Motivation and freedom sunset silhouette

Craig Martelle

When you don’t feel it. When the world is conspiring against you. Falling asleep sitting up.

That’s when your subconscious is at its best. You have the answer to your writing woes if you only listen to what you’re telling yourself.

From the dark recesses of your mind.


It’ll be gone as quickly as it comes. Capture it now! And embrace it later.

Worry is the mind killer, anxiety its death knell.

Are you setting yourself up for success or failure? Is your deadline too close or too far away? Only you know the right place to put it; a challenge, but not an overwhelming burden. “I don’t work well without a deadline!”

I don’t believe that for an instant. Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow? Because you could be selling today’s words tomorrow and working on new words that you’ll sell the next day. Building a portfolio doesn’t mean wasting time. Being a professional doesn’t mean taking a year to complete what you can do in a month or churning a product in a month when it would be better to take two if you give it the right level of attention.

The artist in you is the keystone of the author arch. Without the artist, there is no great story to sell. Without the business side, no one will know your book exists. Synergy. You don’t have to love the business side, you only have to do it.

Wearing two hats is important. Your artist hat is critical because you can always sell a good story. Good stories are timeless and key to getting read-through to your other books. If you only have one book, then you had better be a good marketer. If you have more than one book, then you better be a good author. Or at least be working toward becoming a great storyteller.

The other hat is the business hat. It’s when you need to advise the artist to maintain certain elements within the stories or to finish a story rather than let it languish. I wrote a story I didn’t like. I shelved it. I finally gave it to my beta readers. They enjoyed it. I had no intention of writing the second or third books in the trilogy, but I outlined them, found a co-author to write the next books, and boom! I have a trilogy for sale for the price of writing one book that I didn’t like but that the fans did.

You may not be the best judge of your own work.

A second set of impartial, genre-oriented eyes can work wonders for your portfolio and your ego. But they might criticize your work!

You better hope they do. Human beings are exceptional at seeing things through our own lens, from our experiences to our fading eyesight to our perceptions sprinkled with our own biases and perceptions. Getting a second opinion should be uplifting, even if you think it’s crushing. Because only one person or a small group have seen your work. Not the entirety of fandom. Throw your hand over your heart and look at the input critically. What will it take to fix the story? Usually, it’s not much. A tweak here or there. A better scene setup. More robust character development. I wrote a story that utterly failed. It was due to my editor in two days. I rewrote an entire 52,000 words in one day. Because I was motivated to not miss a deadline. I deleted about ten thousand words and added in eleven thousand new and better words.

It’s possible because I was motivated to never miss a deadline. And I didn’t. And the book was fine when it finally hit the market.

Motivation is about finding the drive to finish. Begin with the end in mind. What does your finished book look like and how will fans receive it? You don’t know until you finish it. Back up. What does this scene look like, all the way to the end? Write it, transition, and write the next. You started your book because you had an idea.

Find your head space to string the ideas together until you have an entire story–inciting incidents to characters that the readers relate to and care about, doing things that matter. Characters will move your plot along. Worldbuilding is great and necessary, but even a complex world like Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings comes down to two hobbits carrying the weight of the world on their small shoulders.

No one should have a more intimate relationship with your characters than you. When you’re feeling down, let them lift you up. Disappear into a great conversation, and hand-in-hand with them, move forward.

It’s the way our knees bend and since our eyes face that way, we might as well keep marching toward the sunrise because a new day will always come. Embrace that. And move forward, even with baby steps. With enough of them, you’ll eventually get to a new place.

And beyond.

Picture of Craig Martelle

Craig Martelle

High school Valedictorian enlists in the Marine Corps under a guaranteed tank contract. An inauspicious start that was quickly superseded by excelling in language study. Contract waived, a year at the Defense Language Institute to learn Russian and off to keep my ears on the big red machine during the Soviet years. Back to DLI for advanced Russian after reenlisting. Deploying. Then getting selected to get a commission. Earned a four-year degree in two years by majoring in Russian Language. It was a cop out, but I wanted to get back to the fleet. One summa cum laude graduation later, that’s where I found myself. My first gig as a second lieutenant was on a general staff. I did well enough that I stayed at that level or higher for the rest of my career, while getting some choice side gigs – UAE, Bahrain, Korea, Russia, and Ukraine. Major Martelle. I retired from the Marines after a couple years at the embassy in Moscow working arms control. The locals called me The German, because of my accent in Russian. That worked for me. It kept me off the radar. Just until it didn’t. Expelled after two years for activities inconsistent with my diplomatic status, I went to Ukraine. Can’t let twenty years of Russian language go to waste. More arms control. More diplomatic stuff. Then 9/11 and off to war. That was enough deployment for me. Then came retirement. Department of Homeland Security was a phenomenally miserable gig. I quit that job quickly enough and went to law school. A second summa cum laude later and I was working for a high-end consulting firm performing business diagnostics, business law, and leadership coaching. More deployments. For the money they paid me, I was good with that. Just until I wasn’t. Then I started writing. You’ll find Easter eggs from my career hidden within all my books. Enjoy the stories.

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