Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Crimes of Passion: Bribery

Money courtesy of Wikicommons. Too bad isn't not real.
 I know the title is cheesy. Don't you just love it?

Sometimes to get through a difficult patch in your novel you have to bribe yourself. It's nothing to be ashamed of.

Maybe the scene isn't coming out the way you wanted, or perhaps you're just not "feeling" it. Perhaps you've had a shiny new idea demand attention and you'd rather play with that. 

You cannot stop working on your book. Don't believe your subconscious when it stays, "Let's take a break for a day. Just a day. We'll get right back to the book, after we jot some ideas for this new book down." If you take a break from the book without a time frame or consequence you might not ever pick it back up again. Your subconscious is trying to trick you. 

So you trick it back. You make deals with yourself. You find some appropriate reward, like chocolate, a new book, night out on the town, or a new pet cheetah (hey, I won't judge) and you bribe yourself.

"Okay, I will write this scene and then I get to surf the Internet for 15 minutes."

Or: "I write 2 thousand words and then I get to read a chapter of my book."

What if there's a shiny new idea pestering you? Same rule applies. "I will reach my daily word count goal, and then I get to stop and brainstorm for the Shiny New Idea."

Notice a few things about the bribery. It's specific. You don't say, "Okay I will stop writing the WIP and work on something else." You have to make each part of the bribe specific. You wouldn't want to bribe a mobster "a lot of money" if he "offs your coworker" because he might decide "a lot of money" is a billion trillion dollars. 

It's also quick, instant gratification stuff. Now is not the time to buy yourself a new toy every time you write a scene (unless you're rich and have money to burn). Give yourself small goals and small rewards. Things you can do right now. Like taking a break to read a chapter, or brainstorming for another idea.

I know this sounds sort of cheesy, but it can work like a charm. I can be very contrary. The minute I feel like I *have* to do something I loose all interest. I know it's very third grade of me, but I can't seem to help it. So I work around my subconscious's weird mannerisms with bribery. I tell myself to write a scene, and then I can read a chapter of the book, and suddenly, writing is fun. I am not chained to my computer, but doing it out of desire again. 

Recently I had the strong desire to write the scenes leading up to the climax in my book, even though it's out of order. I normally write in order and knew it would mess up the plot if I totally skipped the middle and went straight towards the end. So again, I bribed myself. I could write whatever scene I wanted, but then I had to go back and write one in order. I managed to not only write one scene in order, but I picked up a new thread and wrote several in order.

By bribing yourself you're creating a small system of goals and rewards. Each time you reach a small goal you feel good about yourself and your book. You're eating that elephant baby, one bite at a time.


  1. Wonderful post, and I needed to hear it. I'm so bad about unspecific bribing. And it's true, my brain is trying to trick me into quitting. Not writing towards publication would be so much easier.

    I also love the line, "The minute I feel like I *have* to do something I loose all interest."

    I've struggled with this today. I should have compiled the neighborhood newsletter yesterday. I made the deal that if I put everything together I could read blogs. Look, here I am! so it works!

  2. Charity: I stumbled across bribery by accident. I just noticed if I allowed myself some breathing room, but had a certain goal to hit, it was much easier to do the work for the day. Now I am forever negotiating with myself.

  3. OMG. This is an excellent system!

    I am so like that with the loosing interest in things I have to do. I think this is because I have this stubborn streak that means the more I *must* do something the less I want to do it.... Hehe.

  4. Mia: I am just like that! Even if it's something I *want* to do! I don't feel like it if it's something I MUST do. So I bribe myself.