Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Top 5 Reasons Why The Novel Isn't Done

Episode 10 of The Writing Show's "Getting Published With Mark Leslie" reality series went live the other day.

In celebration of the recognition of how I've been "slacking" on this project, I thought I'd do a two-part post.

Today, I'll outline 5 reasons why I haven't finished the first draft of my novel A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK.

However, to balance this, tomorrow I'll post 5 reasons why, while these might seem to be good excuses, are no excuse to a serious writer, and how I should and MUST overcome them by developing strategies that recognize them as "excuses" that prevent me from getting my butt into the chair and actually writing.

1) He Loves His Day Job, Dammit!
If Mark performed a job that he actually hated, he would do a few things differently. For one, he'd never go to work early, never work late, and he'd always take all his breaks and full lunches. Since he rarely eats for more than about 5 minutes, he'd end up having a full 50 minutes or so each day to devote to writing. And he'd be able to get a hell of a lot of writing done in that time. Similarly, by only working a 7 hour day, he'd have more time at the beginning and end of each day to work actual writing into his schedule.

But, having a day job that he loves is a problem he's willing to continue to live with. And gladly. Otherwise, he could spend most of his time doing a job he hates, and fight at the growing ulcers in his stomach, rather than struggle to make time for writing.

2) He Is Too Easily Distracted
Mark blogs and does other social media things rather than writing. When Mark first started his blog, he wrote quick 5 to 10 minute posts while offline on his GO train commute into Toronto. (When he arrived at the office in Toronto, he'd push the post online) He would use that blogging time as a pre-writing warm up to get the creative and writing juices flowing -- because more often than not, he would do actual real fiction writing afterwards. The proof is in the pudding because in a single one year period, Mark completed the first draft of his novel MORNING SON on his GO train trips. On the GO train he also read submissions for an anthology he'd edited, edited manuscripts from some writer friends and worked on various other short fiction writing projects, compiled and worked on his short story collection ONE HAND SCREAMING, etc. The issue is that he has gotten so distracted with blogging and other social media connections (which he continues to attempt to use to promote his writing), that they end up stealing away from his planned writing time slots.

3) Other Writing Projects Keep Slipping Into The Cracks
Working on a novel takes a significant amount of time. Working on shorter fiction and articles takes less time. For example, to work on a novel, it often takes a bit of "prep time" to re-aquaint oneself with the project -- the complex characters, relationships, previous scenes, etc. So, in a 15 minute to half an hour time chunk, perhaps only 10 minutes are spent actually composing words and writing while the rest of the time is spent "getting to" the writing. Thus, when 15 minutes or half hour or even hour long time chunks present themselves, the shorter projects often "win."

4) He Has Only Ever Written Three Novels Previous To This
While Mark has been writing for almost three decades, he doesn't really have a lot of experience writing novel-length works. While not a "novel virgin" he's rather inexperienced at writing novel length works. While he has written hundreds of shorter pieces, he has only written 3 completed novels to date. (The first two are ones that he happily relegated to the recycle bin as the experience of writing them was a learning process -- one that no reader should ever be subjected to having to suffer) Mark's forte has mostly been short fiction. He finds it easy to slip in and out of working on shorter projects, but a bit more challenging to slip in and out of a novel, due to the more complex and detailed characters, plot lines and settings involved in keeping a novel full and real.

5) He Works To Deadline
This is the most interesting one. The reason Mark started his guest spot on The Writing Show was that he recognized something in himself that has long been a fact. Mark works to deadline. If a project is due on day 10, Mark doesn't really gear up until the very last minute to work on it. Sure, he might do some prep work and start sketching things out, but the rubber doesn't really hit the road until the last possible minute. Mark was like that throughout his schooling, and most of his writing is like that. So yes, despite opening himself up to public scrutiny (which he thought would force him to finish this project quickly), he still hasn't had an actual tight, written in blood sort of deadline for this project.

Tomorrow's POST: The Top 5 Ways To Overcome The 5 "Excuses" For Not Finishing The Novel


Paula B. said...

I'm sorry, Mark, but #4 is the lamest excuse I've heard in a long time. Just X that one out. No one is going to cut you any slack for that one.

As far as deadlines are concerned, how about July 31st for your first draft?

Mark Leslie said...

LOL - guilty as charged, Paula.

I guess I wanted to have a list of 5 rather than 4 (a neater number), so kind of morphed a portion of excuse 3 into excuse 4.

July 31st, huh? Sounds like a great deadline to me.

Greg Roberts said...

I think you have to re-evaluate the true data captured in number 3. The issue is not that you have been distracted by blogging etc.. The issue is you are no longer riding the GO train, and thus no longer have enforced structured periods each day where you can write.

Since I have changed jobs and stopped riding the GO train I have stopped reading. In the last 18 months I have read 3 books. While riding the GO I would read a book a week.

Mark Leslie said...

Good point, Greg. Since losing the 3 hours per day on the GO train, I've not only lost my writing time, but have also found I'm reading less. Sigh.

(I did start listening to audio books on my drive and walk to work, so that has helped me fill in shorter "reading" times)

But I like the strategy you suggest for finding an enforced structured period