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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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! 🙂

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

  10. 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!

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.)

  16. 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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