Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Confession...I Almost Quit

When I started this blog, it was to help other people serious about publishing their own writing. I figured while I don't have experience, as a newbie, if I chronicled my mistakes, it might help others.

Here's one of my biggest mistakes: My book COULD be releasing this month. I was originally due to finish my rough draft May 31, 2011. I didn't finish until July 13. 43 days late. Thank goodness my publishing contract doesn't have a penalty clause. But maybe it should? Hmmmm, I'll file that away for later.

What caused the 43 day delay? Doubt. Lots of it. Writing is work. I enjoy my work a great deal, but it is work. My eyes become strained, my fingers swell, my neck aches. In the last 3 days, I've written 18,000 words. 23% of my novel. That figure right there shows I *have* the ability to produce. I am not one of those writers paralyzed by a blank screen. Far from it. and if you sat next to me in a public place, I'd also talk your ear off. I bet the two are connected.

Here's the scary thing. I #wordmongering on Twitter which is writing for 30 minutes, off for 30 minutes. I average 750-1000 words per session. Once I outline. Outlining takes 2-3 weeks. That means for 80,000 words, I really only need 80 hours (30 minutes writing, 30 minutes off which is important. I don't produce as well writing straight through. Writing for one full hour, I end up with only about 1200-1500 words). Hypothetically, I could rough draft a novel in three months (I don't have the luxury of writing 40 hours per week, really only about 10). My first novel I rough drafted in 4 months. So not too bad.


The major hurdles for me were 30,000 and 60,000 words. 

At 30,000.

My 30,000 word mark was a hodge-podge of scenes and then about 6 sequential chapters. I was shocked that as I wrote, even the planned scene changed. I had to reconcile as a writer how much I want to stick to my outline vs. let organic win out. In the end, both had to compromise. My outline was overhauled twice. Once here, and again at 60,000. A handful of times the characters were doing something weird, and it got boring to me. Those moments were scrapped as it's great they lived their lives, but too boring to be included in THIS story. I saved some bits, either for future novels or outtakes. 

At 60,000 

I sat at 60,000 words for almost a month. Well, it took me a month to move from 55,000 to break 60,000. I learned I hate writing between the second crisis to the final crisis. Maybe one day I will pioneer a story structure that skips that. Then 2,000 years from now the writing books will say "Up until the early twenty-first century, the classical three-act story structure reigned as king from the days of Ancient Greece. All of this changed with the West Wham-Bam-Thank-You-Ma'am story structure that truncated the rising action between the second and third crisis, keeping the reader on the edge of his or her proverbial seat...."

Then the story about SPAM on Amazon's KDP broke and every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Sally Sue with a blog remotely relating to writing was 100% against self-published material. I mean nastily against. The Cliff's Notes version is that we were out to destroy the world and every cute little kitten. But mostly just destroy the world. 

I was upset. I was angry. I ranted. Then I got over it. 

When you have a goal, anything really, you just don't have time for the naysayers. You don't. You don't have time to correct their misinformed opinions, you don't have time to worry if they're right. Who cares if they are? Destroy the world hmmm? Well, I always wanted to be a dictator, that's why I had kids...... 

I'd share the words of genius comic Kat Williams, but it just wouldn't be appropriate. But basically, it is a hater's job to hate. That's what they do. My job is to do what I need to do to make my living in this world (which for the record, I'd rather NOT destroy).


Here's what it took for me to finish my first draft. It's not easy. It sounds easy, but it's not. It sucks. And when I say it sucks, I mean remember those days where you hate your job, hate your boss, hate your life, everything goes wrong and you want to stick your head in a microwave? It's worse than that. Because right here is where it all rests on you, baby. There is no boss to gripe about, there is no co-worker you can blame the missed deadline on.

You have to sit your butt in a chair and say "I'm going to finish you." And type. And after you eat, sleep, or use the restroom, you sit back down in the chair as say "I'm really going to finish you!" And type. Over and over and over again. When you get to the point of it's either me or you (you being the manuscript), it physically hurts. I typed until my fingers swelled. My eyes closed two nights in a row with an eye-strain twitch. 18,000 words in 3 days. That's what it took for me to kill that story. 

It really came down to me or my manuscript. If I didn't finish, I would be embarrassed not just to myself, but to all of the friends and family I told I was writing a book. Most importantly, I'd look foolish in front of my husband. The man who graciously enough understood when the laundry wasn't done, or dinner was phoned in. If I ever make any kind of decent money on this, I'm taking him to Italy. :) 

In my head swirled a million and one questions about my ability, my motivation, even my prioritization! Was this just going to be another "big idea" I have that I just can't seem to finish? Was this going to be another time my perfectionism got the better of me? No. It wasn't. 

And after i got my butt in the seat, here's the last important part... I gave myself permission to suck, and got it done. And looking back, I know I'm a stronger writer because of it.

"CANCELLED" arriving SEPTEMBER 2011A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby.


  1. Thank you for these encouraging words. Sometimes I need a little push from writer friends to remind me that I am not alone. It's a harder task to finish a book then I ever imagined it would be, and I'm glad to share this road with people like you. I'm also glad you didn't quit so you could share this story with us. Thanks again.

  2. You can do it, Jen! You won't ever hear out of my mouth that it's easy.... :) And I agree about a little push from our writer friends. It's why I spend an obscene amount of time on Twitter... Good luck to you!

  3. Great post!! I love that you have seen where your stumbles were and can not prepare for them in the next manuscript. Your story will inspire a lot of writers out there. YEs! You have to keep your butt in chair!!

  4. Hi there,

    I loved this post and can't believe how timely it is. Today is my birthday, and my gift to myself is to hurry up and finish my project without requiring myself to be perfect. I'll sit in my hotel room tonight,skip the internet (I've said that before), and just write.

    I love writers.Thank you for putting yourself out there, letting us know we're not alone at getting stuck, and showing us how to get unstuck.

  5. Happy Birthday, Annette!

    I hear you on turning off the Internet. I can't really do that when I'm writing as I listen to playlists on Grooveshark. I know it isn't new advice, but I wanted to acknowledge how really frickin' hard it is to finish a novel.

    I'm on my way now to go pick up my shiny new manuscript :)

  6. Hey Elizabeth,
    I knew I wasn't the only one having troubles right in the middle of the manuscript, but it is nice to actually find someone and read their stories.
    I'm glad you got it over and finished it!
    You must feel super accomplished!