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  • Writer's pictureMatt Davies

Getting motivated to write

Updated: Jan 5, 2022

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Melbourne in March 2020, I heard from a lot of creatives that they were finding it difficult to create. Heaps of writers just couldn’t find the motivation to write.

I had just, at the beginning of March, received feedback from my writing group on the first draft of the manuscript that would become my first novel for the general fiction market (to be called THINGS WE BURY). The feedback wasn’t good. It was too long; the characters weren’t likeable; I was trying to do too much. I thought, for a day or two, about giving up on that manuscript. I knew what I wanted it to be—what it could be—but I didn’t think I had the writing chops to achieve it. Anyway, with restrictions coming into place, I decided to give it one more go. I bought butchers’ paper and set myself up on our rarely used dining table. I made lists, outlined each character’s arc, and worked out the scenes I needed to get my three POV characters from one way of being to another.

Then I made myself work. I didn’t feel like it either, but I sat myself in the chair and I just did it. Once I got into the flow, it was fine. I cut out a whole POV character, bringing the manuscript down from around 120,000 words to about 90,000. I rearranged, reworked and followed my new plan. I showed a few people, then, in December, I pitched it to three publishers. By April I had an offer from Pan Macmillan.

I’ve written another one and a half manuscripts during the pandemic. I finished a new YA novel, which I hope will be published in 2023, and I’m halfway through a second novel for the adult market, which will be published in mid-2023. I’ve had many days where I’ve struggled to get the words on the page for this second adult novel. But this time I have outside motivation. For the first time in my novel-writing career I have a deadline, and a contract to fulfil, so I’m pushing myself to get the first draft squared away. I’d hoped that would happen by Christmas, but editing THINGS WE BURY and a busy period with my freelance work took me away from it for two months. I’m now shooting for the end of January.

Setting a daily word goal has helped, although I’ve missed it more than I’ve hit it. A writer friend and I challenged each other to see who could write more words in the forty days leading up to Christmas. That helped too, but now I'm not accountable to anyone because I'm no longer reporting on my daily word count. I’m still writing most days, though, and that’s how I’m ultimately going to get this manuscript finished.

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