Thursday, August 15, 2013
My brain is truly incredible. No matter how much I want to get things done, it can figure out ways for me to screw off while still making it look like I’m busy as hell to the outside world. This is a skill often perfected by the average office worker, but it can also apply to writing. In my case, it applies with a vengeance.
As mentioned last week, I decided to take a sporadic serial book I’d been posting as separate blogs and turn it into an actual book with an eye on eventual submission. Things went fine for the first couple chapters. No duh; I’d already written those. I just had to expand them a bit here and there. The forward momentum’s slowed down some because now I’ve burned through those first pre-written chapters and am forging ahead into unknown territory. I forgot I’d need a plot in order to proceed. Two plots, because my FMC is writing a book and I’m including excerpts from it. This leads to long stretches of staring into the distance and cursing a blank screen.
Then something else cropped up. As also mentioned last week, I needed to add a bad guy to my book in order to introduce conflict. My chosen bad guy comes from a large family. At one point he ruminates on how good his one brother was at stalking innocent women, and what a pity he’s not around anymore. Bored with his sedentary office job and bereft of his stalky brother, he decides to cozy up to the FMC himself. The plot proceeds from there.
But—what about Stalky? What happened to him? That’s another story, one I also started writing on the blog but then abandoned. So I resurrected that one, just in case anybody reading the first story wants to know about Stalky Brother. After I reworked the first two blogs I hit the same wall on the new story. Now I’m writing two books at once, feeling my way as I go.
Also on my plate is the M/M dragon story, which has sputtered to a halt again, even though I have ideas on where it’s headed. I haven’t quite abandoned that one yet. If need be, I can switch back to that one if the other two give me grief.
That’s three different irons in the fire at once. Sure looks like I’m industrious, doesn’t it? Guess again. It’s smoke and mirrors. This is procrastination at its put-it-off best.
How so? Well, look. Instead of focusing on one story, which is how I usually work, I’ve got my energies spread out over three, and none are really going anywhere. I write maybe a few hundred words on one and then I hit a wall. So I switch off and the same thing happens, round and round and round. In this manner I can write all day and look busy as hell and still get nothing finished. This is how we screw off in the big leagues.
There’s one little flaw in this theory. Even if I only write a hundred words a day per story, that’s still a hundred words of progress. Sooner or later, one or two or all three of them will get finished. What do I do to screw off then?
Easy. Edit and polish. Rewrites. Research. There’s a whole slew of things I can do that don’t involve actual writing. In a pinch I could even do housework, though I leave that as a last resort.
Right now I’m putting off “real” writing by writing this blog instead. Then I’m going to go mow the lawn. After that, I’ll need to take a shower. Then lunch. Then a trip to the library. That’s half the day shot right there. Watch and learn, kiddies, watch and learn.
If I mess up and do finish one of my WIPs, I’ve got a pile of abandoned stories and half-baked ideas in the closet. I could go a whole week just doing inventory. I’ll try to keep that in mind.
There are writers out there who average a completed book in a month or less. Clearly they’re doing it wrong. In advanced procrastination a short story takes six months at the least to complete. A thousand-page fantasy novel, done right, could take you a lifetime. Maybe that’s how George R. R. Martin is working. Study the man; he’s a master.
If you’re going to put things off, I suggest you start slow. Read a lot and call it research. Hang out with your friends. Not only is it much-needed social interaction, you might get character ideas. Cable TV is a blessing to us lazy types. As I mentioned before, there’s always housework and yard work if you find yourself in a productive bind. If you think you’re in danger of finishing something, just start something else. You can go indefinitely without wrapping up a story. It’s that simple!
Need inspiration? Study the examples of our friends the publishers. They sure do take their sweet time doling out advances and royalties. And acceptances? One author on a writers’ forum told of an SF publisher who held their manuscript for ten years without giving a yea or nay. The writer finally withdrew it. Now that’s professional-level procrastination!
Drat, I’m done with this. Now I’ll have to work on something else. Well, the lawn ain’t gonna mow itself.