Maybe you're one of those writers who has no problem sitting down and writing a story from start to finish, or maybe you're more like me and you get side-tracked multiple times before you can get to the end.
Although it's romantic to think of yourself as a tortured writer who's utterly desperate to finish that one big novel you have inside of you – which is so eager to come out, but can't because you're too weighed down by the massive ennui you feel just by existing – it's much more practical to actually finish your darn projects.
Here are few problems that I've encountered while trying to finish a story/novel, and what I do to try to keep myself motivated*.
Problem #1: But what about all the other ideas I have?
Sure, you have a million fantastic stories that you want to work on, and you could try working on multiple projects at the same time, but will you ever finish any of them at that rate?
Possible Blackmail Solution: Refuse to let yourself write anything until you get that first project finished. Don't take notes of the amazing things that suddenly pop into your head. The fear of forgetting all those plots points should jolt your brain into action and motivate you to write faster than ever before.
Problem #2: But I don't know happens next.
You think you've got it all figured out, but suddenly a character zigs when they should have zagged, or the situation has become more complicated than you originally thought, or you’ve realized you went about this all wrong, and you've no clue what happens next.
Possible Blackmail Solution: You’d think that not knowing what to write would be punishment enough, but obvious it’s not or you’d get past this roadblock. Sit yourself down in front of your story and refuse to do anything until you figure out what's next. No food, no drink, no bathroom breaks. No delicious macarons you baked earlier**. Until you finally figure out what to write, your butt and that chair are going to be the best of friends.
Problem #3: But everything I write seems wrong.
That next sentence/scene/piece of dialogue eludes you, no matter how long you stare at the page/screen in front of you. Even though you know exactly what you want to write in a future scene, the present is tripping you up and holding you back.
Possible Blackmail Solution: Get yourself a plate of the spiciest wings you can find and a tall glass of milk. Eat all the wings, but refuse to let yourself drink any milk until you finish writing the next scene. If you find it difficult to type through the tears, remind yourself that you can always fix it in the next draft.
Problem #4: But it's so sunny and nice outside. Why should I stay inside and write when I can go to the beach?
Winter in Canada sucks, and when the sun finally comes out most of us want nothing more than to run outside and bask in its warmth. But that's not how writing gets done.
Possible Blackmail Solution: Close all your curtains and block out the sun completely, also avoid garlic and crosses. You are a vampire now – a vampire with a deadline. Finish that story or never see the sun again.
Problem #5: But Masterchef is on television...
If you don't watch Masterchef, how will you pretend that you know everything about food? How else can you talk about flavour-balances or the mixture of textures with any kind of authority?***
Possible Blackmail Solution: Blackmail won't work here. The call of Masterchef is too strong. Go ahead and watch that episode, but by the gods you'd better to get back to writing as soon as the credits start to roll or you’ll be cursed with burning everything you make from now on.
Problem #6: But I've got a blog post to write.
So it's that time again… You planned on writing something early, but now the 18th of the month is almost here and you've got nothing to show for it.
Possible Blackmail Solution: Find a song you dislike and put it on repeat. You can only stop it after you’ve written that blog post. If you start to like the song, you are allowed twenty seconds to wonder what’s happened to your life and how you got to this point, but then you have to get back to writing.
As always, remember to adjust your blackmail accordingly for maximum efficiency.
*In case you can't tell, this is mostly satire.
**I made macarons earlier. It did not help with my word count. However, I did get my first draft of this blog post written because I blackmailed myself with the ‘no macarons until you finish’ option.
***This is an actual conversation I've had with myself.