I was asked quite a while back how I go about maintaining momentum writing past the 10,000 word mark. For me this is a pretty easy question to answer, because I’ve never really struggled to maintain momentum. Quite the reverse, actually… I tend to be way too prolific.
If I’m in the mood to write something specific I can get 5,000 or more words done in a day, no problem. My personal best at time of writing is 9,000 in ~12 hours, which ain’t bad at all. But if I don’t feel like it? 1,000 might be a struggle, and chances are I’d give up after 500 words. And what I did write probably wouldn’t be very good.
So how do I write so I can maintain a level of momentum, especially past the 10,000 word mark? Simple, I vary what I write and don’t get hung up on writing linearly. Condensed down to a single word, I’d use this: Leapfrogging. Confused? That’s probably a reasonable reaction.
It’s really very simple, though, you simply jump—or leapfrog—back and forth over already-written sections (or scenes that don’t exist yet!) and write whatever the hell you feel like at that precise moment, anywhere in the story.
The basic principle is that interesting and exciting scenes are fun to write. By jumping back and forth, writing fun scenes as they occur, I find I’m a hell of a lot more productive. If there’s a scene later in the work I’ve been itching to write, I’ll go ahead and write it, then leave it to sit while I write something else I’ve wanted to play around with.
While leaving a scene to sit awhile, I might jump to an entirely different work for a time, concentrate on that for a day or two, then switch focus back to the previous work. By thinking up exciting and interesting scenes and simply jumping in and writing them like this, I’m always working on something fun, and having fun is a great motivator.If you’re writing romance or SoL, slow scenes are expected, but they shouldn’t feel boring. Click To Tweet
Originally, back when I started writing and was still entirely green, I wrote pretty linearly, slogging through busywork scenes, dialogue I wasn’t really feeling, and all manner of other things just so I could reach the scene I’d been itching to write for ages. Momentum is often considered in a linear context, after all.
Now? I just jump to the fun scenes and write those. Then I write another. And another. And another, until I’ve got a full chapter (book, short story, novella, whatever), all tied together with enjoyably fun to write scenes. I can write 5,000+ words in a day like this, and sometimes more, though it’s rare. Normally I aim for ~1,000-2,000 or so. Quantity doesn’t necessarily equal quality and all that. Though it’s also true that if you’re having fun, you can do both quality and quantity.
If I write something I don’t like or I’m not really feeling and end up deleting/removing it, that’s fine, I don’t agonise and simply move to another scene or story. I’ve realised in the time I’ve been writing that a lot of my procrastination is actually me agonising over scenes, so it’s something I try not to do so much these days. I just let the problematic one sit for a time before coming back to it from a fresh direction later on.
One final thing; if I’m skipping scenes because they feel like busywork or padding, that’s a pretty sure-fire indicator that those scenes shouldn’t be there, or need changing. It depends on the type of story, naturally, but generally speaking if you, the writer, aren’t feeling the scene or finding it interesting to write, what makes you think your readers will enjoy it?
If you’re writing romance or slice of life, slow and detailed scenes are expected, but even then they shouldn’t feel laborious or tedious to write. Likewise, if you’re writing something action-oriented and find you’re struggling with an in-between scene, it might be worth taking a step back and re-evaluating whether it needs to be there at all, or if it can be replaced with something else. Maintaining momentum applies not only to writing past 10k, but reading past it, too.
I hope this helps! It certainly helped me a great deal and I enjoy my writing more as a result, but I realise that everyone is different and some people might not feel comfortable jumping back and forth like this. But if you’re struggling to keep up the momentum, why not give it a try? You might find yourself pleasantly surprised.