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Patience vs Procrastination

Do you ever want to just give yourself a difficult deadline to finish your novel so that it pushes you to finish and you can get it out there already? I’ve done this multiple times with my novel, Kaimerus Deception. I’ve gone from wanting it ready to sell by Aug. 12 to being beta-reader ready by Nov. 1. However, near the midpoint of each deadline I determined the wisest course was to slow down and reassess the overall value of my goal and deadline. It has been very hard to push back deadlines, but my main goal is producing an awesome series, not just something I can publish.

In the face of impatience to get the book out there and start wooing new readers, I’ve realized that without a contract, time is my friend. Without a contract, I am not confined to getting this book ready by November 2012, let alone this November. Imagine how much better your writing project could be if you cast your deadline into deeper waters. Impatient people fish in the first puddle they find. I want to research and have the tools ready so that when I through this story into the waters, I know it’ll return something big. The obvious danger here is procrastination, but if you put this time to good use, then the benefits can be career-making.

I think a lot of us have problems evaluating our productivity, and as a result, focus heavy on the writing, and neglect the research and preparation (world and character building, outlining, etc) that will make your work stand out above the rest. I know for me it is much easier to feel good about a week where I wrote eight thousand words then a week where I wrote two, or less, but wrote fifteen pages on worldbuilding, and read a large chunk of a five star book related to my concept. (did that last week thank you 😉 )

Writers write, don’t get me wrong, but don’t forget that writers also have to do the other things mentioned above.

Another tricky issue is that we all work differently. Some people are outliners, some are pantsers (as in, “write by the seat of”), and some are in between. So, if you are an outliner, you labor over the big picture before writing. If you are a pantser, the big picture is discovered through the character’s eyes mid-story. I’ve struggled to become an outliner for years, with little success, but as a result, I’ve rewritten two books that I’ve deemed in need of rewrites. Part of it is style, but another is the lack of structure that an outline would supposedly resolve. Patience to fight through the outline may have saved me rewriting or pitching the book (may do for first novel).

So, as I rewrote Kaimerus Deception, I did so as a pantser, using my first draft as a rough outline, which has been very helpful. The goal though, is not to write a 115,000 word rough outline as I did with the first draft (especially because major plot points aren’t being used, and I’m therefore having to write without an outline going forward). I rewrote the first 32k in August, and kept up the grueling pace of 7k a week into the second week of September en route to 90k by Nov.1

Then I saw an ad for a worldbuilding class taught by Karina Fabian on savvyauthors.com Seeing as I am trying to write the next Dune series, I considered the benefit of her advice on my technology and telepathy systems. When I saw that she wrote a book, Mind Over Mind, that had a telepathic main character, I decided I had to take advantage of her expertise.

Since then, my word count has been next to nil (though I did spend my last three writing days polishing and rewriting my Team PYP short story). But, I very excited about the fifteen pages of worldbuilding I wrote for Karina’s class. My book came to a point where the telepathy and neuronet device were very important to the progression and I knew I needed to take a step back to explain to myself more how they work. Getting science wrong could force another rewrite, and that is the last thing I want to do.

My problem is the further removed I get from writing, the harder it is to jump back in. I’m still not too far out, but I’m wavering between more
worldbuilding/outlining/character development and writing some more scenes. One reason I wrote above about evaluating productivity is that I hate the slow drag of outlining. It takes me so long to think of what happens next when I’m looking at a bullet-point outline. Mid-scene is so much easier, but then I’m back to being a pantser.

I’m trying to be patient and do the little things up front so that this book is career-making and not some self-pubbed “meh”. I want my first book to win awards, not really as a vanity thing, but because I have the time to do so, and the lessons and tools I gain up front will help me do it again. I want to write every day…does the inclusion of a “but” after that mean I’m procrastinating, or wisely working on foundation even though I’m 36k into the novel? Having a short story on the side is helping me write every day, but I’m not putting in the big word counts and I have to tell myself it’s okay.

Any advice on whether I’m doing the right thing by slowing down? Do you have experience stopping mid project like this, and if so, was it helpful or not?

About Timothy C. Ward

Timothy C. Ward is a Hugo nominated producer for Adventures in SciFi Publishing, who has been lost, broke and surfed with sharks on the other side of the world. He now dreams of greater adventures from his keyboard in Des Moines, Iowa. This summer he released two novels: his second Sand Divers book, Scavenger: A.I., where two parents use an ancient technology to fight a reproducing A.I. while trying to resurrect their deceased infant; and Godsknife: Revolt, an apocalyptic battle for godhood in the rift between Iowa and the Abyss.

5 comments on “Patience vs Procrastination

  1. I was in such a hurry to get published when I started writing. My first draft was finished in three months. The thing is, I was clueless back then about what my manuscript needed. It took *time* for me to learn. Time *away* from my manuscript. I wrote short stories and personal experience stories and read, read, read. Then each time I’d go back to Finding Angel I’d cringe at the idea that last time I edited I thought I was “so close.”

    Time really IS your friend when you are writing. Especially early on. I’m now not nearly as impatient as I was when it comes to writing. I know that with me, the best thing in the world is time away from a project after it’s done, and a lot of brutal critiquers in the mean time ;).

  2. The dog makes me laugh every time!

  3. I think you hit it on the head with the title. There’s a difference between letting a story mature, giving it time to work out. I have written novels in three months and been very pleased with them; on the other hand, my latest manuscript took three years’ effort and thinking off and on. I also believe that I needed that three-month book, which was light and funny but had a multiple person cast, in order to learn the skills needed for the big cast of my serious sci-fi.

    Incidentally, Tim is writing some very interesting stuff in the worldbuilding class…which I’m picking holes at because it’s my job. However, I’m excited to see the finished product. the story–and the world–are very interesting!

  4. My Dearest Tim,

    I concur with Kat. Time is the secret.

  5. […] Patience vs Procrastination (newauthors.wordpress.com) […]

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