First off, I am not encouraging my fellow writers to procrastinate… Y’all don’t need encouragement as much as y’all need a pep talk. However, writers procrastinate for reasons, and sometimes it’s important to indulge. These reasons include:
- not knowing the next step
- sub-optimal writing environment
- not loving your WIP
- heavy material
If you find yourself caught up by one of these reasons, it’s OK to step away from your WIP for a moment. To use your time in a productive and positive manner that may even get your butt back in the chair and the pen back in your hand, do one of the activities below (in no particular order):
Read writer interviews:
I love reading writer interviews, not only for picking up nuggets of advice, but also to see that they have been exactly where I have been in their writing journey, or might even have tidbits to prepare me for something I might encounter in the (hopefully, near-) future.
My favorite sources for interviews are http://www.novelicious.com/ (not, I believe, associated with the automated Novelicious Twitter account) and the NaNoWriMo pep talks: http://nanowrimo.org/pep-talks
Read books on writing or marketing:
One of the best ways to make the writing bug bite is to read a book that makes you focus on what you’re writing, how to improve it, or how to promote it to the people who would most likely want to read it. One of my–and everyone’s–favorites is On Writing by Stephen King, because not only is it Stephen-frakking-King, but he weaves insightful or amusing autobiographical information with useful writing advise.
Other craft books I’ve enjoyed/found useful:
Since I’m leaning more heavily toward going full-indie, I’ve also been reading a lot of books on book marketing. This will not only assist you with marketing, but also pitching your book to agents. These are good at helping you with things like selecting your genre, writing your blurb, and creating a platform before you are published (or after).
There are several free PDF’s and such you can get by signing up for mailing lists, such as for K. M. Weiland, but there are a lot of useful books well worth the low price of the Kindle eBook:
30-Day Book Marketing Challenge by Rachel Thompson (I found this especially useful for shining a light on how I’m marketing incorrectly on Twitter as well as Wattpad, although Wattpad isn’t even mentioned: Don’t just follow writers; You want the majority of your followers to be readers.)
Edit or beta-read someone else’s work:
The best method of learning what not to do is by reading it in someone else’s work. Stephen King can tell me to kill all adverbs and Joe Lansdale can preach against said tags all day long, but the message never really hit home until I read a manuscript with an excessive amount of adverbs and obnoxious said tags. I realized just how irritating they are!
In addition to learning what not to do, if you offer to beta read or edit for other writers, you’re nurturing a relationship with them and building on to your writer tribe. The best method of learning is to teach, and the best way to improve your writing is to have a wide range of beta readers.
Revise your outline:
This is my favorite form of procrastination. If I’m not ready to step up to the text, I’ll return to my outline. I may change it from a rigid I. i. ii. II. i. III. i. ii. iii. outline into a timeline (or calendar, depending on how the plot structures time), or freewrite a paragraph or so per plot point, or apply the plot to a 3/4/6-act plot structure.
If you don’t have an outline, play around with creating one!
Read in your genre:
Reading in your genre is important for two main reasons: pacing and tropes. If you read extensively in a certain genre, these things should come naturally, because you’re so familiar with them. But if you haven’t read in a while, or you read a lot of genres, it might not be so instinctive.
When I first started writing, I hadn’t read in a long time for various reasons, and, as Stephen King says in the book mentioned above, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” So I was seriously unequipped, and you can see it in my syntax and my pacing in COLOSSUS (more on that at the bottom) and Sweet NOTHING (which I caught–for the most part–in editing). My pacing is like an excessive amount of stitches in a single wound.
It’s also great to find a traditionally-published bestseller in your genre that you can refer to when you’re hung up a bit on little formatting things: I am constantly referring back to novels like Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park and Richard Adams’s Watership Down to review syntax and certain grammatical structures (like how to interject action in a line of dialogue). I referred to Karin Slaughter’s Triptych–before I sold it back to the bookstore where I bought it–for framing dialogue with exposition and how to balance my paragraphs.
Then Get Back to Work!
I recommend setting a timer, or allowing only one act of procrastination, and drawing a hard line for yourself when the time comes. Not doing so may make you feel worse for “wasting” so much time not writing!
If you have any other favorite writerly pastimes that help you re-focus back on your work, let us know in the comments below! Also, mention or link us to your favorite craft or marketing books, blogs, or vlogs, because I am ALWAYS looking for other ways to procra–I mean, other ways to improve my craft!
What is Jette up to?
–I am launching my novelette, Assassin’s Arrangement, which is 99 cents until August 6th!
About a two hour read, Assassin’s Arrangement is full of Bond-like action and sexiness, with Victorian gentility (and snobbishness), and presents a sharp twist on the damsel-in-distress trope.
The better my books do, the more I will write and publish!
–I’m about to send Two Guns to my editor, and I am dead-set to have it released November 20th! I may even set up a pre-order page, because if I don’t make my goal, I’ll be banned from setting up pre-orders for a year.
–To prepare for the Two Guns release, I’m relaunching COLOSSUS with cleaner cover fixtures, a new blurb, and polished writing. That will be made official on Halloween.
If you’d like to receive an eARC in exchange for a review of any of these, shoot me an email! jetterfly [at] gmail [dot] com.
Want more Avery Rhodes? Check out becomingcolossus.wordpress.com/