How to Keep Writing When the Honeymoon is Over

It’s inevitable. At some point, the honeymoon ends. We wake up one morning to find that our spouse left dirty underwear on the floor, used our toothbrush again, or forgot it was the anniversary of our first kiss. We realize that marriage isn’t all candlelight dinners and roses.

And we begin to understand that it takes work to love someone unconditionally.

It’s inevitable with writers too. The honeymoon—the passionate love affair with writing—eventually hits reality. We wake up one morning at 5:30, take a look at the clock, and decide that our pillow needs us more than our characters. Or we sit down in front of our laptops and suddenly cleaning the toilet never looked more appealing.

We begin to understand that writing a book isn’t always fun and bliss—that wow, it takes work.

This month, many writers are taking part in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo). The goal in the month is to complete a book (or as much as possible).

Although I’ve never personally participated, I’ve heard from many writers that it’s an incredible way to jump-start the creative juices and get a great start on a novel.

The day before NaNoWriMo started, I saw tweets like, “I’m so excited. I can’t wait to start!”

The first day, I saw tweets like, “Writing is awesome! I woke up at 3:07 am and got in 5211 words in the first hour!” (I’m slightly exaggerating, but only a tad!)

The whole first week, I saw so much enthusiasm that I was about to throw out all my other responsibilities and start a new novel just so I could join in the fun.

Then this week—the second week—I’ve noticed there are fewer tweets, more feet dragging, and less of the initial excitement.

Because the truth is, we can’t sustain unending hype over our writing long term. It’s just not realistic. Instead, the reality is that there are days when we’ll wake up and we won’t want to write. We’ll think we write like a two year old. And we’ll dream about spilling coffee on our laptops so that we won’t have to work on our story.

What can we do when the honeymoon is over? What can all those NaNo’ers do to keep writing this month after the initial excitement fades? What can any of us do to sustain a long-term relationship with our writing?

1. Realize it takes hard work. Expect it and embrace it.

2. Don’t despair when the feelings of love go away. It’s NOT the sign you’re suppose to give up your writing aspirations.

3. Make a commitment. If you decide to write a book, commit to seeing it through to completion. Ignore the blah feelings and choose to write anyway.

4. Give yourself weekly or daily goals for a number of words, pages, or chapters.

5. Think smaller. Break down the daily goals into more tangible hourly challenges. (I personally challenge myself to a certain number of words per 30 minutes and write it on a sticky note to hold myself accountable.)

6. Stop making excuses. Grab whatever time you can find, and just do the work. Whether it’s thirty minutes here or fifteen there, we can find the time—if we want to.

7. Don’t expect perfection. Expecting perfection in our spouses is sure-fire way to develop problems. And it’s true in our manuscripts too. Take the pressure off. We don’t have to have perfect writing—especially in a first draft.

8. Plan a date or two per week. Give yourself and your writing extended time together, a chance to be alone without all of the distractions and interruptions. I find that the story really starts to flow after several hours of writing.

9. Romance your creativity. Pamper her—give her chocolate, read a well-crafted book, or take a soothing bubble bath. Set the mood—listen to romantic music, light candles, anything to enhance your creativity.

10. Remember what drew you to your writing in the first place. Go back to that first love—writing with abandon, just because.

11. Find an accountability partner. I usually ask a twitter friend who’s in first draft mode if we can hold each other accountable for our weekly goals. There’s nothing better to light the fire than when you know you have to check in with someone at the end of the week.

12. Get counseling—from a reputable freelance editor or a good writing craft book. I always find new inspiration when I read a how-to article or book.

So what about you? What do you do to keep the love affair with your writing going? How do you keep your commitment for the long haul, even when the honeymoon is over? (And if you're doing, NaNoWriMo, how's it going?)


  1. I love #5, Jody. I usually plan daily goals, but I never thought about chunking them into even smaller segments. And did you just give me permission to eat chocolate in #9? Sweet! :)

  2. Fabulous post. I am not in the NaNo but I always enter the Golden Heart so I'm writing a lot in November, too. This year is the toughest. 3 ready to go MS and 1 new MS. I had to write/rewrite 3 synopses and that was tough. I put myself thru' this because I need to get my partials ready for submitting and requests.

    And sometimes the only way I can get in the chair is by setting a timer!


  3. I feel like I just got a healthy dose of counseling right here. ;)

    Yes, remembering all I fell in love with. And I can’t tell you how much lately it has benefited me to carve out “me time”. Having this time enables me to give concerted time and effort thinking of my characters and story alone without competing distractions that have tentacles like something out of Pirates of the Caribbean.

  4. I promise you Jody, I will NEVER leave my writing to clean a toilet!

  5. Good list. I would also add schedule in times of rest. Rest seems counterproductive, but it actually fuels our creativity. If we don't take breaks from our writing--small ones on a regular basis (for me, that means I don't write on Sunday) and occasional longer ones over a longer period of time--we sabotage ourselves.

  6. I'm not doing the NaNo either, Jody, but I agree, it's a great way to kick-start creativity.

    I think with many things (that we look forward to) in life, there's a honeymoon phase of sorts. I've been writing many years, had to put it on hold for a time, and then jump back in. When I signed with my agent, I basked in the glow that at least now some of my hard work was finally paying off. I still have to pinch myself from time to time, but I understand now more than ever the hard work and discipline involved in our craft.

    What wonderful tips you've shared! Thank you!

  7. Jody, I'm a goals person by nature--I always seem to be focusing on the next big goal I have, which in this case is finishing the novel I'm working on. I'm not officially doing NaNo, since I already had 30,000 words before Nov. 1, but I am trying to write 2,100 words a day on 6 days a week (or an average over the whole week).

    But I can definitely see it being more of a challenge when I am done with the first draft. I'll need to set another goal at that point. Perhaps it will be tempting to fizzle out after setting goal after goal after goal.

    Is writing your full-time job now? If so, does that mean you spend 8 hours a day on it? I'm curious how you balance your day if it's not your full-time job (and even if it is, it would be interesting to read a breakdown of how much time goes to each activity related to your writing career).

    Thanks, as always, for a great post!

  8. Thanks for the tips. I'm still getting used to watching for you on Tues & Thurs, but I'm coping. :)

    Something that has helped me is an encouragement file. Right now it's purely electronic - cut-n-paste from good editorial letters and a few critiquers. When I'm getting the "blah - these are cold cuts when I wanted to write steak" feeling I skim through it to remind myself that I can produce something good if I keep trying. The work is worth it.

  9. This is exactly where I am with NaNoWriMo. The good thing is that I knew I would hit this point, so it wasn't unexpected. The accountability partners are huge for me. I've even checked in with Regina (right above me). *waving* Hi, Regina!

  10. Another great post and great reminder that we all lose that excitement from time to time. I also keep an encouragement file like Regina along with inspiring quotes from writers a little further along the line than me. I have a clipping out of RWR from Linda Goodnight that says "Keep on truckin'." It goes on from there, but it helps to remind me that all writers feel frustration at time and that we just need to keep truckin' :)

  11. Hey goodmorning, all you lovely ladies! :-)

    I think you're all on to something--and that is, if we know the honeymoon is going to end, we won't feel so devastated and so much like a failure when we actually don't love our writing anymore. Even so, it's still a let down and somewhat scary when we reach that phase. So, we really do need to stay connected with each other! Which is why I appreciate you all so much! Hugs!

  12. Perfect timing: I'm in the second week slump of NaNo where I hate my characters and their problems and the setting that won't write itself...ahem.

    Anyway. This is a great list. I really love the reminders that a first draft is a first draft with room for mistakes and settings that don't write themselves; grace is a big part of writing. Thanks for the reminder.

  13. Lindsay asked: Is writing your full-time job now? If so, does that mean you spend 8 hours a day on it? I'm curious how you balance your day if it's not your full-time job (and even if it is, it would be interesting to read a breakdown of how much time goes to each activity related to your writing career).

    My thoughts: I think I could probably write a whole post to answer your question, Lindsay! But I'll try not to be long-winded today! No, I don't get to write full time. I actually homeschool my kids, and so like now am only checking my blog and emails during a short morning break. I wait to write until we're done with our school day, and even then my writing time is rather chaotic and interrupted. I end up finishing my word count after the kids are in bed. I do get a couple of days a week with a few hours of extended time (when my husband is home) and I hole away in my office and work feverishly. But most of the time I grab what I can get.

  14. Good list, Jody. I had to share my love affair with writing with a new baby this year. And it taught me that there IS room for more than one passion in my life, but I have to be able to set one aside for awhile if need be. Even more, I have to be able to be content with it. After that, it was hard to get back into writing again - the honeymoon was over real quick on that one. But perseverance almost always gets us back on track :)

  15. I love number 10. "Remember what drew you to your writing in the first place."

  16. I needed this.

    I'm not writing a first draft. I've already written two. Edited them both and had crit partners and beta readers also. I've even queried them and had an agent very interested in one of them. And then nothing. They're just sitting there, waiting for me. Yes, writing takes work but I wonder lately if I'm supposed to take a break or push through this. Do I go back to the drawing board and fine-tune them or simply be patient?

  17. Great post, Jody!

    My honeymoon ended a long time ago. I've been working on my MS for 3 1/2 years now (college and a job didn't help). I held on to my passion for this project by reminding myself frequently of why I want to write books in the first place. Last week I started rewriting my MS (even though I never finished it) and in 3 days passed the 10K mark. :)

    I think all it takes, for me anyway, is a reminder of why I do this and inspiration on how to make my MS better.

    (You're blog has really helped, by the way. :) Following your blog has made me realize and add necessary layers to my world.)

  18. Thanks for the follow-up to my question, Jody. I'm impressed that you've managed to balance homeschooling with a writing career like you are. Kudos to you!

  19. I'm with Liza. Toilet cleaning will never be more appealing than even the most appalling writing.

    I'm doing NaNo. I'm failing miserably at the moment but it's been one of those days for the last 2 weeks. We've had something going on almost every day. Today is no exception.

    I did get my Golden Heart entry mailed yesterday though so even though there was very little NaNo writing, it was a very productive day [reread the sucker].

  20. Fantastic post, Jody, with lots of great suggestions. I'm doing NaNo this year, and I hit a rough patch during the first weekend. I had a hard time getting over it, but a few of my friends corralled me into their writing sprints, which has made all the difference in the world. Writing is one of my ultimate joys, but it's also work, and I have to remind myself of that when the chores start looking more appealing that fighting my way through a thorny patch or figuring out character motivations. I'll be sharing this with my fellow WriMos!

  21. Great advice, Jody! Luckily me and this book are still in honeymoon mode, and I'm well over the 20K mark for NaNo. We'll see if that holds up when I'm past mid-month, though! ;)

  22. Thank you for this encouraging post! :) Those are great tips! Number 2 on your list is a wonderful reminder - writing is about commitment and dedication, not just about feelings. And I really need to work on numbers 4 and 6! Last semester I had several morning of the week set aside for writing, and I was amazed at how I actually got some writing accomplished. (I know - surprise!) This semester I haven't made working on my manuscript(s) one of my week's priorities, so I haven't done much writing at all. As project due dates and finals come up, I don't know if I can fully prioritize my writing, but if I don't set aside even a short part of my spare time, I won't get anywhere.

    Lots of good food for thought... Thank you! :)


  23. Great post Julie. I like daily goals and make sure they stay managable no matter what big things are on the horizon. It must be so different for a poet/pb writer though. Loved your line about dropping responsibilities and doing NaNo :)

  24. Great post, and a timely reminder for me. Thank you :)

  25. For me, as a verse novelist and picture book writer, word goals only lead to despair. There have been times I've been stuck on a dozen words for weeks on end, and I think if I let the numbers drive me, I'd have given up instead of continuing to push through.

    I've found what works best for me is to schedule an amount of time I must sit with my work. Whether a lot is produced or a little, I feel like I've moved forward.

    Anyone else who writes this way?

  26. Funny, true & a little sad: I didn't have a honeymoon when I got married & I didn't experience a NaNoWriMo honeymoon either!
    What's that all about?!
    My husband's work schedule precluded a honeymoon--but, hey, after a long-distance romance, we were married and happy!
    And the first week of NaNoWriMo? Torture. Hated every stinking word I wrote.
    Day 8: Had so much fun writing a scene where my hero and heroine clashed -- zingers abounded!
    I was finally relaxed and in the zone.
    This is not to say that you're advice isn't valid, Jody. It is--definitely! But when? -- well that depends on the writer. 'Cause some of us manage to skip that honeymoon period altogether.

  27. Rachel asked: I've even queried them and had an agent very interested in one of them. And then nothing. Yes, writing takes work but I wonder lately if I'm supposed to take a break or push through this. Do I go back to the drawing board and fine-tune them or simply be patient?

    My thoughts: Rachel, I was in a similar situation with The Preacher's Bride. An agent requested the full on it, but it ended up sitting in her slush pile for NINE months. In the meantime, rather than try to keep editing it and making it better, I went on and wrote the next book. Eventually, that agent gave me representation (after The Preacher's Bride finaled in a contest). But by that point I had another book to show her and for her to work at presenting to publishers.

    My suggestion is to do the best we can on a book, then move on to the next. Write another one. We can always go back and edit the earlier project. The time and distance away AND the writing of another book usually help us edit better anyway!

  28. I loved each of these tips! Lately I've been in the "what was I thinking?" mode with my story. But I forced myself to continue on, knowing it's not as awful as I'm thinking. Getting past the "it won't be perfect" part helped a lot.

  29. My current novel is going slower than my past five. However, the pace is perfect for the book.

    That's another thing: let the book (partner) be the book (partner) it's meant to be. Don't force it, let it manifest itself in its' own time. Treat it like you want to be treated, with patience, kindness, and love. And, yes, an occasional kick in the teeth. ;-)

  30. Great post, and so timely. I am doing NaNo for the first time this year and can attest that about now is when a certain fatique sets in. Or maybe the anticipation of fatique. It reminds me of being about mile 10 of a marathon....not only are you starting to get tired but your mind begins to do all sorts of un-helpful math such as "You're not even half way there!" It helps to remember that the process of a book lets you run an entire emotional spectrum and it isn't supposed to be fun or easy all the time.

  31. What perfect timing Jody for everyone. Is it so hard to focus these days.

    I am not involved with NaNo, but I am enrolled in Kristen Lamb's social media wana class. Yikes, my head is swimming.

    Just trying to find balance.

    Thank you Jody!

  32. I find this so true. Particularly at the moment. I've been working on this WIP for a couple of years, and I need to knuckle down to do a serious rewrite. I haven't been able to summon up enough time and enthusiasm. My solution? Your "plan a date". I've booked a holiday from work to devote all my time to the rewrite.

  33. Giggled at "he used your toothbrush again"...drives me CRAZY!

    Great list! I did Nano last year and #2 and commitment got me through the finish. Just knowing that the excitement will end and then that is when determination must kick in, helps me with each new idea that I fall in love with.
    btw, I'm way behind. I just finished "Preacher's Bride" and I had to finish it in a day. I couldn't put it no writing, cleaning, or anything else on the to do list got accomplished. BUT, it was refreshing to my soul and something I just needed. Thanks for refreshing my soul yesterday and for reviving my writing desires today. ;)

  34. Great post, Jody! Esp. since I'm dreading starting my 1K tonight... ;-) Okay, I'm off to write them now. :)

  35. MaDonna, Thank you so much for sharing your sweet words about The Preacher's Bride. Now you just refreshed my soul today! :-)

    And Casey, I just finished my 1k for the day, bleary eyes and yawning through the last 100 words. So I'll be cheering for you! :-)

  36. Hi Jody, a very timely post as I have been feeling very weary with my writing. So I am not despairing and implementing the Jody 10 point plan, apart from maybe no 9 - as I have already romanced my creativity with chocolate a tad too much these last few days ;o)

  37. All good points and suggestions to help push through and help us keep writing.

    Sometimes I have to step back, take a week off and regroup. This can be dangerous because you can easily keep putting it off, but it helps me realize how much I miss writing because inevitably I'll feel the pull to get back to work.

    Great post!

  38. That's so true about Week 2 for NaNo. As a NaNo veteran, I can anticipate it and try to hit that second week at full speed. Once I get to the third week, I'm usually back up and running.

    And I second the "romance your creativity". When I've been having a tough time focusing, I sit down with my manuscript, a glass of wine, and some jazz in a candlelit room. It rarely fails.

  39. I think keeping up a blog is a great way to keep writing regularly and improve your skills at the same time you are connecting with similar people.

    I post to my blog regularly and post content that is relevant to my target audience (authors and book lovers). Blogging regularly keeps up a routine, fights procrastination and boosts my confidence in my writing by the comments from my followers.

    You can check out articles on writing tips and book reviews at

  40. Wonderful post, Jody. And it applies to anything--my book review blog started out with a burst of inspiration, but it has taken dedication and sheer hard to work to keep it going!

  41. Great point, Stephanie! I think we do go through a honeymoon phase with blogging too. And then it really does take commitment and hard work to keep going after that initial phase is over!

  42. 42,000 words, thanks for asking. I set myself 3K a day for NaNoWriMo, mostly because I really wanted to get book 2 in my series written so that I can query with two books under my belt.

    How do I keep it going? Sheer pigheadedness, I think. And a good outline. I'm definitely a plotter. I break my time up into 1,000-word chunks, because I just can't write for hours on end even when I have the time.

    Last year (my first NaNo) I ended up in races with my writing buddies and joined in with word sprints and so on. This year, somehow, the whole process has become much more business-like, and the honeymoon was over on Day 2.

    And when NaNo's over, I'm going to begin a regular 1K/day commitment, and spend the rest of my writing time editing, querying and all the rest. Because after hitting 3K/day for 30 days, it's all going to seem easy. I hope.

  43. LOVE your thoughts, Jane! It's interesting to see how much more realistic and business-like you've approached NaNo this year. Even though we love writing and feel passionate about it, we just can't rely on those feelings to sustain us, can we?

    I think that after doing 3K per day, you're right! The 1K will seem very easy!

  44. My strategy has always been to keep writing.

    Book feels like it sucks? Keep writing. Going crazy waiting to hear back on a submission? Keep writing. Just got six rejections in a row? Keep writing.

    Well, okay, maybe for that last one it should be Eat Chocolate, then keep writing... :-)


  45. Love your strategy, Katriena! And yes, for six rejections we definitely need to add chocolate in there! :-)

  46. I love comparing your manuscript to a relationship. Definitely a roller coaster that can change day by day or hour by hour. And I am proud to say I finished draft one of my nanowrimo and have happily started editing :)

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