Old habits

book 101 habitsKaralee’s Post #13 — I tend to over-edit, be over-critical of my first draft, and to be incessantly driven to write a continuous flowing story with nothing missing right from the get go.

I tell you, it doesn’t work.

No time like the present to change one’s bad habits. Maybe a few quotes  can spur me on my way:

  1. The nature of men is always the same: it is their habits that separate them. CONFUCIUS, Analects,  6th – 5th Century B.C.
  2. Habit is a second nature that prevents us from knowing the first, of which it has neither the cruelties nor the enchantments, MARCEL PROUST, Remembrance of Things Past: The Guermantes Way, 1913-27
  3. Rigid, the skeleton of habit alone upholds the human frame. VIRGINIA WOOLF, Mrs. Dalloway,  1925

So what do I do? Beyond a doubt, I have to step up my output.

Well, I bought a book at the Surrey International Writer’s Convention called The 101 HABITS of highly successful NOVELISTS by Andrew McAleer. It might just become my new bible.

Some things are meant to happen.

I had walked by the book sitting on one of the vender tables and had fingered through it a couple of times and then gone off to look at other books with  real fiction stories. Something kept drawing me back.

It may have been the niggling buzz that is now a roaring river that’s rushing at me to get this 5Writers5Months5Novels challenge completed. It may have been the fact that I know I get stuck on the first chapter since so much emphasis is put on the first few pages (even more so on the opening paragraph), and I do want to be published. I also have a habit of editing what I’ve written yesterday before I make headway today.

This book may be my inspiration to adopt better habits. It’s organized as the title indicates and I’m working my way through it. It has twelve chapters that have 101 points in total. My problem is addressed in a few places:

  • Setting Reasonable Goals
  • Not Being Afraid to Fail
  • Trusting Your Instincts
  • Completing your First Draft
  • (followed by) Editing and Rewriting

Actually, there is a complete chapter dedicated to The Editing Process.

So how do I break my habits that interfere with my productivity?

I’ve decided to not sweat the small or big stuff, but to just get the job done. We said that very phrase “just get the job done,” thousands of times to our middle son as he found every excuse around to NOT do his chores or his schoolwork. Eventually the message resonated as he was left out of fun activities until he co-operated and participated in what had to be done.

For me that means I must keep forging ahead even though I haven’t figured out how my villain befriends my protagonist. I’ve got the villainous parts down pat thank goodness. I can build in their relationship later and trust myself that as I’m writing, an obvious activity or situation will come forth and expose itself like stripping down when taking a bath. Who says it has to be in the shower?

I can also leave those annoying third person scenes in their original incorrect form and address them on my rewrite. Remember, I’m writing in first person (for the first time), but third person keeps creeping in like, well, an old habit.

I certainly can stop researching every small detail to get the first draft as perfect as possible. That too can be done on the rewrite.

I could also stop doing the housecleaning, cooking and dog walking too. (Good luck with that one.)

Going forth, I can and will relax and enjoy my protagonist getting into deeper trouble with her boss as she starts to unravel the mystery behind seemingly unrelated missing persons in the community. And I can’t wait to see how her boss reacts to her insubordination especially when he has to rely on her when his own family is implicated.

That said, what is my progress to date? We all work differently and I’m not a page or word counter as such. Rather, my goal is to write a minimum of two scenes a day (starting NOW), and to get to the end of Act Two by the New Year.

My old unproductive habits have been revealed. I’m sure you have some too. What would you like to change?


11 thoughts on “Old habits

  1. I’m not sure you should change. I find that working through some of the small details on the first draft gives me ideas and/or direction, or convinces me to abandon ideas and directions. For me, unresolved ideas or details make whatever follow precarious. Then again, my stories turn on the vagaries of specifics and details, even(especially?) those that seem inconsequential.

    • Thanks Jerry. I do need to get a handle on my self editing that does squash my creativity. I find that when I get into the story that ideas come to me that sitting and thinking don’t seem to inspire. You are right about getting the details down as they are the key to the story coming together. Happy writing.

  2. oh my, you read my own dilemmas out loud. I am stuck on re-writing one chapter, unable to get into the next. I am getting my early part done, for sure, but I am not developing my plot and perhaps I am avoiding the most uncomfortable unknowing. I may have a good beginning, with little to follow if I don’t get through it. Thanks for the sharing . I appreciate the need to just get the job done, and the reminder to do that. I realized that something that Hallie Ephron said- about finding, about identifying”what are the ruby slippers” is also true for me. I allow myself to get stuck in my descriptions and original actions, perhaps because I am stuck without a clear vision of what my ruby slippers are, and cannot yet move my dialogue forward.

  3. Good post Karalee, and believe me, I share your pain! I’m starting to think that the big outcome of our 5 writers challenge may really be about learning who we are as writers and how to really develop our professional writing practices, including our work habits … and how to reach within ourselves to find the courage, inspiration and drive to write every day (or most days at least). Like a real job. Hey, it’s not as easy as it looks, is it?

    You’ll get there Karalee!

  4. I keep saying I’m going to learn to just write the stuff down and not go back and edit, but I have yet to do it. It’s one of the few consistent parts of my writing process; that for the first third of the book, I have to feel it’s right, and for warm-up, I go back a couple of days work and edit until I get to new stuff. After about the first third, it’s clear enough that I can then forge ahead and make notes on what needs to change. That means my progress is slow. But I get it done. Four published books, two drafts waiting for revision, and one almost completed draft into my career, I think I can say it works for me. But not with deadlines – I, at least, cannot write a draft to a deadline that way. I doubt anyone who writes like that can. Can you finish in time Karalee?

    What about the rest of you? If you can’t finish to the deadline you imposed, what happens? It’s critical to your success as a writer to learn about your writing process, but you still have a book on the go. As I understand it, the original point was to get something in rough draft to prove you could do it, and to have something in hand to revise enough to send out. Will those of you who don’t finish on your five month deadline make a commitment to finish the book (and honour that commitment), or will you gradually work less and less on it until it’s abandoned? You need to be realistic with yourselves, to not bite off more than you can chew, and to learn to work within your writing limitations so that you don’t boobytrap yourselves into feeling like failures. For me, for example, that means I never sign up for NaNoWritMo because I know going in I cannot turn out 50,000 word in one month. I’d be doomed to failure because my process doesn’t work that way. So, no matter how tempting it is, I don’t do it. But I still get the words down. You need to figure that out, arrange your lives so that you’re comfortable with your process and get the work out the way that suits you best.

    And finish these books. Don’t drop them because your process doesn’t fit a five month time line. Keep the commitment, get them done and revise them – finish the second part of the commitment, even if you don’t make your deadline.

    • Hi Bev. You and I seem to write in much the same manner. The last half of my book is always quicker than the first half. That said, this challenge is two fold. First to get a first draft done in 5 months and second to challenge ourselves on creating new characters in a new setting and a new style of writing. I believe we will all get our first draft done. Mine may have lots of holes to fill in, but pushing myself to keep going and not backtrack may open new doors for me. Ideas may come quicker and work themselves in my brain and give me plot twists that I may not have had otherwise. The beauty of Scrivener is that all the plot changes that need to happen can be kept in a new folder very easily accessible so I can refer to it for consistency and make the necessary changes to the beginning part later. I’m hoping it will be enlightening for me and give me more scope in my writing to actually produce to a deadline.
      I think our whole group works better to deadlines. What do you say 5 Writers?

      • Honestly don’t know whether I’ll have a full draft by February 5. Ask me in a month!

  5. Um. Where do I begin? Spending a whole day on social networking and never quite getting to the writing/editing until “it’s too late to start” would be one. Also having so many interests that lead to new projects that have to be started right now so I have to put aside the one I’m already working on, just before it’s finished, so it never gets finished. Also putting off submitting manuscripts to agents and editors until I fix/improve just one more little thing.

    Great post Karalee. Good luck with your goals and breaking old habits. Can I borrow that book when you’re done with it? 😉

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