Kickstarting a Book

It’s February 26th today.  I’d like to have a book done by May 1st.  That’s approximately two months from now, and the next eight weeks includes lots of travel, and speaking, and the kids’ Spring break.  I can do it.  But I have to be focused, and motivated.  I’m not focused yet.  Not really motivated, either.  I’ve so enjoyed seeing all my readers and friends these past three weeks, but I confess, I’m dragging a little.  The hopping on and off airplanes and burning the midnight oil with early flights and different time zones has made me long to crawl into bed and sleep.

Maybe I will tomorrow.  Maybe tomorrow will be a stay-in-bed morning and rest.  Or maybe it’ll be like today.  Jump out of bed at 6 am and tackle the inbox with its endless stream of emails and to-do reminders about blogs I need to write that I haven’t yet written.

But Monday when I return from Seattle, after heading up to Bellevue this weekend for my Sunday Barnes & Noble book discussion and signing at 2 pm (can you make it?!?), I’m clearing off my desk to get serious about new book as it will be time to get started.  But how?

How does one kickstart a manuscript when time’s short, or energy’s low?  How to take that little spark of an idea, and make it sustain an entire book?

First: Make sure your characters have sufficient motivation

 Writing a book without motivated characters is asking for trouble.  Characters that lack clear, strong goals—and goals in opposition to each other—will drag your plot, and pacing way, way down.  To write fast, to write tight, compelling scenes, your characters need to want something, and not ‘down the road’, but immediately.  They need goals that are going to be foremost in their thoughts, burning strong within them.  If you’re not sure about the goal and motivation thing, grab Debra Dixon’s book, GMC, and study up!

 Second, Choose characters, a setting or time period that interests you

 As writers, we’ve all tried to sludge our way through stories that don’t grip us.  So don’t write a story you’re not crazy about.  And if your characters seem just so-so, what would make you really love them?  What would make you fall in love with your plot?  Think about the fire you like in a heroine, the strength or humor in a hero, think about the tone or sensuality you respond to when reading a book.  Give this life, this vitality, for your new project.  Sometimes we decide we’ll save the ‘great idea’ for the next book, or a book in the future, but pour your heart into this book because it is your future.

Third: Change what’s bogging you down

 If you find you can’t write at your desktop lately, get out of the house.  Use a notepad, your Alphasmart (my Alphasmart is my savior!), laptop—whatever you need to put you in a different place, away from your ordinary distractions.  If you feel too sleepy—add an extra cup of coffee, go for a walk, play lively music—whatever it takes to jumpstart you.  If you find you can’t concentrate, or tend to daydream, set a timer,  tell yourself that for the next 15 minutes all you’re going to do is write.  Just write.  No email.  No editing.  No researching.  No fussing with words.  Just fresh new stuff.  And for ten minutes, or fifteen minutes—do it.  I can almost guarantee that by the end of the 10 or 15 minutes, you’ll be in the groove and in the middle of a great scene.  The secret really is to not make excuses and to work through the mental block.  Successful authors all share one thing—effort.  They really apply themselves.  Be nice to yourself, but don’t give up.  Set some goals and work to attain them.

 Fourth:  Get Inspired

For inspiration—and we all need it—play some powerful music, read one of the books on your keeper shelf, watch a classic film, head out to Mother Nature and walk, hike, or sit and breathe in the fresh air.  The key thing is finding something that will charge you…fill up the emotional and spiritual well.  Sometimes I just need to be with my kids and play.  A trip to the park, a hike in the woods, gathering leaves of different colors.  Take care of you.

So that’s the plan.

Let’s see if I can follow through!

What’s your plan for the next week?  Anything you’re trying to get started?  Anything you need to get done?  Fill me in and you could win a prize filled with gift cards and books and an incredibly gorgeous box of chocolates from Schmids, a fine chocolate company, here in San Clemente!  Contest will run through Sunday, March 3rd with the winner announced on Monday.  Please, please check back on Monday to see if you won.  I have boxes stacked all over my office of prizes going unclaimed!


  1. Hi Jane, love some insight in how you’re planning for a book.

    This week I’m catching up on playdates with other moms and coffee with girlfriends.
    I’ll love to start working out with my trainer again. Let’s hope this is the week for that.

    See you Sunday.

  2. You are an inspiration to me. I am having more tests. I have to cook for visitors but being busy is the best thing. Enjoy and thanks.

  3. Jane, thanks so much for the great advice. I’m working on starting a brand new blog and these are great tips!

    So excited for your next writing project! I know you can do it and meet your deadlines. You are a very busy lady with a full schedule!

    I’ve been catching up on sleep and getting my house back together since my weekend visit to Montana. Next week I have to work on planning a party for my daughter’s 7th Birthday! Never a dull moment around here:-)

  4. I’m sure you are wore down. it’s all fun but you have to rest some time. My goal (after what I went through today) is to not let little things get me down and not let what others say effect who I am or how I feel about certain things. I found out I do have a lot of friends who do support me. Other then that, the next week or so, I need to go through all my old clothes and accessories to see what I can sell at the consignment store to make extra money. I like your idea of making lists. I should do that too and try to get more organized with everything.

  5. I am always in awe of all you do Jane! Thanks for this blog, you know writing has been on my mind lately and I love all the advice you give us.

    I am working on not having chaos around me. I am very organized at work, so why shouldn’t my home life be more a liitle more like that. I have been making lists and trying to complete one thing before moving on to the next. I have set up small goals for myself. Didn’t do so great with yesterdays, but I am not beating myself up and today is another day. I am trying to learn how to say no to certain people (not an easy thing to do) and to start doing things that I want to do and have a passion for.

    Jane, I know that you will be successfull, because you are settng yourself to be. You know what you need to do and how to do and you will do it! Thanks for being an inspiration.

  6. I don’t have a lot of plans for the next week. I would enjoy being able to get out and run some errands. We have some more snow so I don’t get out when it’s slick, I’m afraid of falling down and breaking something. My daughter fell down the back steps a couple of days ago and yesterday her mother-in-law fell down the front steps. I am getting a lot of reading done though.

  7. Jane, I just love your blogs! They are so inspiring and upbeat! For me: I am planning to work the rest of the week then on Friday I am going to a hockey game and then not sure for the rest of the weekend.

  8. I did the research now I need to write my paper for my library studies class.We have been lounging together in the house after all the big snowstorms watching movies.Back to school tomorrow.I preordered some books from amazon and requested several items from the library. That will be my reward for starting and finishing my paper.

  9. Hi Jane,
    Next week I plan to start working on some projects around the house. Our home was struck by lightning not too long ago and have some things that still need fixing, repairing, or replacing. Some of our tile was shattered, a ceiling fan was fried, and our air conditioner thermostat blew just to name a few things but at least noone was hurt.


  10. Change what’s bogging you down…what great advice!
    Plans for this week include a quick day trip to visit my daughter at college and then trying to tackle some paperwork that I’ve been avoiding! Also hoping to stop by the Barnes and Noble on Sunday to see you.
    Hope you get your sleeping in day this week!

  11. Though I haven’t been flying around the county I haven’t been have the last 2 weekends & won’t be home this weekend either. Although the weekends have been fun I’m exhausted & sleep, lots of glorious sleep sounds good!

    Hang in there, this too shall pass!

  12. I need to organize my office. It’s been an ongoing project and I have moments of productivity. Those are followed by days of driving kids everywhere and nothing gets done. I feel like I’m starting over every time. I have to remember that slow progress is still progress, and use every extra minute that I can. Hoping to see you in Bellevue!

  13. How exciting that you’re going to be starting a new book. You sure have been busy and saying you’re jet lag would probably be an understatement. You are a rockstar, Jane! One of many reasons I think you’re amazing.

    This week I’m just working and reading. I wish I could work less and read more, but that doesn’t pay the bills 🙂

  14. In addition to my full time job I have a small niche business at home and have orders piling up so I need to tackle those this weekend… personally it’s been a difficult couple of weeks, but we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Once I’m done with my orders I’m curling up with The Good Daughter… it’s been calling to me but I’ve been saving it as a reward for when I’m done my orders. Take care and happy writing Jane!

  15. well i need to start organzing the house and getting rid of all the stuff we dont need, want, or use. that way when we move it will be easier…right? good luck on your new book, you can do it!

  16. Hi Jane. Good luck with your new book. It was interesting to read your thoughts about getting started.

    As usual, I have a several things that I need to attend to. They’re all fairly minor things, so it’s not too neglectful. lol
    Sometimes, in order to make sure that I actually get them done, I have to make a list – even though they are little things. Writing them down and crossing them off when done helps me a lot.
    It is especially helps when I am feeling overwhelmed and like I don’t know where to start.

  17. Have you tried aromatherapy? Grapefruit and peppermint for energy. Use those candles or scented oils. Best of luck, of course I say this selfishly, because when you’re motivated, we get new books!

  18. I’m glad I ran across your blog post.

    I just started “The Fallen Greek Bride”–and, OMG, I love Drakon!–for a writing challenge hosted by lovely Harlequin moderators, Dream and Rae (along with two other great March Presents reads). Don’t you love Harlequin’s 2-for-1 special this month? I’m looking forward to reading “At the Greek Boss’s Bidding”, too.

    I’ve decided to finally attend my first local RWA chapter meeting on the 3rd: they’re offering a great workshop, too, so it’s now or never really!

    Also–as if the week couldn’t be crazier–I’m hoping to start my new job on the 1st. I have the last of my midterms this coming Monday. And I’m finally getting back to my kanji lessons this weekend, after a long-hiatus.

    I hope your start is much easier, Jane! Will you be keeping us updated on your progress?

  19. Hi Jane!

    Great motivation for those of us who need to get ourselves in gear. I’m taking it to heart!

    This week is busy with cub scout banquet for The Boy and baby showers and bridal showers at the tea room.

  20. Plans for this week are to try and make it through the rest of it without anything else breaking down or going nuts on me…it’s been one wild week so far with everything electronic deciding to not work – computers, e-readers, cell phones, microwave, car, you name it! 😮

  21. Thanks for the great writing tips! My goal is to charge up my alphasmart (which I have not used in a long time but should!) and get some work done on it. Good luck with your new project, Jane!

  22. Projects are finishing painting bedroom and clean out all cabinets and get then all organized so Hubby and I know what is in the cabinets. Then keep it that way. Start working out outside the house again ie running.

  23. I am spending my weekend getting packed for my surgery next week. I will be in the hospital for 5 days and need to get a ton of things done. Like laundry…though that fills up pretty fast!! I just want it over with. It’s been a very long month planning and scheduling doctors appointments and the anticipation is killing me. I have never had surgery and I am getting pretty darn scared. Hope you get motivated!! I have my new JP book The Fallen Greek Bride to keep me company in the hospital…can’t wait to read it 🙂

    Have a great weekend, Jane!


  24. New customer for my self-employment, so am rushing to finish his first job quickly. (Am eating my lunch while I blog.) Hard to work with my MIL now in the hospital (yet again) an hour away; didn’t get in till 2 am last night, as there was a good chance she wasn’t going to survive the day. Other than being in both places at the same time (using a laptop wouldn’t help in this instance), I have no other plans that matter.

  25. A change in my usual routine really helps shake me up in a good way. For writing, going from a keyboard to handwriting sometimes really gets me rolling again. Or changing the physical location where I write. Go, Jane, go!

  26. Love the way you plan out your books.

    I have no big plans for next week other then the usual stuff, cleaning and things like that. Need to get my son out and teach him to drive, it this weather will clear up. Its quite nasty here right now. Cold and rainy today, snow tonight.

  27. I don’t have much of a plan for next week. Just going to work every day. I just got back from taking a class away from home for a month so I’ve been taking a lot of time off to spend at home with my puppy. I guess next week I’ll have to go back to the real world and actually work a full week, haha. =]

  28. Jane,I don’t know how you get it all done.
    Next week I have to take my dad to doctors appointments. The next 2 weeks are going to be cataract surgeries for him and follow up visits.
    i also need to wash my car. We got over 12 inches of rain and the driveway made a mess of the car.

  29. You must be exhausted! I hope you’re able to take some “me” time to relax!
    I’m going to start doing yoga this week. My doctor wants me to start exercising, and she recommended yoga. And when your oncologist wants you to do something, you listen! My daughter is in preschool, and has the next 2 weeks off, so I’m hoping I can talk her into doing it with me, or keep herself occupied while I do it!

  30. I need to get motivated to get back to our early morning walks. Exercise always makes me feel better, but the dark days of winter make me want to stay in bed until 7:30AM instead of getting up at 6AM. Today was a good start, back to walking our mile. Thanks for the pep talk Jane and the instructions about writing. I am back to work on my journal writing and for me that is like therapy. Praying for you and your new book, can’t wait to hear more about it!

  31. I have plenty of things to work on, but I need to work on my own motivation to get everything done. I’m involved in a large church event this weekend, and need to work on things for it (lots of baking included), but I don’t want to bake until closer to the event. I need to call a plumber, and I need to make a doctor’s appointment and have yet to do either. But, I did get my taxes done this week, so I crossed that big ticket item off my list. I enjoyed reading your kickstarting a book blog, Jane. Best of luck to you with your book tour and with your story.

  32. My sister just found out she has cancer. The upcoming week will be filled with Doctors appointments, and tying up loose ends before her surgery the week after!

  33. I feel like I need a kick start myself, so I think I will try to apply your tips to the tasks ahead of me over the next month at work!

    Here’s hoping you find your inspiration, because I do love to see you turning out new books!!

  34. I don’t know how you do it all, Jane! Seriously….

    I’m just trying to keep up. Baseball, track and swim keep me jammed for time and trying to balance everything. I love your ideas for clearing the brain and getting down to business. Must be hard when there is so much tugging at you.

    Have a great trip this weekend and hope you can settle down a bit very soon!


    (no contest)

  35. I am slowly working on organizing the clutter in my house…drawers, closets, and kitchen cabinets! Not fun, but it feels great when I can cross one thing off the list.

  36. Where do I begin. I need to kickstart my spring cleaning. I never get all the cleaning that I want to do done. I have a spare bedroom that I need get a handle on plus a couple of closets that I shoved thing in.

    I am also trying to finish this one book I am reading. It has over 550 pages and I should of been done by now.

  37. Hi Jane,
    I am trying to gear myself up to start spring cleaning. If I start early, maybe spring will come early, too!
    Wishing you much success on your next book!

  38. Hi Jane
    This week I’m recouping from vacation. Sorting mail, email and laundry. Then going to try and get back into the daily routine. Sometimes I need a vacation from the vacation.

  39. My goal is to make fancy 🙂 melt & pour soap… I have everything I need and I just need to get kick started to do it!

  40. I really don’t have anything scheduled next week. So, I’m going to use the time to start my spring cleaning/organizing.

  41. We have out of town company next week, so I want to squeeze in some extra cleaning & organizing so house looks presentable by next Friday.

    Great post!

  42. Thanks for the tips, Jane. Diane’s book is on my shelf, so I think I’ll take your advice and read it this weekend. Have a great weekend and good luck with your writing!

  43. This weekend I will be having some girl time with my friends. We’ll be shopping, eating and then lounging by the pool!

    Good luck with the writing. It’s sure to be another amazing book!

  44. My plan was to get the house clean and taxes done….and I just got it accomplished! Now I can have the lazy weekend I have been craving for months! Looking forward to reading and catching up on some tv shows this weekend!

  45. My daughter and her husband are house-hunting. It’s been very stressful so I’m stepping in to take the kids whenever needed. Kind of being on call. 🙂 Never know when so keeping my schedule free. We are still trying to find out what is wrong with our youngest so there are a few more rounds of doctor appts for her as well. Fingers crossed as they cross one thing off after another.

  46. I started full time at my job a couple months ago and right now my goal for the week is to just get through it. It’s a outside job mostly and i’m still trying to adjust to full time. Winter here in MI so it’s not as easy as it will be in the spring/summer months.

    Lisa B

  47. Working on my income tax…still and not a fun task. Really don’t know how you manage all you do plus traveling, I am in awe of that. Once upon a time…there was time…Ruth

  48. In five weeks, I am going to punta cana with 7 other women. I have been trying to determine what to pack (simple dress, beach books, etc.) I’m feeling excitement and stress at the same time. I should be working on preparations but instead, I’m keeping up with Jane!

  49. Jane,

    I hope you take a little time to rest after all your travelling before you tackle your next book. I know that you will do a great job with it, you always do.

    The week is filled with lots of work appointments and a follow-up to the doctor. Hoping next weekend is more relaxing.

  50. I plan to get my spring conferences organized and another parent letter out about upcoming field trips. I am hoping for a less stressful week. Last week was just “one of those weeks”!

  51. Hi all!

    I’m here to announce the winner for the contest.

    It’s #45 Crystal GB! Crystal, email me your address and I’ll put prize box in the mail to you ASAP!

    I also have two (2!) bonus winners, and the bonus winners are:

    #9 Melanie J


    #26 Hana

    Melanie and Hana, please send me a message with both your addresses too for one of these fun bonus prize boxes that have gone uncollected making you both winners today!

    Thanks everyone for your comments. Much love,


      1. Thank you Janine, Latesha, and CrystalGB!

        And thank you, Jane. 🙂 (I sent my email off yesterday btw.)

  52. Hi Jane. Thank you so much! I emailed you from my university account.
    Congrats to Melanie ad Hana.

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