It has been a long road since I started writing my novel Blood Feud. The journey began in April of 2012. I remember it well — a month of straight writing where the ideas just flowed like water. They pooled onto the page with little effort as months of thinking about my story and characters finally found a permanent place on the page. My story flourished but my poor family suffered from neglect. So at the end of the month and about 50,000 words later, I took a break. A few weeks later I came back to my marvelous work of art to realize everything I had written was total crap. And that pretty much sums up the next four years. Awesome spurts of writing where words flowed and family suffered just to end up with… yep you guessed it, more crap.
That my friends is the way of the writer as I am sure some of you are quite familiar with.
But something happened in my fifth year of writing. During my sixtieth (and really that’s not much of an exaggeration) rewrite of Blood Feud, the crap fell away and a good story finally started to form. At least to the point where I felt confident enough to send my work to a professional author, editor, and friend (Michael Knost) so he could tell me it was crap too. And to my surprise, he said it was a pretty awesome story.
Ever look back and read work you’ve done in the past to realize it sucks so bad you almost feel physically ill?
Yep, that happened to me in a big way Sunday. The previous week my son started school on Wednesday, so I started working on my new novel with gusto (I’d been waiting all summer to start!), but realized I had some background information and research that needed to be done first. Then I got the bright idea to read the half completed first draft of my second novel (Dark Territories) over the weekend. God, what a horrible, awful, terrible disappointment that turned out to be.
I couldn’t even get all the way through two chapters before I decided I’d had enough, because I was real close to vomiting. Yeah, it was that bad. And I can’t even pinpoint one specific thing that was terrible. There was a well balanced amount of terribleness from stiff and completely out of character dialogue to plot leaps that would make a mountain goat proud. There were tie-ins from one story arc to another that left me wondering exactly how much I had to drink that day. And please don’t even get me started on my long windedness. I could probably make a schooner set sail with all that blustering air moving about in each scene.
Procrastination plagues all writers at one time or another in the writing journey. It’s a barrier that must be broken through to be a writer, and separates the casual writer from the real writers. Procrastination a tricky beast that takes on the face of many problems like writer’s block, the missing muse, the “I don’t have time to write” excuse, or how about the “I can’t write, because I’m just not that good at it anyways.”
Say what!? That stuff isn’t procrastination. No. No. No. Those things are real problems. Really they are. Aren’t they?
I have found that there are times that it is harder to write than others. It seems that everything else comes first or a minor distraction is enough to pull me away from the task at hand. A lot of times what it simply boils down to is not enough discipline. What do I mean about that?
Humans are creatures that work best on a reward system. Look at children. A parent rewards a child for doing something good and punishes them for doing something wrong or not doing something when it should be done. A similar approach should be taken by adults. Adults need that check and balance to get them to where they need to go. It’s a basic form of motivation, but even more than that. It’s holding oneself accountable.
I found that with my writing, if I reward myself for reaching goals and punish myself for not getting things done, that it creates the formula needed to write and not opt to do something else like pick up a book, play a computer game or watch Television. But what does this mean?
Well if I reach a story deadline, I usually treat myself to an extra special dessert, or I read a book I’ve been wanting to read for awhile, or if it’s a really big deal then maybe treat myself to a professional massage.
But what if I don’t reach my deadline or I keep floundering about with my writing? Then, I may cut off all access to the Television for a few days, restrict my access to the internet (social sites), or ban myself from eating chocolate for a few days (the worst punishment EVER!).
The rewards or punishments don’t have to be extravagant. They just need to be in place to give borders and discipline. If you are one of these people who doesn’t need checks and balances, then I salute you and envy you greatly, but for the rest of us it is a way to give oneself the perimeter in which to work in.