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Terrible Tips Tuesday: Going All In

March 8, 2011

I haven’t written anything for a story since Groundhog Day.  That was well over a month ago.  I was probably 15,000 words or so into this and then it just kind of fizzled.  There was a blizzard, a trip to the dentist, and the Super Bowl that week.  Then I just never got back to it.  At some point I might get motivated to finish it, but probably not.

I finish 99% of the stories I begin writing, so I’m not one of those people who has trouble closing the deal there.  Sometimes I even finish stories I’m not all that enthused about, though that makes it more of a struggle.  Which brings me to the key point of this entry.

Since no one is really paying me to write books, I find that the only motivation I have to write comes from within.  So in order to write something, I have to actually believe in.  As they say in poker, I have to go “all in” and push all my chips into the center of the table.  There can’t be any holding back or any reservations.  Otherwise it’s easy for me to back out and find something else to do, as happened recently.

Sometimes, though, I manage to limp along to the end of a story even if I’m not all that enthused about it.  Take this one for instance.  The story idea seemed solid enough to me, but once I got to writing it, I found it to be a struggle.  I kept thinking that maybe I’d hit my stride, get my second wind, or what have you and finish strong.  That never really happened.  It was more of a grind right through to the end.

Or take this one.  I started off hot in the first couple chapters.  Then things began to fall apart.  I managed to push through to the end, but it was an uphill battle.  Another idea that sounded good when I started but didn’t really work out.

Last Tuesday I talked about the key words to pique an agent’s interest, or anyone’s interest.  Some of that same principle applies here.  Again since I’m not being paid for this, there has to be something in it for ME when I’m writing a story.  Just having an interesting idea isn’t enough.  The stories that I finish and enjoy working on are those where there’s something in it for me.  It could be a character I really like or a situation that hits close to home.  Whatever it is, there’s something in it that makes me want to keep writing it.  Going back to the poker analogy, it’s a lot easier to convince me to put all my chips in when there’s something of value to be won.

The one that fizzled recently I didn’t really feel that pull.  If I did I wouldn’t have let anything stop me.  Of course some of that could also be plain old fatigue too.  Go back and see my To Do list from last June or so–which I finished, though with a couple of revisions–and you’ll see I did a lot of shit last year.  (Most of it probably was shit too.)  So it might take something extraordinary to motivate me to get back on the saddle again.  Ve shall see.

Thursday it’s the end!  OK, not the end of the blog, just an entry on endings.  Did I freak you out for a second?  Probably not…


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  1. I agree with you about “feeling it.” I definitely have to be passionate about a story, or the words just don’t come. And I can’t force it, either.

    Nice post!

  2. I find that inspiration comes sometimes and not other times, even on the same story. I think for me it has more to do with mood or state of tiredness than my inner response to the idea I’m writing about. Interesting thoughts…

  3. You’re much better than me when it comes to that – I am very terribly about finishing long projects. If I don’t push myself to finish it within a few months – I usually end up doing my own personal NaNo in those cases – I’ll lose steam and stop. When I pick it up later, much later, I normally start all over again from the beginning.

    It’s truly about grinding, however, when it comes down to it – isn’t it? And isn’t it really not too different from anything else? You have to get the work done, and writing is work. Work we tell ourselves that we love, but work nonetheless.

    I definitely agree with the poker analogy. When there’s something I truly want to say, I find myself pushing severely to finish it. It’s got to be in me, and it’s got to be something that’s worth it, to me. Thanks for the post, it’s really made me think.

    Oh, and here’s one stylish blog award for you – because honestly, looking around tells me you deserve it. =) Here you go, at

  4. Lisa Potts permalink

    I remember that to do list. it was quite impressive.

    Congrats on the award!

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