Excuse Factories and Other Writerly Nuances

Around four years ago, I was going to buddy-read a book on fiction writing. I haven’t read a craft book in several years. I still haven’t finished it because said buddy quit on it, and since I was only reading it to be supportive, I lost the will to continue, because frankly, le book was getting on my nerves. It’s not a bad book. I just wasn’t in the mood to wade through the basic waters. It’s also wicked repetitive.

But anyway, I was thinking about this thing he said about the length of time it takes to write a book. He said there’s a difference between the writer who takes ten years to write something and the writer who takes ten days.

Here, I thought he was going to say something like, take as long as you need or some cliche crap like that.

Nope. He says the main difference is how much time they spend trying to write. And when you’re in the throes of a first draft, quality isn’t the first priority – it’s JUST to get the story down.

Unless you’re me. I edit a lot as I write, but I can do that because I have a long history of finishing stuff. Meaning, I won’t be editing forever in some fruitless drive for perfection. Also, if my first draft is some crap, I’m trashing it. It’s my process, and that’s totally fine. But I get what he’s saying.

For a lot of people, they spend so much time trying to get things “perfect” that they never finish anything. They get frustrated and quit. Or they spend 10 years writing sporadically. And fun fact, you grow as a writer when you finish stuff and move on to the next thing, so if you’ve been writing the same story for 10 years, you haven’t grown much in 10 years. True story.

I thought about this a lot in 2017 because I finished three novel-length drafts and edited one of them to completion and one other to partial completion, and I was like, “Why can’t I do that every year?”

But we all know why, don’t we? It’s because I spend more time trying to write than actually writing. I spend a bunch of time trying to settle on an idea. I spend time giving myself multiple pep talks because I’m freaking out over said idea. I spend time blogging instead of writing because the enormity of writing an entire book is intimidating sometimes. I spend time on Netflix instead of writing because I can’t figure out how to binge Parks & Recreation AND write at the same time.

We totally need to rest the old brain sometimes, but I could also just watch two episodes and then write, but you know…TREAT YO SELF! 😀

In any case, I really think that’s the secret to being a productive writer. Realizing that we really could write more if we spent less time trying.

Normally I’ve finished a book but now. I’m just about always in crunch time or editing mode by June. I’m not mad. It’s just interesting to me. And I thought I was being so smart by finally figuring out how to juggle projects, only to realize that it doesn’t matter. I’m not more productive. It’s actually just taking me a longer time to get to the point where I see problems and have to backtrack. And I also don’t normally have to backtrack, so there’s an interesting observation there, as well.

So interesting an observation that I immediately stopped juggling when I saw it. In 2011, I wrote a novel during lunch and pockets of downtime at work, and when I got to the end, I had a huge mess on my hands, and we all know by now what Krystal does when there’s a mess. Yep. In the trash. I thought it was a smart thing to do, and I certainly had fun with it, but as it turns out, that doesn’t work for me. I was too distracted. And I realized last week that juggling projects is too distracting. I’m not completely focusing on anything, and as a result, I ended up needing to backtrack in both of my projects, and like I said, that just isn’t normal for me. I know a red flag when I see one.

So, I’m back to one book at a time. But hey, I wouldn’t have known the perils of juggling if I never got it to work, kind of, in the first place. I know now that I can juggle, but I also know that I shouldn’t. ^_^

We like learning writing lessons over here.

4 Responses to Excuse Factories and Other Writerly Nuances

  1. I love that quote! I’ve found that I write faster when I’m under a time crunch. It forces me to stay more focused. But on the same hand, I don’t mind stories which take a couple of years to write because some ideas simply need to stew. I have a lot of unfinished drafts but most of them are really ‘book worthy’. A couple sure, and I’m definitely going to return to them, but I noticed that some areas of the plot need time to ripen. Or maybe I’m just making excuses 😉

    • Lol! I set stuff aside to bake more all the time. I can’t work on everything at the same time anyway. Maybe it’ll be better later. Or it’ll stay the same. Either way it’s fine. I have to start setting deadlines again. Even a ridiculously long one. It keeps me from going several days without doing anything.

  2. I write when I write at this point, which right now means I’m piecing together an idea and there’s no writing getting done. But I think it’s healthier for me that way, to not be thinking about or writing all the time.

Hi! ^_^