If you’ve started a project, chances are you love at least one thing about that project; otherwise, why invest time in it? But do you know why you love it? Do you know how to keep that spark burning once you hit the murky middle, you’re struggling to wrap up all your plot threads surrounding the climax, or you’re fighting through edits?
Today I want to talk about why you should choose something to love about your project, and how that’s going to help you through the writing process and beyond.
Start with the Basics
If you’re doing this exercise at the outset of your project, it will probably be pretty easy to choose at least one thing about your project that you love. The idea is fresh, the concepts are exciting, and all you have to do is capture these details on paper. What do you love about the idea? What is your favorite aspect of the story to write? What scene(s) can you not wait to get to (and why)?
If you’ve already passed the excitement phase and you’re into the mundane stage of maintaining a writing habit to hit the mark of a completed draft, or you’re struggling to maintain editing momentum, then you might have to do some harder thinking. Think back to when you started. What did you love about the project then? How has the story developed as you’ve gone along, and what are some ways in which it’s gotten stronger? What new details have come out in this draft that you couldn’t have imagined when you started? What scenes or characters still make you happy when you work on them? What is your mission with this book?
Write down anything you can think of. The more things you can find, the easier it will be to regain your motivation, but even just one thing you love about the project–if it’s a meaningful enough thing–can be enough to remind you why you’re working on this project.
Why Write it Down?
We humans are forgetful creatures, and when the going gets tough it’s all too easy to say, “Maybe a different project would be easier.” Sure it will be… for about as long as this one was easy. The fact is, you can’t write a book on emotion alone; eventually, your emotions will shift and you’ll get distracted by something that’s easier or feels more fun in the moment. If you’re a new writer, there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you’re trying to complete a project then it’s going to be a problem.
Writing down what we love about our projects helps us remember the why behind the initial interest in our ideas–and sometimes even a measure of those new-project emotions–so that we can remind ourselves of the purpose of these projects and motivate ourselves with meaning instead of fleeting feelings.
These notes of things you love can help you through the mundane and difficult stages of writing, and they’ll also help you to communicate that love for your project to readers when the time comes to share your book. Chances are, the right readers will love (at least some of) the same things you do about your book!
Adapting the List
Your list of things you love about this project doesn’t have to stay static. If you lose interest in the characters that were keeping you going, find something new to love. If your story changes with revisions and new things pop up, add them to the list. If you mature in your writing skill and suddenly you look back at projects that aren’t as good as you remembered, hunt for new things to appreciate. (This is especially important with projects you’ve already published!)
Your project isn’t static as long as its in progress, and neither is your level of writing skill; let the list of things you love about each project grow and shift with you.
Examples from My Books
I had this lesson hit me strongest when I was struggling to like Lost Girl. I’d grown, the story was more romance-heavy than most of what I write, the writing wasn’t totally up to my current standards, and it just wasn’t something I liked. But other people were reading it and enjoying it, and I didn’t want my lack of affection for the story to prevent readers from finding it if it was their thing. So I reread it with the aim of finding something to like, I let it be what it was instead of what I wished it was, and I realized it actually wasn’t that bad! Since then, I’ve ensured that I always have something to love about each of my projects.
Lost Girl is fluffy, it’s insta-lovey, it’s not something I would likely write now. But, it’s enjoyable fluff. It’s sweet if you want something that focuses on the romance and doesn’t take very long to read. I still enjoy the Neverland setting and the bit of exploring I did with Lost Girl. And there are some pretty cool lines in there, if I may say so.
With Short Story Collection vol. 1, I love that I get to introduce readers to two of the worlds that I’ve explored most in my writing: Esleon and Deseran. I love that there’s something out there that gives readers a taste of those worlds that have been living in my head so long, even though full novel projects take me a lot longer to get out there (though Calligraphy Guild does take place in Deseran).
The Mirror-Hunter Chronicles is unlike anything else I currently plan to write. It’s quirky, it’s fairytale-centric and draws from that world significantly. But that’s the fun of it! I love the fairytale vibes, Solem is a really fun narrator, and I enjoy the way I got to weave together a bunch of different fairytales into one continuous story.
Calligraphy Guild‘s list of “loves” is too long to include here. I love the characters, the world, the educational structure of Virilia, the romance, the friendships, the writing community, the overarching community, the dragon ink, the quiet fantasy tone… etc. etc.
There are two reasons I’m sharing these examples. One is because I do like my books, so I like talking about them and sharing them with readers who might enjoy them. But reason #2 is that I hope these examples demonstrate that your lists can look different for different projects. If one project has a list too long to document and another project just has one primary feature that you love, that’s okay. That doesn’t (necessarily) mean that the latter project is less worthwhile to pursue–or promote.
What is one thing you love about your current project? If you have a book published, what do you love about it?