Why You Need to Be Excited About Every Single Thing You Write

When writers ask me for my one, surefire, absolute best piece of writing advice, my prompt answer is always, “Write every day.” By that, I mean establish a consistent writing schedule and stick to it, come hurricane or heartburn. Don’t feel like writing today? Doesn’t matter, write anyway. Sick as a dog today? Write anyway. Hate your story today? Phooey. Just write.

Or should you?

As important as consistency and discipline are in the success of any author, there’s also a sometimes contrary truth we all have tobe aware of: Sitting down to write, in itself, isn’t enough. We also have to be excited about every single thing we write. The power of good fiction arises from the passion of the author. Without that passion, writing not only becomes drudgery, it’s also bound to produce less than stellar results.

Should you write when you’re bored?

We all have days when sitting down at the computer and opening our manuscripts is only slightly more appealing than scraping spider eggs out of the corner of the ceiling. But aren’t those the days when we should be disciplined enough to forceourselves to write? Otherwise, what good is this whole line about “writing every day”? If we write only when we’re excited about writing, then where do discipline and consistency fit in?

The first thing we have to understand is that there’s a difference between not wanting to write because we’re lazy and not wanting to write because, deep down, we’re not in love with our story idea. Sometimes we’re just plain going to be running on an empty inspirational tank.

Whenever you feel an inner resistance to writing, stop and ask yourself why? In Creating Characters, Dwight V. Swain offers one possible reason:

The answer is that your story no longer stimulates you, excites you…. There can be all sorts of reasons. But one of the most common is that you’ve drawn too much from the well without refilling. The well, of course, is your own head. Your brain. Your consciousness. Your imagination. You’ve drained it of things that interest and intrigue you. Or, to put it another way, you’ve used the same story elements too often: the same ideas, the same settings, the same twists and compilations, the same characters.

Should you write when the story idea is unformed?

Your problem might also be that your story simply isn’t ready to be written. I’ve learned to be careful not to write stories too soon. Even just scribbling down a summary too soon can stunt their growth. Most of my stories brew in my brain for years before I finally get the sense that they’re ready for the page. In The Making of a Writer, Gail Godwin concurs:

There is also something … which might be called a neurosis—that is, I feel positively repelled by the thought of writing at certain times. This could be that the material has not “jelled” in the subconscious & that I am pushing things.

Recognizing legitimate reasons not to write

Running on empty and attempting to write a story too soon (or without proper preparation) are both legitimate reasons not to write. As writers, we have to be in tune with our bodies and our emotions. Writing should be a joyous, thrilling, wonderful experience. When we think about our stories, we should soar. If we don’t, we need to take a good hard look at why. Gail Godwin again:

Before I began to write tonight, I experienced an almost overwhelming loathing for my project. It took sheer will to throw me into that “once upon a time.” I think one main drawback is that I never think it’s going to be good enough, but ours is only the trying & you forsake your vision at the peril of your soul.

Recognizing illegitimate reasons not to write

Don’t get me wrong. Stories are undeniably hard work. Sometimes they’re downright depressing when we compare the glorious thing in our imaginations with the tawdry imitation we end up producing on the page. But neither the work, the inevitable disillusionment, nor our own sheer terror should take away from the glory of the story. In a Writer’s Digest interview with Jessica Strawser, Chris Cleave says:

Make sure you’re excited about your work. When you research a story, it should feel like, It will be devastating for me if I don’t make this story as exciting as I know it can be. You should get up every day and think, If I’m not super excited about the 2,000 words I’m going to do today, how can I make it so I am super excited? It should never feel like a chore. If it ever gets boring, the reader can tell. You need to put the pen down and change something, and not come back to the desk until you’re excited about the line or chapter you’re about to write.

Recognize the difference between being unexcited about the daily toil of wordcraft and being unexcited about the story as a whole. The former is something to fight through relentlessly. The latter is something to be recognized and heeded.

Tell me your opinion: How excited are you about your work-in-progress?

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. In the heat of moment, when a new idea for a scene comes along, I am very excited. I’m extremely happy whenever I feel like I CAN write something… it’s been so difficult lately being able to stick with anything. Right now I’m in a phase where I’m bouncing around ideas in my head and trying to outline everything, including my characters, before I get started.
    Writing every day is a good piece of advice I’d heard numerous times. Even if you don’t feel like it, sometimes that’s where the magic happens, when you let go and what you’ve sought finally becomes obtainable. It doesn’t always work, but the rewards are great when it does.

    • There is a related one-sentence rule: Every day, write at least one sentence. If that one sentence leads to others, great.

  2. We all have mood swings when writing. One minute we love our story, the next we hate it. That’s normal. But if we consistently find ourselves not liking the story we’re trying to create, that’s a sign to step back and reevaluate.

  3. I love my story, so I write everyday! I see what you mean.

  4. When we’re in love with what we’re doing, the discipline comes so much more easily. Still, we can be in love with the story and not necessarily in love with the writing. They’re distinct issues – and the latter usually needs to be worked through.

  5. Writing is my passion. Like any writer (or author, depending on your tastes) I’d rather be writing than working a 9 to 5 job. But sacrifices must be made and the like. I think if you’re procrastinating at writing then you aren’t a writer (or author, depending on your tastes). Excellent post, KM!

  6. heheh, I’ll be more excited when I get the first draft done. Then I’ll know that all I have to do revise until done.

  7. @Jason: Procrastination gets most of us sooner or later. Writing, for all that we love it, is still difficult, often intimidating work. But so long as we’re persistently following our bliss, good things will happen.

    @mshatch: Every part of the process brings its own perks and pitfalls. If we can learn to enjoy even the most difficult parts, it cuts down even more on that urge to procrastinate.

  8. My problem is that I am going through the editing process for the 2nd time and I am getting very tired of my story ;( It just does not seem exciting any more now that I have worked and worked on it. I just want to start the next book already!

  9. That’s where discipline has to come into play. Your exhaustion probably has nothing to do with any lack of enthusiasm for your story. You’re just pooped! It could also be be a sign that it’s time to take a break from editing. I actually find that I can never do a really good job editing a story until I write the next book. By that time, I’ve gained enough mental and emotional distance to go back to the first story and really dig into the needed revisions.

  10. I’m convinced that a negative attitude while writing will be reflected in the quality or lack thereof in ones writing.

  11. If I force myself to write a story before I’m ready, or if I’m in the wrong mindset (feeling silly for a serious story, in a bad mood for a love story), it comes out as drivel. Fortunately I have at least 3 dozen stories either started or planned at any given time, so I can usually find one to work on. And sometimes, if I really want to work on a particular story, listening to various songs can trigger the mood I need to write effectively.

  12. @Rich: It’s like all of life. Negativity in, negativity out. And vice versa.

    @ED: Music is always helpful to me as well. I learned the hard way not to write battle scenes to the Wallace & Gromit soundtrack…

  13. If I’m not excited about something, then I need to bend it’ ’til I am excited about it.

    If I can’t get past an exposition scene as a writer, why would I expect my readers to do so? If my fight scene doesn’t get my blood pumping, if my discovery scene doesn’t engage my a-ha! sense, if my love scene doesn’t arouse me, if my horror scene doesn’t squick me out… why am I bothering with that scene, then? Tear it up and write a better one. 🙂

  14. Spot on! If we, as a severely invested party, are bored by what we’re writing, we have no business believing it will interest unattached readers.

  15. I am very excited about my current WIP. This is the first contemporary romance I’ve tried to write in years. It is also the first story I’ve finished since middle school. I finished the first draft 3 weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been working on an outline that expands the original short story into something longer. I’m hoping the second draft – which I started about 2:30 this morning (on my lunch break) – will be at least novella length. I’m not sure I have enough material for a novel, but I keep getting more and more ideas as I write. So maybe.

    I usually write fantasy and/or historical and/or paranormal romance. However, I’ve yet to finish any of those stories. Maybe I should stick with contemporary stories for a while. Maybe those other stories aren’t ready to be written yet. I still jot down ideas I have for them, but I haven’t written anything other than this story in more than three months.

    I think I’m starting to get off topic, but it is almost 1 pm here. I should have gone to bed more than two hours ago.

  16. Regarding your stalled stories, you might want to try some serious brainstorming sessions. Could be you’ll break through your blocks. But it could also very likely be that you’re right in assuming they’re not ready. One of my favorite Margaret Atwood quotes goes something like this, “You don’t always know when a story is ready, but you always know when it’s not.”

  17. Amazing post. I tend to be someone to jump right in and push things too fast, like you mentioned. I did that with the first story I tried writing and while I finished the first draft, whenever I thought of the book afterwards (for revisions) I “loathed” it. I’ve set the story aside for now and plan to come back someday when I’m ready to give it the care it deserves. The story wasn’t “ready” to be written.
    My new WIP, a completely different genre than the other, has never bored me. I took the time to plan first and ever since then I’ve become excited about it. There are days when I sit down to write and feel no motivation, and I usually discover the reason is because I’ve hit a small rut, and I didn’t like where I was taking the story in my last writing session. Once I go back and tweak some things, I’m motivated to continue writing. I’ve never felt so enthused about a piece of writing – so yes, I’m SUPER excited about my WIP 🙂

  18. It’s always worth our while to stop and sit back whenever we’re feeling an inner resistance to the story. If we can figure out *why* we’re having problems, we can usually apply that to create a much stronger story.

  19. This was a great post – and very timely for me because I’m working once again on a stalled novel which I suspect that I started too soon (in 2003 when I first had the idea).

    My question is: How do you know for certain when the right time has come to start writing the story down?

    (And fingers crossed I’ve actually reached that point!)

    Thank you. 🙂

  20. I don’t think you can ever known for *certain* when the right moment is. You just kind of have to feel it out. But if there is any resistance, that’s a sign right off that it’s probably *not* ready.

    For me, there’s always a sense that the story has finally distilled enough. Enough disparate pieces of inspiration have come together to give the story depth. I can feel the characters brimming with life and ready to let themselves be fully discovered on the page.

    And, admittedly, even when I’m trying to be very aware of the story’s readiness, I have still gotten it wrong on occasion.

  21. I’m usually very excited about my first drafts. Working on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th drafts are never as much fun, and I usually loathe that work, unless I’m making major changes that require fresh scenes.

    That being said, I usually have to be interested in working. If I sit down and TRY to make myself write when I’m not really wanting to be there, the cursor blinks and I find other distractions–my phone, an internet search/rabbit hole, something on TV, taking care of my kids, etc. I just go through phases where I’m interested and when I’m not… usually has to do with my mood and what’s going on and how fatigued I am.

  22. I use to get discouraged when I’d hit a roadblock with my story and move on to another one that was new and fun, but that just got me a lot of unfinished stories. I decided to look at my writing process and use it as an exciting tool to fix my stories and put the fun back into my WIP. So far it hasn’t failed me.

  23. @Liberty: There are different levels of “excitement,” everything from sailing on cloud nine to an active interest in completing a project.

    @Elke: Good approach! Once we find a process that nurtures our individual personalities and creative needs, the actual act of writing becomes so much easier.

  24. I’m usually always interested in completing a project! I’m more apt to want to finish than to abandon a story.

  25. That’s half the battle right there. As long you’ve got that grit and enthusiasm to get through to the end, you’re way ahead of half the writing pack.

  26. I always start off strong and loving what I am writing. However, I will often get bored of a story quickly and move to something else.

    I have no idea how many first page, paragraph, or even first chapters of a new I have started to just let it die there.

    I have even toyed with other genres… from a twist filled thriller, to a gruesome horror, to a quirky kids book.

    ADHD is making my writing impossible.

  27. I have that same problem when I dive into a story without doing sufficient prep work. If I’ve outlined the story and know where I want it to go, it’s much easier for me to maintain enthusiasm throughout.

  28. I have that over-excited anxiety where I’m like, “I’m tired of outlining, let’s draft!” I kind of have to rein myself in, because like many writers I have tried–and failed–“pantsing” through a story. I DO end up hating it. And I DO end up tossing it and writing 50 million new drafts, just to stop at a certain point and beat my head against my keyboard. I’m in the outlining process right now, and trying to force myself to STAY there…this particular WIP has been…well…IP for about 6 years. And I’ve tried drafting and re-drafting. Nothing was working. But I’ve been taking the advice in your “Outlining” book, and it’s been a MARVELOUS help. I now have a clear theme for my stories, and, because my WIP requires world-building (fantasy), I’ve been able to tie some of the details I already knew about it to the theme to make it stronger. I have a lot of background work already…the hard part is making it fit with the new themes I have for the stories I have in mind. So yeah.

  29. Yes, there’s definitely such a thing as being *too* excited, especially in the early stages. Patience and planning are just as important as enthusiasm. So glad Outlining Your Novel has been helpful to you!

  30. This might be conviction… I’m attempting a “Script Frenzy” (like the screenwriting version of NaNoWriMo), but I’ve hit a brick wall… not because I don’t have the time, but because I’m not really excited about this story… and I think it’s because it’s just not ready to be written yet. I hadn’t considered that before reading this post. Thank you for possibly freeing me of an unnecessary chore this month. 🙂 I think I’ll go get back to what I AM excited about… my nearly-finished sci-fi novel!

  31. I love the concept behind NaNo and Script Frenzy, but one of the downfalls is that it often forces us to be more conscious about word count than quality or direction of the story. Many authors sit down and outline their projects prior to the actual month of competition – and I think that’s a great approach. But, even then, sometimes stories just can’t be rushed.

  32. I did try to outline it, but I waited until the last week and didn’t have time to do a full outline. That was probably a big part of my problem! 🙂

  33. I’m inclined to agree with you, but I’m prejudiced about outlines. 😉

  34. Well, I think I grew to love outlines nearly as much as you do because I´m such a friend of structure. That´s why I always love maths and why procedures was my favourite subject at law school. But I find mysef starting again my WIP without an putline 100% finished because I dread that if I don´t start now all my excitement would be lost. And that if don´t, I´ll never start at all!

  35. We each have to monitor our inner perception of our stories and our ability to write them. When it’s time to start writing, it’s time!

  36. I gues yes 😀 We all know when we´re ready 🙂 I´ve never been so excited about a story and I don´t want to lose that!

  37. I’m finally writing my first book. I’ve had many ideas for stories and books but they all ran out of steam or I forgot them. I couldn’t work out the characters, places nor make anything connect.

    Then one day recently I was writing some notes (non-fiction) about a subject I’m very close to from experience and suddenly the idea to write a book about it popped into my head. But it was fiction. In the days to come the characters in the story began to take shape. Their personalities and quirks really began to write themselves. I was excited and still am. It’s more like a discovery than a chore as I’m writing or thinking about it. Things just began to flow. But the most significant thing that came to light was, I could see how the book was going to end. That—was exciting!

    The book still resembles a hot mess but the story is clear to me. The main and supporting characters, the places and other details are clear. The characters are telling me about themselves and I just write it down is how it feels.

    The past week or so I’ve been in a slump but not about the book. It’s about things going on in my personal life and they are distracting. But I almost made the mistake of blaming the slump on the book. It isn’t the book. It’s a torrent of personal things I’m going through. Such is life. How do I know? Because even while I’m going through this, the book is still taking shape. The characters are still talking to me and I’m ticked that these events have come along to take my time away from writing.

    I do have to stop and tend to these things but I can’t wait until they are all resolved so I can get back to giving my book and the research more attention.

    P.S. I continue to write with the distraction of personal things interrupting. But my moods and the pressure are distracting. I’m praying through.

    Finally, I want to write this book. I need to write it. And I think it’s true—Sometimes it’s simply as if a story finds you and chooses you. I was feeling rather discouraged today and that’s how I found this site. Thanks for posting the article.

    Much Success
    and God’s blessings to you all…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Sorry you’re having to deal with some less than pleasant events in your life. But writing can be a tremendous source of catharsis. I’m often able to handle difficult experiences much better thanks to being able to write my way through them.

  38. I get unexcited whenever demands start to rise from no one else than my mother. But than, sometimes she is right. I haven’t produce much even after dedicating myself entirely from this January and planning to be a writer from years before. But sometimes her demands get so unrealistic, that I have to activate a special brain function found in me; the holy noise cancellation. That only can I keep going on the work, otherwise I spend all my writing time fussing over my mother.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Maybe try to think of your writing as an escape from the demands of the world. Escape into when things get tough, instead of avoiding it.

      • Hmmm! I guess I should write it in a sticky note in my work place 😀
        Since I have a terrible habit of starting to think all of the worlds issues (some of them not even matter much) and than, voila… writing time is over.

  39. I believe it is necessary to connect the “source” of enthusiasm (the vision, the idea, the image that represents the purpose of writing this work) with the immediate task of the moment.

    For me the “source” is the idea of readers reading my book and reacting to it; and the memory of how I decided to write a book; and the $billions I will make from it (well, maybe $millions); and the memory of some of my relatives who were writers.

    And I have some choice in the immediate task of the moment. I have a sort of outline or summary of the plot, and I can expand any scene into detailed prose, or into a more detailed outline or summary. Or I can work on certain points of the outline or summary, as it really isn’t finished yet.

    So to maintain enthusiasm, I need to connect “just watch the reader’s faces when they read THIS!” and “My grandfather was a writer and my aunt was a writer and I’m going to be a writer too” with “Let’s add some more details to the airplane scene” or “What does the MC learn from this episode? and how does that relate to his turning point?”

    (And no I don’t think “immediate task of the moment” is redundant, as “im-mediate” means “nothing in between” i.e. there are no tasks that must be done first; there can be the immediate task of yesterday or of tomorrow.)

  40. I find myself in the researching stage of my novel, which has quickly proven to be the most unenjoyable. I have a deadline and can’t really afford to procrastinate, but it’s so painfully frustrating that I keep failing to meet my daily goals and am falling behind schedule. Do I need to find a way to get excited about the research or actually take a break?

    —Madi

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      You don’t have to be excited about every *part* of writing. Rather, you have to be excited enough about the particular story that you’re motivated to keep going even through the boring, frustrating stuff.

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