Writing Needs Motivation

For three years, I’ve had a story to tell.  Just one story, about a naive orphan girl named Shimmer.  For a while, I didn’t know what her story was, or even who else was involved in it; I just knew that her story needed to be told.  Otherwise, it would drive me crazy.

So I wrote, and wrote, and wrote some more.  I went through who knew how many plots, trying to figure out what fit.  At first, she was the middle of a very cliche fantasy plot, where there was a prophecy saying that she would defeat some great evil and save the world.  But that didn’t work, so I made it bigger.  Instead, defeating that evil was just a subplot, and the actual plot was that she discovered an old magic system that the world had forgotten about.  But that didn’t work, either.  Here, my cast of other characters changed, and one special little side character got bumped up to co-protagonist—and also earned the rank of being my favorite character to write.

I didn’t have a plot anymore, though.  I just kept rewriting the beginning and parts of the middle, over and over and over again, trying to get them exactly right, but with no definite plot in mind.

Then I was told about NaNoWriMo.  I was already 40k into the story again, the farthest I’d been in an entire year without starting over again, and for once, I was happy with where it was going.  But I discovered a little rule in the NaNoWriMo website that you’re supposed to work on a brand-new story, so I set little Shimmer’s story aside, and wrote Kay’s story.  I barely knew Kay and she surely didn’t have as big of a story to tell as Shimmer’s, but I managed to get to the end.  I finished my YWP NaNoWriMo with just shy of 40k, and although that story really isn’t very good, it was the first draft I’d finished in an entire year without immediately scrapping it and starting over.

Then I went back to writing Shimmer’s story.  I wrote 62k in the month of November, though only about 39k was official.  December came around and I finally finished the story at 84k.  This time, the plot was that Shimmer and my co-protagonist, Ean, broke the rules of magic—literally.  Everything reacted violently to that, so any person who used magic turned into a monster known as a mirli and the earth’s weather system was screwed up—snow in the middle of summer, random really bad storms, et cetera, and earthquakes happened frequently.

I was happy with the plot.  I’m not sure it really made much sense to anybody else who read it, but it was a first draft.  First drafts are infamous for not making sense to anybody but the author, are they not?  So, I set about editing it and for the first time in my life, my story actually had a draft two.  I scrapped most of the ending, as there were a lot of unnecessary things, and cut down the word-count to about 56k.

But it was frustrating and every single piece of me wanted to do what I’d always done—just start over from scratch and fix all the problems from the start.  I knew it didn’t work that way, though.  If it had, would it really have taken me two years just to get to a finished draft?  No.  Rewriting wouldn’t help me, I had to edit.

But I kept finding plot holes…and worse yet, my concentration started to waver.  I found new stories and met new characters, and while none of them were as special to me as Shimmer was, most of them were interesting.  So I took a break from Shimmer, thinking that taking a break would help, and started to work on other stories.  For Camp NaNo in July, I met Azeth, a boy who has a curse turning him into a dragon, and Syri, a brunette version of Rapunzel who has just a tad bit of a temper.  Okay, maybe more than a tad bit.

Azeth and Syri’s story started to come up with its own plot issues, so, 50k into it, I knew I needed to stop and plan out where I was going before I went any further.  Otherwise, I would just hit disaster.

I went back to Shimmer’s story, and discovered my biggest problem.  There’s a rule about rules that I think every writer should know: you can’t break the rules until you know the rules.  My plot was about how magic stopped following the rules and began to behave erratically.  But…the reader had no chance of learning what the rules of magic are before they suddenly don’t work.

So, for NaNoWriMo 2013, I decided to write a prequel to the book, about hers and some other character’s backstories, where I had a chance to properly set up the real rules of magic, so that I could effectively break them in the next book.  But what happened?  20k into it, I got bored.  I was writing in third-person, when I’d always written Shimmer in first-person, and I was having trouble trying to figure out how to fit it with the other book.

So, I stopped writing it.  Instead, for NaNo, I wrote the outline that Azeth’s story needed.  Now, it’s January 2014, and guess what?  I can’t write.

See, there was a subtle difference between Shimmer’s story and Azeth’s or even Kay’s story.  The latter two want to be told.  Shimmer’s needed to be told.  I spent two years working on just her story, without so much as looking at any other story, because I knew more than anything that I needed to write it.  It felt like, she had me by the throat and was forcing me to write, while the other stories and characters were just standing  by, waiting patiently and occasionally cheering me on.  There was less drive to write their stories.

But now I’ve lost the drive to write Shimmer’s story.  I still want to tell it.  But now, every time I think about the story, I just get frustrated and stressed out.  I realized that I didn’t have much of a character arc for my protagonists.  My plot is confusing and I need to find a way to lay out the basics beforehand, but I don’t know how to do that.  The prequel idea didn’t work, partly because I couldn’t think of a plot for it, to happen beforehand.  I’ve gone through so many villains, that I can’t seem to manage to keep the current one from seeming flat and dull.

I’ve lost my motivation to write.  Every time I sit down to write, I just stare blankly at the screen, and can get out only a few hundred words at most.  Used to be, I would write an average of a thousand to three thousand words every day.  Now, on the one day of the year that I can stay up late—New Years Eve—which means I have more time to write than normal, I barely got out nine hundred words.

The worst part is, writing has dominated my life for the past three years, so without it, I don’t know what to do.  If I don’t try to write, then what in the world am I supposed to do?  I sure can’t draw all day long, every day.  That has its own frustration.  For a while, writing was my escape from stress and every day life, and now, all it does is add more stress.  I don’t even have a way to escape anymore.  I can’t even lose myself in a good book the same way anymore… if I read too long, I just get a headache and start to feel lazy.

If anyone were to ask me how I felt about the new year, I think the most honest answer I could give is discouraged.

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