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What to do When You Can’t Stand Your Novel Anymore

Whether it be due to your characters rebelling, your story shifting, your muse abandoning you or a dull ache in your wrists, at some point this month you will hate your novel. In fact, you’ve probably already had a moment like that. At some points during the drafting process–both inside and outside of Nanowrimo–you will be unable to look at your novel anymore. The key is to remember that these moments pass, prepare yourself to play catch up and then go off in search of something better to do than look at your novel, because staring at your novel at these times will probably give you the intense urge to delete the whole thing.

Today I’m going to suggest an activity to distract you entirely from the awful draft you’ve been working on all month, one that’s in keeping with my practice of productive procrastination, an activity that will keep you moving towards success as a writer while also distracting you from the less pleasant task at hand.

So what should you do when you can’t stand your novel anymore? Start planning future projects! Do you have any idea what your plans are for December? If not, now’s a good time to start making them. It’s also a great time to start setting your 2013 goals. By starting now you’re actually getting ahead, giving yourself more time to plan the next year than many people do. You’re also staying productive, even though you’re refusing to face your novel.

Of course, depending on whether or not you’ve already given this some thought, you might not want to start making to-do lists for next year right away. Instead, you might want to brainstorm future projects. One way to do this would be by creating a mindmap of potential project ideas. Another would be to create categories that sort ideas in terms of topic, genre or length.

When you’re choosing what projects you’re actually going to put on that list, first consider what you’re actually able to accomplish in a given period of time. Consider the obligations you already know you’ll have–school, work, childcare, that sort of thing–and how much time you’ll have after those. Then consider how much time each kind of project takes you. Once you’ve figured out an average time for each kind of project and you have an idea of the time you’ll have available, create a list of the projects you plan on completing in the time period you’ve chosen.

My advice when you’re creating a plan, whether it be for a month, a year or a day, is to plan for two thirds of the projects you want to complete. Humans are over confident and that over confidence leads to over commitment and a cycle of procrastination and guilt. Life is also impossible to predict or understand completely, so leaving some room for error is always a good idea–this way if a family catastrophe occurs or you come into a new project you never expected, you have some leeway.

In December I’ll be talking a lot more about creating your plans for the next year, but right now, if you can’t stand your novel, the best thing to do is get ahead by planning out your 2013 now. When December comes around you’ll be happy to find yourself already prepared with the beginnings of a plan–or a detailed plan, depending on how much you hate that novel right now.

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Productive Procrastination

The title may seem like an oxymoron, but it’s not. Everyone procrastinates, and I happen to be an expert at it. Most days, I spend a couple hours procrastinating. So how do I get anything done? I make procrastination work for me: I do simple, less important tasks while avoiding big tasks.

For example, I spent an hour today looking at potential freelance markets instead of writing this blog post. Instead of avoiding work altogether, I’m avoiding the task I least want to do. Sometimes my least exciting prospect is editing a manuscript–whether that be my novel, a short story or a freelance article–and other days it’s a blog post. Every once in a while, writing anything is daunting. On those days I’ll read short stories and take notes or brainstorm for hours rather than write.

I still manage to meet deadlines and, barring complete computer failure, post according to schedule here at Dianna’s Writing Den. The key is that by doing less important tasks first, I’m prepping my mind for the more daunting task on the horizon. Often these smaller tasks inspire me, and I find myself wanting to work on the project I’ve been avoiding all day.

You can make procrastination work for you too. Draft a query to avoid writing a blog post. Work on your novel draft to avoid drafting a query. Put in extra marketing time to avoid editing your novel. All those other tasks need to get done, so procrastinate guilt-free by doing them instead. If you spend a couple hours brainstorming blog when your brain’s fizzled out instead of wandering around on Reddit pretending you’re ‘looking for ideas’, you’ll probably find inspiration–and either way, you’ll have accomplished something.