Writing a novel is hard. First, a writer must complete a first draft - hundreds of pages of creative output that more often than not results in a steaming pile of crap. In her book Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott refers to this as a "shitty first draft." Once the first draft is complete, the writer is faced with the daunting task of editing their work.
For many writers, the process stops here. It takes an enormous amount of effort and dedication to finish the first draft, and many writers cannot gather up enough motivation to take the necessary next step of editing.
I've found something that helps me when I'm in this position, and I'm sharing it in the hopes that it will help others to rekindle their motivation. When faced with the long, often tedious road of editing, I publish my book.
You heard me right. Let me explain.
When I say publish, I don't mean publish to the public. Publishing a first draft to the public would be a horrible mistake. No one gets it right the first time - I don't care how long you've been writing. I'm talking about publishing a very limited edition private print run - of 1.
I suggest that you use Lulu, CreateSpace or some other print-on-demand publisher to print out a single copy of your first-draft manuscript in book format. If you've got some cover art in mind, use it, but cover art isn't essential at this point. Just make sure that the title (or working title) of your book and your name appear prominently on the cover and spine.
These publishers should have a setting that allows your book to remain completely private and unavailable to the general public. Make sure you set up your book this way. Upload your book and cover, and order yourself a single copy. It shouldn't cost you more than $20.
The process of preparing your book for print can be motivating in itself. Maybe you'll find or create some really cool cover art that provides inspiration. Maybe just thinking about your book in printed form gets you fired up. If so, run with it and dive into those edits!
However, the real flood of inspiration will arrive when your printed book arrives. When you see your name on the cover and spine, and you hold the manifestation of countless hours of hard work in your hands, it's truly motivating.
It works for me, at least. There's just something about actually seeing my manuscript in printed form that fills me with enough motivation to tackle the editing process. Every time I feel my motivation start to ebb, I look at my "published" book sitting on my bookshelf.
Then I get back to work.