Finishing a novel is all about delayed gratification. But even while you are playing the long game, you can reward yourself along the way for smaller achievements by celebrating small successes in writing.
What sorts of rewards are good ones for writing? In many ways, that is up to you. Try to strike a balance between indulgence without rewarding yourself with something that is bad for you. Chocolate or a glass of wine might be harmless, but if you are counting calories or trying to cut back on your alcohol consumption, choose a different kind of reward. Similarly, many people like to reward themselves by buying something, but this can get expensive, and if you’ve been working on controlling your spending at all, it’s another one to avoid. Some people reward themselves with a few episodes of their favourite television show on DVD. You might also consider a soak in the bath with a good novel. You know best what will best motivate you.
It’s best to set some of your rewards in advance. Choose achievements along the way based on reaching milestones in terms of words or numbers of pages written depending on which you tend to count. Make sure they are spaced far enough apart that you have something to strive for but not so far apart that you wait ages for the next reward. Ensuring that you reach a small milestone every week or two is a good time frame.
Reward yourself when writing is especially difficult. Some days are just struggles. You don’t want to sit down, and even when you do, the words just don’t come. It is often said that if you can make yourself do something for ten or fifteen minutes, you usually get the momentum to keep going, but sometimes continuing is just as hard as getting started. At such times you deserve a reward for perseverance and for pushing through a difficult patch in your writing. You may also want to reward yourself when you solve particularly thorny problems such as figuring out a complex plot twist or when you have to do something thankless like rewriting large sections of your novel from a different point of view.
If you are starting to investigate publishers and agents while working on your novel, you may want to offer yourselves rewards for that as well. Compiling lists of suitable places and people to send your book to and working on a synopsis can be tedious and time-consuming, and they are all activities deserving of rewards.
As important as it is to celebrate small successes along the way in order to maintain momentum on your novel, it’s also worth keeping in mind that to some degree, progress should be its own reward. Try looking at writing as being as much about the journey as the destination.
What small writing successes do you celebrate, and how?