Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Things to Do While Writing a Book

We've all been there. Writing a book. Somehow, the place between "OMG I HAVE THE BESTEST IDEA EVAR!" and "Yay the book is done!" isn't as filled with sunshine and puppies as we have initially been lead to believe.

I am lucky, in that my book still feels new and shiny, even though I am rewriting scenes I've written before (I just really like this idea, okay? That or I am a narcissist. Perhaps both.). But you still have to keep your eyes open, least the demons of "This is garbage and I am writing something else. Something about unicorns." show up unexpectedly.

So you need a plan. A goal. A battle cry. Something to keep yourself going through the long haul of starting and finishing a book. Because ladies and gentleman? That's a big cavernous place right there. That gulf between "I started writing a book" and "I've finished writing a book" separates a lot of would be authors. I have lost track of how many people have told me, upon hearing that I write, that they've always wanted to write a book. Some even say, "I started writing a book, but got bored."

There's nothing wrong with starting and stopping a book. Goodness knows I've done it a bazillion times. Experimenting and breaking things is part of the writing process. But if you ever want to advance and get to the Revision level, and the Querying level, and the Bargaining Away Unnecessary Organs for a Chance of Publication level you need to finish the book.

So here's some tricks for doing just that (finishing the book, not bargaining away unnecessary organs. You're on your own there).

1. Bribe yourself. With chocolate, new books, new toys, a new car, whatever. Reward yourself, and frequently.

2. Set frequent goals. This gives you the illusion of progress. Goals can range from "Finish this chapter tonight" to "Kidnap Charlie Sheen to force him to endorse your book". Once you complete this goal, you feel good about yourself. It gives you the strength to move on.

3. Keep a schedule. If 3 in the morning under the light of the moon is your writing time, stick to it, even if the raccoons are talking about you behind your back.

4. Play games. If you're stalling out on what happens next, or a character is losing their luster, play a game with yourself. Ask What if my main character turned into a small flightless bird? What if the story isn't really set in a desert, but in outer space? What if this is all just a dream (smack yourself for that one). 

5. Blow some stuff up. Kill a character. Cripple a character. Give the character leprosy and watch as his friends think he's a zombie and try to shoot him "for his own good." Stake up the status quo in your plot, and take no prisoners. 

6. Combine any and all of the above. Maybe while writing by the light of the moon, you set the goal to tie up those nasty raccoons and milk them for life experiences. Or reward yourself with a new flat screen TV if you can successfully get Charlie Sheen to pretend to be the character with leprosy. Add in a bag of popcorn if Sheen pitches this to a movie producer, and it gets the green light. Or you could buy a book once you've gotten past the swampy middle of the book, and managed to kill all but the main characters. You know, that or the Charlie Sheen thing.

The point here is to keep going. Stay interested in the book, and show those raccoons what for. 

What do you do while writing a book to keep going? Anything extreme like nailing yourself to the chair, or you know, discipline could work too.


  1. Excellent list! LOL, but seriously, I do need to get back to that set time to write every day. I've put my book away for a while and have let things stew in my mind. It's time to get back to work.

    Thanks for the reminders.

  2. Fantastic advice :) Not only very helpful, but it made me smile. Great stuff!

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  3. Charity: Sometimes just starting is the hardest thing of all! No problem!

    Sarah: Yay! I am glad I made you smile! I certainly amused myself but sometimes people just sort of look at me awkwardly when I crack a joke. ;)

  4. Great points! I find the sticking to a schedule (thought that's always hard for me) is the best way to keep myself working.

  5. Sonia: always very wise. Being in the same place as the same time makes it like autopilot.

  6. I had that "This is garbage and I am writing something else. Something about unicorns" moment yesterday. I've been putting out some of the new version of my WIP to friends, and the opening on the blog. The reactions are mixed, and rarely as good as I would like. But I just have to power through, I suppose. Stupid diet I'm on won't let me reward myself with pasta anymore...


  7. What I've done to keep myself going has been to set goals. In fact, my first book, I had multiple "deadlines" for finishing. The "I can make this one in my sleep" date. The "This is very doable, but has a little more time pressure" date. (They were a few weeks apart - the second was my birthday.) Then there was the "it will be much more convenient if I get it done before this" date. (I was going out of town, though date unknown, to help my mil after her surgery.) That date was about a month and a half before my longest deadline. And then there was the super-secret, wouldn't it be cool if I did it while the guys were gone this week date. And I did it before they were back. (That was a rare event. First time in 49 years of having that much alone time.)

    The actual writing varied a bit. But for the most part, I found a comfortable place in the afternoon works well for me. At least now. When I was writing my first one, I didn't have my laptop (I love my laptop more than is healthy...) and did have numerous blocks of time that I had to wait for my son, so I wrote a lot with paper and pen/pencil at various public locations. Forced inactivity (nothing major to distract me) was very helpful. ;-)

  8. Tara: sorry about that! Keep going!

    Linda: Yes, I like setting a variety of types of dates too! It helps to met different sorts of goals, I think.

  9. I love your blog! It's beautiful and helpful! Great job!!!!

  10. Thank you so much Rebecca! Welcome to my blog!