Time Keeps On Tickin...

My husband has this pet peeve that involves one of my quirks. (Okay, he has several, the man's a saint for sticking around, etc.) Anyway, the peeve is how I constantly misjudge how long it'll take me to finish up a piece of writing. Not because he's anxious for me to finish, mind you - mainly it's because he's anxious to get. Out. The Door. and he's waiting on me.

Most times, he's waiting for me to finish up a press kit or a bit of copy for a brochure, or to polish, say, a pitch letter. Him: *jingles keys impatiently* Me: I just have to tweak this release. Just gimme five minutes. Five minutes.


Him: *sighs through his nose*
Me: *typity-typity-type-type-type* Almost done...
Him: *removes Kyle Busch cap, sets keys back down, knows he's not going anywhere*
Me: *guilty glance in his direction* No! Seriously, I'm almost done. No, I am. Really. Just five more minutes...

Thing is, I don't mean to take so long. Really, in my head, it only takes me, like, an hour to write up some copy. But in the real world, that hour is more like three hours, forty minutes.

And that worries me about my novel. WHY do I take so long? WHY do I write so slowly? And this chestnut: WHY do I feel like everyone else is freakin LEAGUES ahead of me? Because I do. I feel like other writers are just swimming away with their novels, already on their, like, fourth, while I plod through my second.

Sigh. Sigh. Sigh.

I'm trying to finish this thing up. I am. But I know just how far I have to go. And as I work through this draft, I'm trying to remember Lilith Saintcrow's Permission To Suck Method, which hopefully will help me get this f!cking draft done. (Quoth the Saintcrow, "Don’t worry about whether the writing is any good. Right now that’s the least important fucking thing on the planet. The MOST important thing is sitting down and getting the sh!t out, so that you can see where you are and correct your aim if you’re not where you want to be." Nice, right? Easy, right? Turns out, not so much. SILENCE, you Inner Editor! Silence!)

I'm also hoping Scott G.F. Bailey's approach to the sagging middle (basically: First Act=What happens, Second Act=How the characters feel about what happened [using internal conflict as a way to avoid the sag] and Third Act=The resolution) will help me finish. I'm using it as a general three-pronged approach to noveling as a whole:

1. Get the story down (first draft, i.e. what happens)
2. Layer in the psychology (second draft, i.e. how the characters feel about it)
3. Apply polish (third draft, i.e. tightening sentences, using precise language to better effect)

I'm still struggling with number one, y'all. Since my subplots heavily involve my character's secrets, I keep trying to figure out all of their psychology in this initial draft, which slows the whole freakin process. Somebody please help me remember that I just have to get the story DOWN first. Nailing the deeper psychological subtext/subplot comes NEXT. (Zoe, please remember that you don't have to get all the subplots right in the first pass. Got it?)

Ugh. I feel like my "wants-to-have-already-written" self is at the door, jingling her keys. And my "just-give-me-five-more-minutes" self is bent over the keyboard, feeling the pressure, thinking I can get it done in five minutes when my process is such that it takes, yanno, five HOURS.

Why does it take so long, dammit??


Anonymous | June 22, 2010 at 10:12 AM

Well, I can tell you to just shut up and write it, but you won't, will you? You're going to write the way you write - and that's okay. Give yourself permission to do it your way!

JustineDell | June 22, 2010 at 10:14 AM

Everyone's different. And lots of people have those annoying day jobs. ;-) I'll bet when you get "in the zone" your words fly onto the page!


Zoe C. Courtman | June 22, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Hey, VB! I know, right? BUTT. In. CHAIR. Whine later. Sigh. I'm giving myself permission to do it the only way I know how today. Thanks!!

Thanks for popping in, Justine!! I definitely have those days when the words do fly onto the page. It's getting started that kills me every time. OR getting bogged down in chapters that aren't going anywhere. Those are the times I have to remind myself to just get the story DOWN. I can figure out the rest later!! Thanks, guys!

Anonymous | June 22, 2010 at 10:43 AM

Man, oh, man, you're signing my song!! It's hard to see people get requests and offers when you're still working away on a WIP. I crashed and burned four novels, might salvage my fifth, and am super stoked about my newest WIP--very green...like VERY green, but may show more promise than the rest.

After two years, it feels like I'm not a step closer. On the other hand, I've learned SOOOOOOOOOO much, that it's hard to comprehend it sometimes.


Matthew Rush | June 22, 2010 at 11:23 AM

Hmm, Zoe, I have no answer for you but I feel your pain. The only thing that has helped me (a little) after finishing the first draft, was to make a spreadsheet of all the scenes. Then again I'm not done re-writing so I'm really not even sure whether that helped or not.

Dawn | June 22, 2010 at 11:23 AM

I can so relate, Zoe. Sometimes I'll tell my hubby I'm going to sit down and write and about 20 minutes later he comes to me and says: So, how many pages you got? Almost time to go for a Dairy Queen run? He doesn't quite understand that in those 20 minutes, I've been fussing with the stuff on my desk, re-reading what I wrote the day before, and taking a few tentative keyboard strokes before plunging into the story.

Since we've been married less than a year, I find myself distracted by just hanging out with him so I'm learning, slowly, to just throw down what I can in the time I've got. But it isn't easy. I have a loud internal editor who competes against the voices of my mentors telling me to "write tight!"

Mary McDonald | June 22, 2010 at 11:26 AM

Oh gosh, I'm so there with you. It's like the train is leaving the station and I'm rushing to catch it and it's just out of my grasp.

Janet Johnson | June 22, 2010 at 11:54 AM

Well, everyone writes differently. Maybe you should write the psychology stuff first if that's what's calling you? But yeah, I misjudge time too. Good luck!

L. Diane Wolfe | June 22, 2010 at 12:11 PM

We enter a zone that others don't!
Since I've learned anything involving a computer will take longer than anticipated, I know to either cut something short, stop all together, or just don't start until later!

Tahereh | June 22, 2010 at 1:29 PM

hahaha omg i totally understand. i am the WORST judge of time.

er. and direction.

and several other things.

Lydia Kang | June 22, 2010 at 1:44 PM

I have the exact same complaint. It takes soooo long! And I'm not getting any younger, grrrr.

The Alliterative Allomorph | June 22, 2010 at 1:46 PM

Zoe, I'm exactly like you when it comes to writing. I've been writing my second novel since the beginning of the year and I've only written about a third of it. I THINK too much. But that's how I work, I can't work fast. I want to figure out the psychology as I go, not AFTER. I write a scene and then go over it about four times making changes, filling in description, action feelings. I can't move on if I don't know exactly what's going down. I guess I just have to go with the flow. It's how my brain works so I guess I just have to follow in it's footsteps.

Shannon Whitney Messenger | June 22, 2010 at 2:17 PM

Aw, just remember, everyone works at their own pace. And you're not alone, I tend to be a slow writer too. 1000 words a day is like HUGE for me. You'll get there!

Zoe C. Courtman | June 22, 2010 at 2:39 PM

Guys - thanks so SO much for your comments and support. I guess I'm bummed because THIS novel was supposed to be the easy one, the quick n dirty one. But noOOOOohhh. I gotta go and make it all complicated and stuff. Sigh. Knowing you all are out there suffering along with me helps :D lol Thanks!!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh | June 22, 2010 at 3:52 PM

Writing genius never happens on our timetable.

Roland D. Yeomans | June 22, 2010 at 4:19 PM

Saintcrow has the right idea : just write. Have you ever seen a naval war movie where the ship is firing its cannons? The first shots are off the mark. The cannoneers adjust their weapons. They fire again. Closer. The third volley rakes the enemy ship! Success!

In the middle of my recent WE GUESS WITH OUR FEARS, I have a pep talk from none other than Neil Gaiman on getting through the muddle of the middle of our novels. I think you will get something positive out of it. He is, after all, a best-selling author.

Welcome back. I missed you. Roland

Roland D. Yeomans | June 22, 2010 at 4:21 PM

Oh, here's the link to my post : WE GUESS WITH OUR FEARS :


The first is about form rejections. Neil's pep talk is in the middle. Forgetful me, Roland

WritingNut | June 22, 2010 at 11:05 PM

Ohhh.. I totally hear you. My day job REALLY gets in the way, and I have those same fears too - that everyone is so ahead and I'm still at the starting sign.

Don't worry - everyone moves at their own pace, and I promise you, you will get there :)

WritingNut | June 22, 2010 at 11:05 PM

Oh! Thank you for stopping by my blog today :D

Raquel Byrnes | June 23, 2010 at 2:09 AM

Don't knock your process, embrace it. You're makeing a whole world..A. Whole. World. Out of a blank sheet of paper and blinking cursor. Give yourself a break and permission to dwell. Well developed characters push the plot...sometimes in unexpected ways that make your book better. Obsess away!

Stina Lindenblatt | June 23, 2010 at 8:14 AM

My 6 yo now asks me, "How long's a minute?" because 60 seconds has a habit of become 60 minutes.

My 8 yo starts counting OUT LOUD when I tell him I'll be a minute. Which of course makes it harder to write. ;)

I have something for you on my blog today. :D

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