Procrastination

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I’ve been meaning to write this entry about procrastination and the role it plays in our lives as writers. But I keep putting it off.

 

Okay, it’s been four days.

 

Six days now and I’m starting this for sure.

 

I knew a guy in Hollywood who wrote screenplays and sold everything he wrote. He told me he did laundry every day. Once he felt he just had to shampoo all of his carpets before he could sit and write. And he had deadlines!

Deadlines do help. I find the self-imposed ones don’t work for me. I can tell myself all day and through Tuesday that I must write X amount of pages or X amount of words by this time or that. I never accomplish it. Maybe I make my goals unattainable. Maybe I don’t even like myself telling me what to do. One thing I do know is that having a writers’ group helps. That is a deadline I find hard to ignore. We encourage each other to write, to bring pages to read and critique. So, in my group, you can only procrastinate for so long. It helps to know on Thrusday that I have to bring in a chapter on Friday. Amazing how the muse will find you when you really need her.

Procrastination does seem to come with the territory and I believe it serves a purpose. We should allow it sometimes and wallow in it. Mine usually takes the form of housecleaning. Or reading, which we all know can only improve our writing. Maybe while procrastinating our subconscious is working out plot points or coming up with surprising twists or character definition. When I’m procrastinating, I’m also percolating.

If you’re going to put off sitting down to that next chapter, that blank screen staring at you, daring you to be brilliant, there are some constructive ways to do it.

Cleaning, of course. As I finally sit down to edit my book, Alex Bullied, at least I know there is not a dirty towel in the house and company could eat off my floors.

Read. Better than zoning out in front of the TV or Youtube.

Exercise. Go walk the dog. Go take a swim. Play with the kids. Do something physical. This is good for the body and good for the brain.

Socialize. Antoher way I love to procrastinate — planning a party or small dinner. It works my creative muscles. And I get to talk about my book, if my friends let me. I’ve always loved a comic from years ago, two people talking at a cocktail party. One of them says, “Enough about me. Let’s talk about my book.” It’s almost too true to be funny.

Travel. Try to take a research trip for your book. But even it it has nothing to do with anything you’re writing, the time away will help clear your head, give you new ideas and refresh you. Bring a notebook!

So if you worship at the feet of Swami Procrastinada, as I do, do not despair. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be a real writer. In fact, it proves you are just that.

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In Way Of An Introduction

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Any writer, old or new, knows the publishing business has changed radically in the last ten years or so. More every day. Publish on Demand companies have proliferated. Kindle allows anyone to post their work for free. Does it sell? Sure. If you market it diligently, you may sell twenty copies. If you’re one of the lucky ones.

It’s still better to get a deal with a pubishing house, preferably one of the Big Five. You still need a literary agent to accomplish this. Literary agents reject unsolicited material 99% of the time. You have to be in the one percent. One percent!

The first objective on the path to publishing success is the most vital: write a great book. There’s a lot to be said on this and I certainly will. The first thing towards this goal is the Great Idea.

I don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, but I get a lot of ideas. All the time. I do not lack for things to write about. I can get a one-word idea and within days a story has formed — characters peek out, dialogue speaks to me.

For the book I’ve just finished the word was Mathia. I could see a group of math and science nerds organizing, calling themselves the Mathia. They bully the bullies. I collected ideas about plot, characters, settings, and bits of dialogue on scraps of paper for almost a year, dropping them into a basket while I finished editing another manuscript

When I finally sat down to write what I refer to as “the bully book”, it went quickly and was so much fun to channel my inner eighth grade boy.

The book is about thirteen-year-old Alex Withal, who has been a bully since second grade. He’s about to go into eighth grade and knows he will rule the school. But his dad gets transferred five hundred miles away and he ends up in a math and sciences middle school run by — who else? — the Mathia. The book is titled Alex Bullied.

Told from the first-person perspective of Alex, this was a blast to write. My writers groups were very encouraging along the way. It’s the kind of book children literary agents profess to be looking for. If I can write it well. If I write a fun, entertaining story for middle grade boys. If I can also come up with a killer query. If I can be in the one percent.

I have a ways to go. I will be finishing the first edit soon. Then it will go to my first readers for their comments and critique. I will experience my first crisis of confidence. After fighting back from that, I will edit again. I will do all I can to make this a book no agent can refuse. No publisher can refuse. No reader can put down.Ultimately, to me, it’s all about the readers.

I will make this story stronger with every rewrite. With help, I will search out every grammar and puncuation error. I believe in an “invisible manuscript.” An agent’s assistant, or agent, or editor should not have their focus pulled from the story or the writing. I have to write a great book.

Now you are up to date on this adventure with me. I will chronicle every miserable (or jubilant) step and rejection along the way. I don’t know if Alex Bullied will be good enough to be in the one percent, but at least I will present myself as professionally as I can, remain open to helpful critique, and always, always, try not to give up.

They may reject me, but they’ll never break me.