Monday, January 11, 2010

There Ain’t No Such Thing…

…as a perfect time to write.

So, my story is a pretty old one, but let me give a brief rehash of the highlights for those of you just tuning in.

I wrote a little book called NARC. I loved my little book. My little book was the book that could. I just knew it. I spent two months pounding the keys and voila….BOOK. It was shiny and beautiful and practically perfect in every way.

I believed in NARC so much that I said to hell with all of the advice I'd received (to heck with those people who said to let it sit for a couple of months before I even gave a thought to revising… Revisions?? R'uh? I was supposed to do revisions?? Who has time for such nonsense?) and started querying it a month or so later. (In my defense, I did add a few things and do some…cough..editing. Some.) I queried and queried my little book that could and eventually it landed on the desk of Dream Agent. Dream Agent loved my book. Loved my writing. LOVED my character. Dream Agent and I decided to embark on a whirlwind courtship with the promise of marriage. Like all suitors, Dream Agent had some demands before popping the ultimate question. I had to buckle down and do those damn revisions. Dream Agent is a meanie, but yeah, I kinda liked him so I decided it was all worth it.

And so began our love affair.

The first year was exciting. Dream Agent was responsive, had lots of feedback… I wanted to give as much as I received, so I tried…really hard, I tried. But lo and behold, that year passed and I still hadn't produced a book. Oh, I'd torn the old one to shreds…had some new, sparkly scenes that I loved. A new outline of a story I really dug. Everything was in place for me to gut my way through and get that damn ring. But it didn't happen. I didn't finish.

But the next year…THAT would be my year. So what if Dream Agent was slow to return my calls…so what if he seemed a little distant…I would work harder than I had ever worked before. I would push all things aside and get that dang book finished… But no, I was wrong. It didn't happen.

And now, after all of this time….I plug away and still there is no book. All this time later and Still There Is No Book.


I'd love to finish my little story with a really happy conclusion. I'd love to say I've found the key to what I was doing wrong and that all of my problems have been solved. Ummm…yeah. That isn't really the way this all ends. At least not yet.

The truth of the matter is that I've had some really tough times over the past couple of years. Some serious hard knocks that took all of my attention. Each day that passed served as a constant reminder of all the things I still had to do…all of the scenes I wanted to rewrite, all of the scenes that still needed to be written…all of the mistakes I was so obviously making on my end of things. I eventually got to the point where I started questioning how Dream Agent could love somebody like me. And yeah, somewhere along the way, I think I just gave up.

I'm too tired to write tonight. I'll try again tomorrow.

My life is just so busy, I don't have time to write. It's not really my fault though.

I'm not in the mood to write. I have to be in The Mood to write.

If I was just better organized (i.e. if I spend the next five hours organizing), I'll be better prepared to jump into writing.

There are just too many distractions to write. Family, friends, neighbors, pets, work, family, friends, neighbors, pets, work…I can't concentrate!

Have you said any or all of these things to yourself at one time or another? I certainly have. Well, I may not have the cure all solution to my own problems—I'm still trying to figure things out, still hoping Dream Agent is gonna feel the love if/when I finish—but I can say with utmost certainty that There Ain't No Such Thing As A Perfect Time To Write. The sooner we all get that through our heads, the better off we'll be.

We all have busy lives. Heck, I work two jobs. I'm constantly on the go…what little time I have is usually spent trying to get in a decent meal that wasn't bought in a drive-thru or trying to do a million and one things that need to be done…laundry, dishes, family obligations, walks, blah blah blah. The list goes on forever, right? Well, I've finally faced one seriously hard truth, which is: Ain't nothing gonna change about my life in the near future. It's as simple, and as complicated, as that.

In the end, if I want to get this book finished, I have to learn to work around my life.

I've been reading a lot of blogs about revisions lately, trying to glean what advice I can from other writers trying to make their way through a complete overhaul of their novels. I've picked up a few gems here and there, but my favorite so far is the "give yourself a hard deadline and stick to it" rule. (Just look at what Rachel did! She said she had to finish her SFD before the Christmas holidays, and by God she did it…and then some! The girl rocked it out and finished early!) When Dream Agent began courting me, he didn't set any deadlines…(not that I'm blaming him for any of this, mind) and by God I pushed my boundaries as far as they would go...and then pushed them some more. In the end, I'm kinda wishing I'd had a timeline. LOL.

And yeah, I know…none of us want to put our "art" on a time table. It goes against every romantic idea of what writing is supposed to be. But seriously, even artists need to have some rules. Otherwise we'll meander around in la-la land forever without ever producing a salable piece.

So, long story short (too late), I decided I would put myself on a hard deadline—30 days, come hell or high water, I would have a second draft…completely readable, no holes. Otherwise I would punish myself in some truly horrific way. Claire, Kristen, and Rachel have been brainstorming punishments, btw. I'm skerred…very skerred.

I came up with this plan on Wednesday of last week and decided I would begin Friday. Why Friday? Because Wednesday would be no good. Friday would be better. Only it wasn't. Friday was a complete bust so I pushed it back to Sunday. But crap…I had a bunch of obligations and ended up going to a last minute movie with a friend I haven't seen in like For-Ever. Sunday was No Good. Better push the start date to Monday. But SHIT. It's 1120pm right now, I have to be to work at 7am, and I still haven't cracked the ole' wip. MONDAY IS NO GOOD. Pardon my French, but Fuck a Duck. This cycle could seriously go on forever because THERE IS NO GOOD TIME TO WRITE!

So what have I decided to do? Simple:

Start time begins To-Day. No more excuses. If I don't get anything accomplished tonight, then I had better get my butt in gear tomorrow. 30 days from today, I WILL have a completely readable draft….Or Else. *hides from Rachel, Kristen, and Claire*

There honestly couldn't be a worse week to begin. I just got a promotion (YAY) and begin training on Wednesday. My brain will probably be total goo. My grandfather's birthday is this Sunday and I owe him some goodies that I promised him for Christmas (yeah, I'm a little late) – that means hours spent in the kitchen. It's a HORRIBLE week. But yeah, probably no worse than any of the coming weeks. That's my life. Guess I better start running it, eh?

So…since I posted this, I'm open to punishment suggestions. Any takers?


  1. Congrats again on the promotion Jen! Way to go.

    And way to go with the 30 day plan. You can TOTALLY do this, you know. Even if there's a bunch of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling and late nights, it'll only be for 30 days. Not 6 months or a year - just 30 days. Then you're DONE. How good will that feel?

    Go to it!

  2. Woo, Jen! I'm going to post this post on my forehead, thumbtack/drawing pin and all. I so really really want to get cracking and not do one hour of work followed by three days of slacking off, which is what I always seem to do.
    I believe you can do it! And, er, if not, my punishment might involve dragons...
    Just a question, though, if you don't mind... How is it that the fact of actually having Dream Agent interested and waiting wasn't enough of a spur to get you to finish?
    Congratulations on the promotion!

  3. Eh, Jen, you don't have to hide from us and our reeeaally heinous punishments (mruwahahaha) because you are going to do this! I have total faith in that. :)

    And speaking as someone who SUCKS at deadlines, yeah, sometimes you need them. They suck. But you need them.

  4. Dear Jen,

    Awesome post--hits home with me.

    Got a lot of suggestions. First of all, you are absolutely right--this writing stuff ain't no kind of art at all; it's a business, and you've got a job to do. This is simple. At the end of the thirty days if you haven't finished, you will be fired.

    When I was writing my non-fiction book, I broke it up into a word count per day assignment. I had a short time frame, and needed to write 1000-1300 GOOD words per day. No crap allowed.

    I discovered I was a master of procrastination. Amazing the crap we tell ourselves. Did you know that I NEEDED to play some Text Twist before I started to write, as it "warmed" me up for writing. Sheesh! I also discovered as I sat down at the computer that there was some sort of dusting or vacuuming that suddenly had to be done, as I couldn't live with that sort of filth in the house. (Strange that it didn't bother me before that moment.)

    The best advice I ever received was from the Eat That Frog book. Basically, set your priorities, and get the most important one out of the way first thing. DO NOT check your e-mail. DO NOT check your phone messages or return calls. EDIT those words, or else your boss will fire your sorry bohonky. (IS that the correct spelling of "bohonky?" Who knows!)

    I got the book done on time and met my deadline. IF you really want this thing, you also will meet this deadline. My money's on you, babe. Now quite reading my lovely note and FINISH!!