Saturday, 12 January 2013

ten things a writer shouldn't do...


I'm in the mood for lists. I think it's a New Year thing. You always feel more in control when you have a good list by your side! I'm trying to organise my work life. A hard task considering that organisation doesn't come easily to me - along with house cleaning, putting my clothes away and avoiding chocolate. Anyway, for what it's worth here are my thoughts on what a writer shouldn't do in order to get their book finished.
 
  1. Don't stay up all night to get some writing done. STUPID. In desperation to actually achieve something this school holiday, other than picking up after two tiny kids, I thought it was clever to drink massive amounts of caffeine and stay awake to write. Sure, I got the peace and quiet that I was desperate for. I also got serious jitters, a headache and thirty pages of absolute rubbish that I'll never be able to use!
 
  1. Don't get any animals. Seriously. I tried to calculate how many hours I spend distracted with pets when I could have been writing and ran out of fingers. Cats that sit on your keyboard. Dogs that chew through computer cables. Chickens that escape their pen and nest in your office cupboard only to squawk when you least expect it. And that damn sheep who constantly leaves a little trail of 'presents' outside my office door. NO. Get rid of the animals and write the book!  
 
The chair in my office. I bought it in a junk shop in the hope I could edit in comfort. The cat won't let me near it!
  1. Don't fall into the research trap. It's a pit you'll never get out of. Wean yourself off Google. Join a support group if that's what it takes and the next time you hear yourself say - just one more click, one more page and I'm done - unplug your internet connection and write your book instead.  
 
  1. If at all possible - gag your husband. If I had a dollar for every time I've had to stop writing to answer the question - how's the work going? I'd be rich. The answer my darling, is that the work would be going a lot better if you'd stop asking about it!
 
  1. Don't buy cookies while trying to convince yourself  that  you need the sugar to think. You don't need that much energy to write. Climb a mountain, maybe, but sitting in a chair, no. Sure your fingers get a workout, but all those calories don't make it to your fingers they only fall from the stomach to the hips. So next time you try to convince yourself that a writer needs brain food, remind yourself that brain food is tuna, not chocolate digestives. 
 
  1. Don’t listen to any critics while writing your book. Ignore all of them - good, bad, internal, external. Concentration is a fragile thing.  It often doesn't take that much to derail your thought process. This week my seven year old read my computer screen while dancing as a fairy beside me - she said, "Lake is a silly name for a boy. And if this is set in Scotland shouldn't he be called Loch?" That was enough to stop the creative flow dead, although to be fair the fairy dancing had already put a nail in the coffin. And for the record, my new hero is called Lake Benson and I like it! So there! 
 
  1. Don't get distracted by fancy new computer programmes. All you need to write is a pen and a piece of paper, everything else is icing. Plus, lets be honest. How many of us have the degree in IT we need to decipher some of these things? I spent three hours this week just trying to figure out what a widget was, before I could even decide if I needed one or not! Time well spent…
 
  1. Never stop work to answer the door. This never leads to anything good. People will come back. And if they don't all the better!
 
  1. Don't take yourself too seriously. The next time you're wishing the keyboard would work by magic, and the words would appear on the screen straight from your brain - remind yourself that you're writing fiction, not the constitution for a new country. Lighten up. Have fun.  Take a break. The words will always come when they're needed - I hope!
 
As you can see my brain dried up after point 9. I'm hoping that you can provide no. 10! So, what's on your list for 2013? What do you plan to avoid in order to get that book finished? I want to know!

38 comments:

  1. Love it Janet, especially since I was seriously considering doing number 1. Thanks for saving me from myself.

    Also re number 2, where the hell is your office?

    I just realised I have Laura's Big Break sitting on my kindle off to find and read it now!

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  2. Hey Leigh, thanks for making me laugh! I know it sounds like my office is in the middle of a field but it isn't - I just live in chaos! Hope you enjoy Laura's Big Break. Thanks for stopping by. :)

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  3. Should also say, the sheep keeps breaking into the house. She has identity issues. She thinks she's part human and should be living with us!

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  4. 'If they don't, all the better'! Love it! Great advice, pithily put. may have to direct people to it, I think! Mine is nowhere near as much fun, but I think it would be to separate the creation writing time and the business time and never let the latter bleed into the former!

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    1. That's advice I need too, Imelda! Especially for those times when the writing is hard and playing with the internet so much easier! :)

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  5. Very entertaining, Janet. I agree with every single 'rule'. Oh and do tell your seven year old dancing fairy critic that I for one think Lake is a great name for a boy - better than Pond...maybe not quite as good as River, but it works for me.

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    1. Thanks Clover and ManicScribbler! And I agree, River is a great name - I called my hero's brother that! Was going for the whole hippy vibe... Thanks stopping by and letting me distract you even more! :)

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  7. How 'bout: Don't leave your work in progress for any length of time. Stay in the world of your story.

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    1. Couldn't agree more Roxy! It's horrible when things become stale and you just can't get into it again. Thanks for adding to my list. :)

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  8. Great post! My dogs seek me out for scratches, cookies, walks, tug-of-war, chase, walks, meals, more play, begging, and whatever other reason they can come up with. My husband comes home and sees a dozen toys in a circle around my chair and says, "what, did you play all day?" lol

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    1. Yeah Rose, and when you shut the door to keep the dog out, she just scratches and whines from the other side... animals! :)

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  9. I love #4. Enough said. For me, #10 would be No TV or music in the background - can't concentrate with other people's words floating around.

    #11 would be to be careful what you are reading while you are writing. I find I pick up other author's word choices, sentence patterns, dialogue, etc, so I especially try to avoid reading the same genre that I am writing.

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    1. Oh Jill, I had a German friend years ago who would speak English with the accent of whomever she was talking to at that time! Sounds like you have the writing version of that. I'm not sure there's a cure! Thanks for adding to my list. I have to agree - I can't work with noise either!!

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  10. Love the chicken in the office on item #2. Ahem, better get back to work now...

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    1. have to say, sometimes I really DON'T love the chickens!! :)

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  11. The husband one resonated particularly with me. Knock, knock. "Can I just show you this?" Knock, knock. "Sorry, I forgot to say..." Knock, knock. "Your sister is on the phone. I thought you'd want to talk to her..." Worse, he has NO idea what the interruptions do to me. I can no more stop him than I can stop the sun from rising.

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    1. Yes! It's impossible to get through to them. And mine looks so rejected when I tell him to bog off, which makes me even more distracted! Men! :)

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  12. #10 Try hard not to get distracted reading everyone else's books. I'm most productive right after I finish reading a good book. I don't want to pick up another one for a good . . . oh, I don't know, an hour or so. But once I get reading, especially a sensual historical, I can't wait to escape out of my world and into that one. I write less, read more, cut off writing early and go to bed early so I can read. That definitely does not get my novel finished.

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    1. Yes! But don't you feel guilty Sydney? I do. I have all these great books sitting there, lots from authors I know, and I FEEL bad neglecting them! But if I read all day, when will I write?? Ah, the dilemma... :)

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  13. Very funny! Thanks for the advice. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Diane. I should add - don't be distracted by writers who are entertaining themselves with their blogs - to my list! :)

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    1. Yep, Kara, there's a lot of us out there! :) Thanks for stopping by. janet

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  15. I loved this post and it is all true!

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  16. Very entertaining, Janet! Two things jump out - why the heck do you have a sheep in your house? Or maybe your office is in a separate building?!! And I love your seven year old and that Lake/Loch comment - so clever :)

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    1. Thanks Jennifer! I have sheep problems. A pet who wants to live in the house with us. She thinks she's too good for other sheep! :)

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  17. I can't believe how much we have in common Janet - two little kids, too many pets, a love of chocolate and a hatred of housework. ; ) And to top it all off, my husband wanted to name our firstborn son (or daughter) Lake!

    I like your rules. I guess if I were to add a tenth, it would be something along the lines of trying to strike a balance. That's a tough one. Balancing writing with promotion and marketing; family, friends and pets; and shopping, cleaning and cooking, striking a balance is so difficult, yet important.

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    1. Ah, ha! I knew it wasn't just me!! :) Balance? It's been so long since I've been balanced in anything that I'm not sure I'd recognise it if I was! Very good point for the list Danita :)

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  18. Number ten for me is don't pick up a novel. I always tell myself I'll read for a "little while" then end up reading the whole darn book!

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    1. Worse when you stay up all night to read that novel you can't put down - then, not only don't you get any work done, but you're exhausted too! :)

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  19. Fun post, Janet! At least your hubby asks about your work. Mine interrupts me to tell me about the latest football play. ;)

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    1. Sorry, I shouldn't have laughed Linsey, but I did! What we suffer, eh? :)

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  20. Loved it - and see myself in a few of these!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Marlie and letting me distract you further from your writing! :)

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  21. 10. Never go to bed with a finished paragraph. You'll wake up with nothing to write. Leave a sentence unfinished. When you come back to it, you'll finish the sentence and you'll automatically me back in the zone. It much harder to start writing than to keep writing, so leave somrthing hanging, it'll get you started in the morning.

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    1. I love this idea David. But you must get a lot more sleep than I do - there is a good chance I'd wake up and have NO idea what I was writing about! Some days I struggle with remembering my name... :)

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