

    Then, if nothing works, there's always the option to simply focus on shorter stories. A long story isn't necessarily better than a short one. It's far better to have a concise 10k word story than a droning 100k word story. Don't forget about oneshots, either - short stories are a form of literature just like novels are.
  4. DeliriousAbsol

    DeliriousAbsol Call me Del

    I don't really have a set method, per-se. I tend to pants rather than plan my 'fics. I just try to write on a daily basis at a scheduled time. Although I've not been too great at this recently, having a routine does help a lot when you get into the swing of things. It's hard to get back into when you fall out of it, however!

    I also find feedback is a fantastic motivation boost. If someone is enjoying my writing, it really spurs me on. Music, too. Music gets the inspiration flowing.

    I can strongly advise against starting any new 'fics regardless of how tempting it might feel! Try to keep them on the back-burner for after you finish your current project. Or, if they're just one-shots, it's not such a big issue. But multiple long, chaptered 'fics can be a real motivation killer. I tried working on four at once a while back. Worst. Idea. Ever. I lost motivation and inspiration for weeks, and all those stories got scrapped/put on hiatus! It might even have lasted months, tbh, I really can't remember. But it was truly awful. Having no inspiration or motivation to start a new project is a terrible feeling to me. I spend a lot of time daydreaming, and that challenge was a total drain. The upside is, two of those stories merged into System:Reboot. So it wasn't a complete waste XD
  5. Marika_CZ

    Marika_CZ Well-Known Member

    @AmericanPi Have you considered a shorter format? Especially if you have hard time like this every single time.

    There are other formats besides what people here call "chaptered fic" and "one shots." Sometimes I wonder if beginning authors even know they have other options haha. The longest fic I have ever written is around 40k words long in my first language (I estimate 50-60k in English once I am done translating). That honestly drained me out. I am not terribly ethusiastic about writing novel long fic after the experience.

    Anyway, about interest and focus. Some people have easier time doing this by setting up a routine. E.g. write 200k words every day (or every other way). Then stick with it. Once it becomes a regular thing, your mind will accept it as a natural part of your day/week.
    (I can't work like that. I have these bursts where I spend whole day with almost no break to write 2-3k words. Other days I write nothing until next burst. I know, I am weird lol)

    What helped me personally during that fic I mentioned above was setting a milestone. Some sort of point I really really looked forward to writing. The story had a twist which is revealed to audience in penultimate chapter. I thought of (in my mind) awesome scene during which it happens. Then I started to write and I counted each chapter as a step towards that cool scene I oh-so-wanted to write already. It was like waiting for Christmas, except the more I worked, the faster Santa would arrive (lame metaphor ik sorry, couldn't think of anything better rn). Once done, it was just the matter of writing a finale chapter which was basically one last big push. And then when I was writing The End it all felt so worthwhile.

    Sometimes I also tell myself, "If you don't finish it, people will think you unreliable and won't read your stuff in the future." That helps me sometimes too.

    And one last thing is listening to music, Del already mentioned that tho :p
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2018
  6. FlamingRuby

    FlamingRuby The magic of Pokemon

    First, I plan out the story as much as I can, decide on a release day (or two) and then stick to the outline as best as I can. I do leave some wiggle room to add to the plan, delete it, or change things around as the story develops.

    I've already had to delete an episode out of Pokemon Shine Diamond after realizing the story would not suffer if I took it out (even though it featured a location from the games)
  7. AmericanPi

    AmericanPi Write on

    Ah, thank you all for the advice! I think starting new chaptered fics is definitely a major pitfall that I'll try my best to avoid in the future, and having some degree of a plan in my chaptered fics will help me stay invested in the story and what will happen to my characters. Writing every day is a habit I'm trying to develop, and though I've found that I cannot focus on writing while music is playing I'm definitely trying to write at least 500 words a day. I also think it's a good idea to have an idea of how long a chapterfic will be before starting one.

    Thanks again!
    Marika_CZ likes this.

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