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Pressure, pitfalls, and procrastination

or, how one author gets it done





So you have bought a computer, you have a fresh word file open, you have actually admitted out loud to someone else that you want to write a book.  Now what?  Now the pressure is on...


Often times, writing can flow from one's fingers like we are mere vehicles from which the words spill.  But more often than not,!  I am a pressure junkie.  Give me a deadline and I love ya.  Find me close to that deadline and I am in heaven!  I am a professional procrastinator.  As such I have had to admit the pitfalls I constantly descend into, and to make better habits for myself.  If you are looking for motivation and/or better writing habits, some of my hints may be of use to you.  Read on!

  • You had plans to finish your book in a couple of months?

  • People are asking how your writing is coming along?

  • There is a competition you want to enter but you need a full manuscript ready first?

You can learn to use all those little voices inside and outside of your head, egging you on, creating doubts, keeping you from your task.  These outside pressures can be a great motivator.  Use them.  Savour them.  Or ignore them outright and rely on that one person who can more pressure on you than all the rest combined.  You.  Whatever motivation gets words onto the page is the right one from you.


I recently went to a talk by Temptation author, Stephanie Bond, who suggested the brilliant idea of having a kitchen timer to hand to give yourself half hour blocks under the pressure of a ticking clock in which to write.  Great advice for those who do not find the time to get their fingers to the keyboard.  I am the opposite.  I have the time to write, but the inclination to be easily distracted.  So I have great big plans on using said kitchen timer to limit my time partaking in those naughty distractions which keep me away from my laptop.


Which leads me onto...




In my writing life, most of my tendencies towards procrastination are helped along by distractions.  Here are a few distractions that keep me very very busy as well as some ways I have found to keep them in line.


The Internet!  That is a biggie!  Especially when it is a seriously viable tool for a writer.

  • Don't we have to check our emails for news from editors?  Agents?  Readers?

  • Don't we have to do plenty of serious research?  Don't we have to find out, right now, the Italian translation for "I love you lots and lots"?

  • Don't we have to check up on our writers' loops to make sure we are up to speed on the current ebbs and flows of the publishing industry?

Yes.  Yes!  And YES!  But how about we limit ourselves.  How about we give ourselves a workable time limit for the amount of time spent every day.  My personal favourite is to make sure that I am off the Internet by midday.  My prime writing time is midday until 4pm.  So that way, I can sleep in as long as I like, need, require, desire so long as I know that all of my Internet work and play time, whether it is altering my website, buying books on Amazon, or just plain surfing, I MUST be completed by midday.  I tell you works!


Then we have those other fabulous distractions that crop up for someone working from home.  TV and food.  These are all avoidable in a similar way.  Don't deny yourself or you will only crave them all the more.  Remember Ms Bond's 30 minute kitchen timer?  Well how about using the ticking clock method to limit your time on these other pursuits.  As soon as that buzzer goes off, no matter if Mr Darcy is about to propose to Lizzie, no matter if you think you could really do with a second helping of scones with jam and cream, the TV must be switched off, the fridge must be ignored as your backside plonks back on the chair, fingers on the keyboard and you will be write, write, writing again.


As for friends, family and the phone, I will leave it up to you to find your own way to tell them "rack off, I'm writing now!!!"




Once you have fabulous systems in place to make your writing time as effective as possible, what can possibly stop you then?


Writing the right book.  Are you writing a book because it is the type of book you love to read?  Are you writing a book because you heard that so and so publisher is looking for a 25th century werewolf novella set in outer space?  Or are you writing the book that has been whispering to you forever and ever?  The book with the characters who made your tummy go all warm and fuzzy whenever you think of them?  I promise, if are writing a book that you love that much, others will too.


Getting through the book.  Treat yourself.  Give yourself presents along the way.  Every 10,000 words, or every 50 pages, give yourself a treat.  Whether it is a manicure, a massage, or to let yourself write the dedication (now that's thinking positively!) have something really nice in mind, something that will make you want to write just another few words until you reach each momentous milestone.  I never write those two magic words, THE END until I am happy that I have finished my first draft.  The thrill that gives me each and every time is such a great motivator.  What will motivate you to push through the wall?


Finishing the book.  Bestselling romance author Nora Roberts said, A bad page is better than a blank page.  This one spoke volumes to me.  Ideas are easy.  Partials are a breeze.  Keeping characters, plot and conflict humming along beautifully for a full 55,000 words is hard!  So just like the great and wonderful Nora, and the very clever Nike company, my advice is to just do it!  Writers write?  So write.

  • If you hit a point where you are having to squeeze out the words.  Move to another scene.

  • If you can't find the exact word you are looking for, write a close enough word, highlight it in yellow (saffron, gold, sunshine, corn)  and come back to it later.

  • If you aren't in the right frame of mind in which to write a love scene, write the words THEY KISS in big bold red letters which you just can't miss and...come back to it later when you are ready and raring to go!

Ignoring the next big idea This is probably my biggest distraction to finishing a book.  The next big idea!  Those gorgeous characters, so fresh, so new, so unknown, so ready to send your current book to partial hell.  This is a tricky one for me, as I know that sometimes I simply have to get the details of the new idea down or else it might disappear.  That's no problem.  This is where you can use the ticking clock to your advantage as well.  I write my current WIP from midday until 4pm.  Once it hits 4pm, my time is my own.  I can use that time to write whatever I want! (Or to happily give into the fridge and TV distractions.)  If you deny yourself your new ideas completely, you will be denying the very thing which will hopefully make you a prolific writer for a long long time.


As for me, I actually divide my creativity.  I pretty much always write two books at a time.  I have two ideas I am really happy with and I chug along with both until one suddenly pushes in and says, "Hey we want to get together first!"  I find this a great help, as once this first manuscript is complete, I am usually around halfway through the next. 


I have found this a really helpful skill.  Being published with Harlequin, means producing around 3 books per year.  So just when I get stuck into the middle of a book, the proof edits of the previous book turn up on my doorstep needing my immediate attention.  So it is actually worthwhile being able to jump into different characters' heads at the same time.


In the end it is all about self-discipline.  So you do what you need to do to get the job done.  Take ideas from me.  Take ideas from how to books.  Take ideas from how your own hits and misses.  Just remember, every writer is different, every writer has their own way to battle the pressure of pitfalls and procrastination.  So don't be afraid of finding your own pathway and sticking to it!



All articles copyright Ally Blake, not to be reproduced without permission.











































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