How I write - really
I’ve just finished a long short story. How’s that for an oxymoron? It’s about 14,000 words, and I was going to use it as an example of how I write. But I would have felt like a fraud. The problem with going on about how you did something is that you’re only focusing on the part where you were productive. What that doesn’t cover is how much time you spent actively avoiding doing anything; how much time you spent doubting what you were doing; and how much time you spent going over what you’d already done, rather than pushing forward and finishing it.
So I thought I’d give you the whole picture.
The first thing I did was write about 20,000 words related to a different idea. None of them were good, and I couldn’t find anything resembling a story. I got to about a month out from deadline and I panicked. I had no confidence that it would ‘give’ in time. That it would let me in, so to speak. So I went with another idea. Something I’d started work on a long time ago.
But I’ve changed as a writer, so anything I thought was still useable from that original story had to be re-written. I ended up discarding about three quarters of the original plot and taking the whole thing in a new direction. I also got rid of my main character, which meant I had to tell the story from a new character’s viewpoint.
The only good thing was that it ‘gave’ pretty quickly. So I felt like I was 'in the story'. (I can’t think of a better way to put it, but I hope you get what I mean.) It started well, and I got my first 5,000 words down. But then I froze, and kept working and re-working those words rather than pushing forward. Whenever I wrote a new scene, I ended up disliking it, and erasing it.
With around a week to go, I got hit with a whole heap of other stuff to do because Night Beach was about to be released. So I asked if I could please, please, please have an extra week - even though I used to think I'd never be one of those authors, turns out I am one of those authors.
Luckily, I was allowed another week. Great. Another week of pain. Really panicking now, I managed to eke out a further 5,000 words. But I still couldn’t finish it. At this point, I started whinging – to my husband, my friends, my mum, my dad. And they just looked bored, because apparently I do this EVERY TIME.
About four days out from my new deadline, I kind of shut down. Instead of going up to my desk to work one night, I watched The Block. Why? Because I felt miserable and I wanted to watch someone else who felt they were faced with an insurmountable task.
Did it help? Not really. But the next day, I finally felt like words were coming easily. And not all of them were bad. At that point, I committed to finishing the story.
I had a similar experience ahead of the deadline for Night Beach. Getting it finished was a saga, not least because a whole heap of life stuff got in the way. But I do remember that towards the end I realised I had to accept all that and just write anyway. They were parameters I had to work with, and they were difficult, but I could still work if I really, really wanted to.
I find the pressure of a deadline difficult to cope with. But sometimes I think that at least they force me to finish. Even before I got published, I used to use competitions as deadlines for finishing work.
How about you guys? Do you like deadlines? Do you rise to them? Or do you procrastinate and faff around like me? Have you got any tips on how to deal with them?
PS I watched The Voice, too, but it didn't help either.
PPS Don't forget the GIVEAWAY. There is a deadline for that, and it's the end of the month. So get cracking on that note. If you need a refresher, check my second post for this month.