Sunday is for writers round these parts! Welcome to today’s edition of Sunday, My Prints Will Come!
I was talking with a friend this week about things that get in the way of writing. Namely, procrastination.
I thought I’d share with you my own personal novel-writing timeline to get us started:
Novel #1: Epic fantasy. Begun 2001. Never finished.
Novel #2: Urban fantasy. Begun 2004. Finished fall 2008. (Four years.)
Novel #3: Urban fantasy. Begun fall 2008. Finished fall 2011. (Three years.)
Novel #4: Urban fantasy. Begun fall 2011. Half-finished. (Got to that point in about 2-3 weeks of writing.)
Novel #5: Urban fantasy. Begun May 2012. Finished June 2012. (Six weeks.)
Novel #6: Urban fantasy. Begun November 2012. Finished December 2012. (Eight weeks.)
Novel #7: Magical realism. Begun January 2013. Ongoing. (See progress meter in the right side bar!)
You’ll notice a very obvious fact if you read through all that.
I went from not completing novels to completing them over the course of several years to finishing books in a matter of weeks or a couple months. The obvious question to go with that obvious fact is: what changed?
The easy answer is that I just decided to write, plunked my ass down in the chair and did it.
But if it were truly that simple, many more people would have finished novels, and the publishing industry would be a lot more competitive than it already is. Which is very competitive.
For me, it boiled down to a few things that truncated years of procrastination:
Even though I did NaNo rebel style my first time through in 2011, I finished something. I finished my second full novel and got almost halfway through the third. The real thing this lent to me was the knowledge that I could do it. That I could pound out 60,000 words in a month — or more. Once I knew that, the length of time it had previously taken me to write a novel seemed long, tedious, and rather silly.
About a year and a half ago, I started blogging every day. Sure, I’ve missed days here and there, but it took me a looooong time to watch through all the fireworks WordPress created at the end of 2012 to celebrate my year of blogging. I write something every day. Even if it’s only a little bit. I do it every single day. This consistency has helped me become a much better writer.
Four years is a lot of time. In that time, I graduated from university, wrote a few hundred pages of term papers, wrote a heap of blog posts and journal entries, and wrote copy for real estate fliers and brochures for a year.
Do you see where I’m leading with this? The quality of the writing in my first novel was very uneven. I’d started it in 2004. I finished it in 2008 — after four years of writing other stuff prolifically and reading some great fiction. When you write a novel over the space of years, chances are the writing at the beginning will be drastically different than the writing at the end.
Last week I talked about rereading the second and unfinished third book of my trilogy. The first half of the second book I wrote in 2008 after coming off the high of finishing the first book. The second half of the second book (keeping up?) I wrote three years later in NaNoWriMo 2011. The difference in quality is almost staggering. I could literally see the evolution of my writing skills on the page.
There are benefits to writing quickly. I don’t mean everyone has to write a novel in a month, or even two or six. But there is a huge benefit to the consistency of quality when you are able to do it faster than years.
This can be just about anything. For me it was a teaching job I couldn’t stand. Now I wait tables, which is fine, because it lets me sleep in, but my job is still a motivating factor for me. Knowing that I’m not yet making a living doing what I’m truly in love with and good at spurs me forward. It makes me put my ass in my chair every day even when I know I’ll be at work for eight hours afterward. Even when I come home from work and need to write the next day’s blog post.
So how do you beat procrastination?
You beat it by figuring out what you really want. You beat it by holding yourself accountable for the hours in the day. You beat it by making a choice. You can start small. You can build up to things. But ultimately, the only thing that’s stopping you from writing is you.
So get out of your way and go.
What clicked for you in your writing habits? When did you decide to do what you love no matter what? Do you still struggle with procrastination? How do you make yourself do what you need to do?