Finishing Things Up

It was Sunday afternoon.  The first rainy day we've had in ages.  I had run around all morning: to church, to my sister's to pick up a European outlet adapter, and to the nail salon for a pedicure.  So, really?  All I wanted to do was relax.  Maybe doze on the couch.  Make some progress on the science fiction book I'm reading that is semi-endless.

But there was that project to consider.

A chapter for a client that I'd promised I'd get done before I left.

Said client is currently busy with other things and behind on reading the work I'm sending, and had made it clear that I didn't have to get her the chapter.

But I said I'd do it.   And the thought of how wonderful I'd feel upon my return, knowing that this project was done (except for rewrites) propelled me to my computer. So instead of lolling all afternoon, I worked.  Sat at my computer and wrote for three hours.  And I got the chapter done.  

Nothing feels better than getting things done.  (Okay, maybe a few things top that feeling, but still.)

And I started thinking about this in regards to our WIPs.  I know at least one productive writer, Dean Wesley Smith, says that finishing pieces (and then sending them out) is the key to success as a writer.   As I've said before and I'll say again, it's so important to push ahead on a draft of your WIP because you're going to know  much, much more about your story when you get to the end.  It's just the way it works.

It is very easy to get caught up in making something, like a first chapter, perfect, and then not making forward progress.  I found myself doing this recently with my novel and I realized I was just spinning my wheels and I needed to move forward.  I do allow myself a tiny bit of editing because that seems to come with the territory of re-reading what I've written, but beyond that it is best to just keep plodding forward.

In order to facilitate that, I take really good notes, both on my intentions of where I think I'm going and from what my writing group says about my WIP.  Then, when I've finished this draft, I can go back and remember what I wanted to do.  Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins, says that one of the best things you can do for yourself is keep a writing journal, a chronicle of your WIP.  John Steinbeck did this also, and you can actually buy his journals that he kept while writing The Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden.

But do not get so engrossed in your writer's journal that you don't finish your WIP!

So now I'm feeling like the proverbial weight has been lifted from my shoulders simply because I finished that project.   And I'm so glad I made the effort.

Update: I just saw this page of advice from writers and several of them mention finishing things!

What about you?  Are you good at finishing projects?

***Registration for the Book Proposals That Succeed Teleclass is now open!  Early bird pricing until September 15th, and the first three people who sign up get a free coaching session.

****If you want to follow along photographically on my journey through France, follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook (I'm not so good on FB, but I'm determined to try!)  Also, we plan to blog about the retreat at our retreat site.  I'll post links here as well.

Tips on Writing: Building Momentum

I often tell people that writing every day is an excellent way to build momentum.


And then they look at me blankly and wonder why in the hell they need momentum, since they are writers, not rocket engineers.

I tell them (and I'm telling you now) that momentum is what gets the novel (or memoir, or article, or any writing project) done.

So, what exactly is momentum?


1. the product of a body's mass and its velocity

2. the impetus of a body resulting from its motion

3. giving power or strength

Since we don't happen to be rocket scientists, its #2 and #3 we're after.  Power and strength derived from the impetus of a body's motion.  Or, sustained energy to complete a writing project.

Momentum is what carries us forward with excitement to the end.  Without it, nothing happens.

But what, exactly, am I talking about when I talk about momentum?  Here are some examples:

  • Yesterday, I was working on other writing projects, but my novel called to me and I took time away from what I was supposed to be working on to complete a scene in my story.  Momentum is a sense of excitement that beckons you to work on your piece no matter what, even if it means you'll have to stay up late to finish everything else.
  • A friend reports she is so excited about her memoir that she wakes in the middle of the night with ideas for it.  Momentum is your subconscious so engaged with your story that it feeds you material at all hours of the day and night.
  • A student says that working on her novel is no longer a struggle, and that she writes some every day.  Momemtum makes writing a pleasure because you're so engaged with the work.

Building Momentum

So, how, you may ask, does one achieve this wondrous state called momentum?  Here are some suggestions:

  • Write every day.  Nothing builds momentum like writing every day.
  • If you can't write every day, at least look at your work.  Glance over it, read the last scene that you wrote.  This gets it in your brain and gets your subconscious chewing on it.
  • Make notes and lists.  The subconscious mind loves this kind of tinkering with ideas and will feed you more.
  • Read.  Often when I read a book on the writing craft, I get so inspired I can't get through the book because I keep putting it down to write.  But don't just read books (or blogs) on writing, read everything.
  • Think about your novel.  My new favorite thing to do is think about the plot and characters of my novel while I'm rocking my newborn grandson, Henry.  Something about the motion of it jars loose new ideas.  Which leads me to:
  • Move.  Walk.  Many people have reported on these very pages that walking makes their brains into a veritable idea factory.  And, just in case you didn't get it the first time:
  • Write every day.  Truly try your hardest to connect with your work in writing every day, even if its one word (and make no mistake about it, writing one word counts).

How do you maintain momentum on a project?  Any tips or tricks you'd like to share? 

PS.  I'm trying to make my posts easier to navigate, so do you think the bolded words are helpful or a distraction?

PPS.  (Or is it PSS?) Don't forget to sign up for my bi-weekly free newsletter, and get yourself a copy of my Ebook, How to Jumpstart Your Book With a Vision Board.  It'll help you with momentum to get the book going. 


Photos by Woodleywonderworks.