Disclaimer: This post has a lot of adult language. If this offends you,
grow a pair please refrain from reading. You have been warned.
So it’s been a few days since I last posted. A lot has happened this week and I anticipate a lot more to happen in the weeks to come. Because of my newfound, busy schedule, I have found very little time for blog writing, and even less for novel writing. Realising this gave me the idea for an excellent blog topic! There are tons of things that you could be doing that is slowly killing your novel. Now you could scream denial until you’re blue in the face, but we’re all guilty of doing one or more of these. Especially you, the one reading this with a slightly bored expression. Yeah you! Don’t look so surprised! Piece of shit…
Anyway, I suppose I better list the damn things before you guys fetch the pitchforks and torches. Calm down, will ya? I’m getting to it. It’s called transitioning, in case you’ve never heard of it. It’s this thing where you go from one state to the next and suddenly you’re talking about…
The Five Things You’re Doing That’s Killing Your Novel
See what I did there? Yeah… I’m an official #koolkid. RESPECT! Anyway, the first is probably something we’re all guilty of. It’s the dreaded devil…
If you’ve never heard of this word, then go read a book that’s okay. Basically procrastination is the act of putting off what you’re supposed to be doing, often just to dick around on the internet or watch some mind-numbing TV show. We’ve all done it. In fact, you’re probably doing it right now! You should be writing! Go! Now! You gone? Good. When you’re back from writing at least a thousand words, keep reading.
The problem with procrastination is that it’s so easy to fall into the trap. You tell yourself that you’ll just check your Facebook for a second and the next thing you know, It’s been three hours, you’re watching a YouTube video on how subatomic fusion works and somehow your mailbox is filled with spam from Giraffelovers.com. And you STILL won’t have written a single word! It’s not a pretty scene. But, there is a way to avoid it. Now, this won’t be easy for some of you to hear, so I’ll say it gently.
GET THE FUCK OFF OF THE INTERNET YOU LAZY SLUG!
Hmmm, my harshness-filter must be faulty… Oh well. Seriously, though, the internet is probably the biggest cause of procrastination for all of us. There are ways to avoid it. Unplugging the router/modem works wonders, I’ve heard. But honestly the best way to avoid procrastination is just to sit your but down and write. No excuses. Just write.
Another sin committed by the average novelist is the dreaded Over-edit. This could be happening during or after your first draft’s creation. What usually happens is that you start editing and you realize just how much you improved the words. So you do it again, adding a few new improvements. Then you do it again. And again. And again. And agai–oh my god what have I created!? Yeah… It’s the classic example of “too much of a good thing”.
How do you prevent it though? How do you fight the urge to do another round of editing? Well first of all, if you’re still writing the first draft of your novel, then DON’T EDIT FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DON’T DO IT. Trust me. Editing while you’re busy with the first draft is like adding icing to an unbaked cake. It’s more like adding icing to dough, actually. Unflavoured, bland, white, goopy dough… You need to have everything in place before you do the touch ups. Write, then edit. Repeat after me. Write, then edit.
Now that we have that out of the way, we have to discuss how to avoid it. It’s simple really. Find someone you trust. Have them read your work before and after your edit. Have them voice their opinions. Cry. Pick up the shattered pieces of your heart. Then work on fixing the problems that were identified. This is called the “Beta-reading” phase of Novel-crafting. Embrace it now, because without it, your novel might suck balls! And not the clean kind of balls either.
Comparing Yourself To Other Authors
“Shall I compare thee to…” Stop! You can Shakespeare at me all you want, but the unavoidable fact is that comparing yourself to someone else is a bad move. Not only is it emotionally taxing, but it never leads to satisfaction or happiness. You are not author x, you are you. I know, though. It’s another easy trap to fall into. You see another author, perhaps you like them or perhaps you HATE THEM WITH THE VENGENCE OF A THOUSAND HELLFIRES! Ahem. That’s not important. What’s important is that you want what they have. Money, fame, fortune, talent, a Playstation 4.
Preventing it is probably harder than the previous two since it’s natural to compare yourself to others. As authors, we have no real way of gauging our success. There is no defined ranking system (but if there were, who would be on top? Stephen King? Probably…). We don’t have Steam achievements. The best we can do to gauge our level of success is by looking at others and seeing what they have compared to what we have. It’s stupid, and it hurts us deep inside, but we still do it every time.
How do we stop hurting ourselves? How do we stop self-flagellating? It isn’t easy. We writers are suckers for punishment. The best we can do is focus on our own success. Instead of trying to gauge your success, focus on your work and keep pushing forward. Go through life with blinders on if you have to and just tunnel-vision your way to the top. Honestly it won’t even matter. If you love what you do, you’ll enjoy what you’re doing so much that you won’t even realize you’re at the top until someone points it out to you. Keep writing.
Thinking About Writing More Than Writing
This is another form of procrastination, but it is specific and significant enough to warrant its own sub-section. STOP THINKING! Just stop. Ok? Ok. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s think about how our lives would be like if we never wrote… It fucking sucks, no thanks! Thinking about writing creates the illusion of productivity. It lets you feel like you’re “working on your novel” when you’re actually “working on your downfall”.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to think about writing. In fact, you have to if you want to be taken seriously as a writer. The problem comes when you’re only thinking about writing to the point of not actually doing the damn thing. It’s an illusion, bucko! There is no productivity there. It’s basically the equivalent of thinking about how you’re going to build your house while the rain drenches you. Let’s grab that brick and mortar and BUILD already!
Avoiding this pitfall might be easier than you think. Instead of just thinking, you should actually write! Find a way to channel that creative energy into productivity. Take me for example. I turned my “thinking about writing” into actual writing. How did I do that? Take a look around, friend. Just what is this blog about?
Of course this would be one. It’s the ultimate sin! It kind of goes hand-in-hand with comparing yourself to others too. You see that you aren’t as rich, or famous, or successful, or whatever. Suddenly you begin to doubt yourself as a writer. What if you don’t have any writing skill or talent? What if you’ll never make it? What if your father was right? Why not just quit? STOP RIGHT THERE!
See the problem here? You end up doubting your ability to do the thing and then you end up never doing the thing and giving up. Don’t ask me why I’m referring to it as a thing, because I have no idea. Self-doubt can become such a vicious cycle that you never escape from it. I wonder how many great authors we would have today if everyone believed that they could do the thing. A lot, probably. My money is on a lot (what money? *sobs*).
You have to find a reason to believe in yourself again. You must tell yourself that you ARE good enough. You ARE the next best thing! Confirm it! Believe it! Be the best! Wait, did I just detect a hint of doubt? BURN THE WITCH! BURN THE… oh, wait. Ahem. The point is that you can do it. Hell, you might not be a special little snowflake, but you can be the snowflake that bludgeons your way to the top. You can do it. Be the best you. Do the thing.
Do you do any one of these in your day-to-day life? Don’t lie Steve! We all know you do… Yeah walk away… Hey! Leave the cookie. That’s for real writers only. Now go.. Ok, he’s gone. So anyhoo, remember that whenever you find yourself struggling with one of these beasts. Whenever you find yourself facing one of these beasts strangling the life out of your novel, remember my words. You can do the thing. Just keep going. Keep swimming little fish. Keep writing. Just write.