But, I have to Write it!

But I Don’t Wanna!
Pam Uphoff

When the words flow, it’s like flying. Like being in love and walking on air.

And it usually happens when you _ought_ to be writing something else.

If the life of the writer was easier, there would be a whole lot more of us. But it isn’t easier, and sometimes we just have to go back to the old story and finish it. Edit it. Polish it. Rewrite it because every single beta reader said the same thing didn’t work for them.

And the story you shouldn’t be writing is right there, pushing at you.

What do you do about it?

That’s both the curse and the blessing of Indy. There’s no one but my inner Nanny nagging at me. “You _said_ you were going to finish this by the end of the month! And here you are doodling down another scene from another new book!” No contract deadlines. It doesn’t matter, if the book gets pushed off another month.

Except it does. The longer between releases, the lower your sales of previous books go, the lower your author rankings, your books fall out of the sub-sub-genre best selling lists. An extra couple of months between releases, and that new release is going to have to dig out of a pit, instead of starting one rung up the ladder, lofted by sales to people who liked the previous book.

So the curse of Indy is that you can easily divert or procrastinate yourself into lower sales.

So . . . you–or in this case me–needs to kick herself in the derriere, and write what she needs to do.

Part of the time.

Yeah, fly with the new story! Get that scene down. Give a big breath of repletion. Tell yourself “good job, kick back and think about the next scene while doing some scut work on that tired old story (that had you flying just a few months ago.)”

Umm. If only it were so easy.

Hauling your mind out of one set of characters, one situation, one problem and into a whole other set of them is difficult. I hate thinking in romantic clichés, but that older work, that’s the ex-lover who let you down, and now you’ve found a new love. The old lover wants to meet for dinner? Oh gawd, please, I need an excuse, any excuse to get me out of this!

Because to do justice to a story, you have to love it, get in and _be_ the POV character. You can’t write it at arms length, like an encounter you want over as quickly as possible, with as little public fuss as possible. Well, you can. Trust me, your readers can tell. My beta readers point it out to me, regularly. “This reads like you were tired of the scene and just rushed to finish it.”

And all of my whining that the next scene is _so_ fantastic . . . doesn’t change the fact that I slapped a fast coat of finish on the previous bit. And that was just a chapter in a book. Do that to a whole book, and you’re going to bleed readers. I can’t afford that.

So, stop procrastinating.

Yank the plug on the modem. You can check your email and facebook after five pee emm.

Don’t bribe yourself with a promise of chocolate or single malt scotch, half your mind will keep thinking about the reward, instead of settling down to the job.

Then . . . how do you get your head back in the old story? If you read it, it’ll take a couple of days. So reread just the last couple of scenes that are in the MC’s POV. Immerse yourself, find that character’s voice and then start writing when you get to the end.

Do you post snippets on line where your alpha/beta readers can get to it? Set a schedule, so you’ve got an external deadline. “They expect at least a thousand words a day. Even I can manage a thousand words.” If you don’t want feedback on small bits, Google Docs has multiple levels of access. Anyone with the URL can read. Or comment. Or edit. Set it however you wish. Very handy.

But you’ll still have the problem of those stories that want to be told right now. Try and placate them with a quick scene or synopsis, then get back to work.
Sometimes they just have to be written, to get them out of the way. It’s tough to tell when an idea is born of procrastination, and when it is born of genius. As a writer, you don’t want to lose the later, so sometimes you’ll find yourself writing a procrastination story.

Meh. None of us are perfect. What’s your favorite method of getting back in the story you need to finish?


And since I’ve procrastinated myself into nothing new for awhile, try something silly today:


  1. It’s interesting you should write this now – because that’s exactly the quandary in which I find myself. I’m 85% of the way through the second novel in the Laredo Trilogy, and could finish it in a week if I pushed . . . but I find myself noodling at another project.

    On the other hand, I’m finding it mentally refreshing. The new idea is in a completely different genre, and if I pursue it I’ll do so under a pseudonym, and wait until I have two or three books ready to launch before I go for it. It’s a mental stress reliever to take a week off and play with it – and I find I come back to Laredo 2 refreshed and revitalized. So, there are definitely upsides to having a ‘distraction’.

    I’ve got four books planned for this year. If I can do all four, plus one ‘distraction’ manuscript, I’ll count it a very good year indeed.

  2. Great timing for me as well. I need to “kick myself in the derriere” too. True confession: I’ve neglected the manuscript too long and it isn’t getting any easier to get back to it. Your tip about getting into the the main character’s POV has inspired me, and I’m going to re-read only the last few chapters, rather than start at the beginning and come up to them. (The idea of rereading the beginning is daunting; it’s what’s kept me away for so long!)
    Thanks, Pam.
    And what exactly do lawyers do on Mars? Or is it a penal colony for the JD crowd? 🙂

    1. It’s sad, not even Martian Lizards can escape the plague of Lawyers. [Evil Grin]

    2. This started as a spoof on lawyers, so basically, everything lawyers do. Except, of course, the MC. A pretty little copper scaled and spined trufem who saves the world, err, Mars. Of course she picks up some clients and comes out well financially from it, so the Senior Partners aren’t too irate over her waste of potentially billable hours.

    3. Lawyers of Mars? I would have hoped John Carter wiped them out long ago.

  3. Delightfully wonderful person that you are, thank you for a book I didn’t have to beg for! You are now number three in the queue. That actually makes you number two in the queue, since I’m reading one book in the man cave and a second book in the upstairs parent refuge.
    I LOVE this job!

  4. Ouch. This was me last fall. I ended up writing _Language of the Land_, a gas-lamp fantasy, and doing major revisions on _A Cat At Bay_, when I was supposed to be doing the WWI novel. Part of it was my subconscious warning that I did not have the background material that I needed, as it turns out, but now I’ve caught myself doing the same thing for the sequel – putzing around and writing Cat and Murphy short stories – instead of reading and doing research. And I need to have that sequel done by the end of May.

    1. Yeah, the subconscious has a nasty habit of being right. Sometimes you need a break, to look at the older work with a fresh perspective and go “Ooops!”

  5. I’m in this same bind, and part of it I know is transition. I know where the last novella ended, I know the major plot points of what I’m working on, but how to get from one to the other… my solution has been to jump ahead and write what I know has to happen. And write a few other things in the meantime, to keep the juices flowing.

    I think Asimov said he had several stories going at any given time, and if he got stuck on one, he’d work on another for while. But like you said, there’s that transition to get back into POV.

    Too many stories, too little time to sit and get in the zone.

    1. Some times you can just jump a bit of time. Go straight to the action. Maybe later “And just last week I was complaining about three months going by with nothing to do!” Or some such to anchor the series reader, without boring a new reader.

  6. But if you have completed drafts, it’s ok to work on one and then the other. It’s called taking a break. Really.

      1. If they had more than one letter difference between their names . . . If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t see you had switched them until Shana said something.

  7. Now you’ve done it. With “how do you get your head back in the old story? If you read it, it’ll take a couple of days. So reread just the last couple of scenes that are in the MC’s POV. Immerse yourself, find that character’s voice and then start writing when you get to the end.” I found the nugget I forgot – it’s right there, in my WRITTEN PROCESS: go back and become the character, read the last couple of scenes in his pov, and the last scene, and get going.

    But thanks a lot: it IS almost 5PM, and I’ve been losing this scene for days, and here the answer is, ON THE INTERNET I’m supposed to ignore. Where there is usually not nearly as much gold as I think there is.

    Back to work.


  8. I’ve just posted my review of Michael Hooten’s “The Curse of Arianrhod” on my blog and Amazon. It’s an excellent book, but it will make you weep over all the children who are rejected by their parents.

  9. I keep a journal of excerpts for stories that I just can’t write right now. It helps for getting those individual scenes out of my head and into a place I can easily keep track of them.

    1. Mine’s a computer file, but yeah, you don’t want to let those ideas get away. Just . . . out of your head, for now. I’d say it work 3/4ths of the time. Some of them just won’t shut up.

  10. My preferred method is to have 2 projects in various stages of going. (usually one in revision and one in ‘new writing’ stage, though I need to figure out how to get that one OUT of revision!)

    If I am completely stuck I’ll put on my headphones, turn on dragon, and talk it out. I think best out loud, but I can’t always talk fast enough to keep up with my ideas (sometimes that is good as it makes me slow down and actually get the idea out coherently rather than ‘well that made sense to ME!’)

    1. I wonder how much training it takes to get the “writing” to come out verbally? I’m so very not verbal, that I’d have to be desperate to try to do it that way.

Comments are closed.