Habits that Helped Me Finish My Novel

I was browsing the aggregated posts over at Indie Horror and found this one by Glynn James.   He answers the question of how he manages to write when he has many responsibilities, including a  job and a family.  His response boils down to two main points :

  1. Make writing a daily habit.  Every day.  Birthday included.
  2. Don’t leave the well dry; stop at a point in the narrative that will make it easier to get back into the story next time you write.

I confess I do not have, nor have I ever had, a daily writing habit.  The most I’ve gotten up to is a six-out-of-seven-days and I did not sustain that pace long. If I don’t skip more than a day between sessions and I obey Glynn’s second point, not writing daily slows me down but doesn’t derail me.

Where I Write

What matters to me is that when I do write, the routine is consistent.   Same place, same time, same amount of interaction from the other living beings in my house.  When I wrote my first novel, I dedicated from 5 until 7 in the morning to the effort.  I have a laptop, but I always sat at my desk.  In the winter, the sun did not even begin to come up during those two hours; indeed, I often saw the moon set.

I wrote in the morning for two reasons.  First, writing in the morning  guaranteed that I had no excuses and no conflicts to prevent me from getting words on the page.  The rest of the day was for the world, but those two hours were for my craft.  I held sacrosanct my pre-dawn writing sessions.  By remaining steadfast, I made the statement that I  respected the act of creation and the Muse that chose me.  My second reason for writing in the morning was that it helped me avoid my inner critic.   My self-doubt is an indolent creature; she takes a full two cups of coffee and a complete sunrise before she even considers tormenting me.  Most mornings, I could get in a couple hours of work and wrap up for the day before I even got the teeniest niggling of disquiet.

It was good to have a routine, but even better to know that I wasn’t going to get that horrible, panicky sense of being stuck the next time I sat down  to write.   Like Glynn, I made a conscious decision to stop before I got to the end of what I ‘knew.’   In addition to making it easier to regain the right frame of mind in the next session, waiting also built excitement.  As an author, dedication is a must, but dedication is easier when you just can’t wait to finish what you started.  Who doesn’t like feeling excited when they sit down to write?

 

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When Broccoli Isn’t Enough, Read Murdoch!

The most difficult thing to accept is your own truth.   The further that truth is from what you envisioned, the greater the difficulty .  In my case, I wanted to be a physicist.  I worked very, very hard to be good at the math underpinning physics.  In Calculus III, my Professor said, “I hope you are better at physics than you are at math, because you are very bad at math.”  Then she gave me a piece of raw broccoli to help me think.   I still associate broccoli with exhaustion, struggle and triple integrals.

Although I was bad at math, I was very good at tenacity and I graduated with a degree in physics.   I took what I thought would be a short break from academia and got a Job.  I moved to another city, got another Job, got married.  Years passed and I decided I was ready to go back to school, but only part time.  I took one semester of Classical Mechanics at the university closest to my Job, then applied to a school with a more rigorous program and… they accepted me!!!

I signed up for two classes.   I found a good spot in the library near the physics section and took up residence.  I got to my Job before 7 so that I could sit in traffic for an hour after work to get to school so I could spend another two hours listening to a professor so that I could even begin to attempt the assignments.

I was miserable.

One night after class, I sat in the library with stacks of math and physics books opened on the table.  I had pages of half-finished problems spread out around me in accusation of ineptitude.  What I understood, I could not put into math.  What I understood was very little.  I wandered away from my desk and ended up in the fiction section. I spent the rest of that evening looking at the books, wanting to read all of them. The next afternoon, I returned to school, but did not go to Quantum Mechanics. Instead, I went to the library, checked out a novel, and sat in a garden to read until it was time to go home.

The novel was Iris Murdoch’s FLIGHT FROM THE ENCHANTER. The first line?  “It was about three o’clock in the afternoon when Annette decided to leave school.” Simple as that, I realized I wanted to read more than I wanted to solve equations.  The next day, I dropped both of my classes.

The realization and the act of following through was terribly frightening.   A fundamental piece of how I defined myself to myself was simply gone.  Months passed with me in some limbo of non-self;  all I remember is gray, and the feeling that I was behind a thick pane of glass that blunted everything and kept me from the world.

Then I wrote my first short story.

It had all the grace of a dingy paperweight, but it was mine in a way that physics never was.  I shared it with a friend and he saw something in it.  He saw me, a writer.

 

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Beginning

Clicking on a skeleton in the picture causes t...

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I am Aniko, author of the forthcoming novel, STOLEN CLIMATES.

I never planned to write a novel.

In fact,  I was thirty pages into a writing exercise when I finally admitted I’d stumbled upon something much, much bigger than a short story.  Imagine :  It was a cold day,  and I was crossing a frozen field.    I tripped over something,  and my thirty pages flung  out into the cold like fibrous snowflakes from an unnatural paper mill of a thunderhead.   As I gathered the pages,  I discovered that the something was really part of a humongous, mostly buried skeleton.  A skeleton that I, all by myself, was responsible for unearthing and  reassembling.  A skeleton upon which I was the one who was to hang meaning.  How fortunate that I had my coat, a pickax, and an endless supply of coffee!

STOLEN CLIMATES is my first novel.  It took me two years of pre-dawn writing to complete.   I hacked that skeleton out of the ice, pulled that mammoth of a find into the light, but it is not mine.

It is yours.

That is part of the reason for this blog: to let you know the story is ready to unsettle you, ready to gross you out, ready to make you wonder.   I have decided that I will not be taking the traditional publication route.   This doesn’t mean I intend to release a shitty simulacrum of a ‘real’ novel.   I owe it to the story and her readers to produce a quality book.   As I make my maiden voyage as an indie publisher,  I will report back here.   I appreciate any feedback you have, so please leave comments.   If comments aren’t your thing,  you can send coffee; I take mine with honey and whole milk.

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