Putting Your Novel Where Your Mouth Is

book over mouthTalking about writing can be fun. Hell, I love it.

But a year ago I realized that I needed to stop yapping so much and start tapping more. The keys, that is.

It’s lonely, hair-pulling work sometimes, but I had to keep my nose to the grindstone. No matter how much I wanted to chat and blab about my newest creation, I tried to refrain.

It sucked.

I know some people view writing novels as mystical shamanism channeled through the hair strands of a thousand muses. I don’t find it to be such. I absolutely adore it, yes, but it’s work.

And I realized until I treated it like work, it would never get done. Staring at it hurt my eyes. Wishing it done proved equally fruitless. Shouting out it also doesn’t work.

So I’d like to share some ideas for people like me that like talking about their novels, chatting on social media about them, or pontificating on forums. These ideas will not only allow you to talk about writing, but also get you one step closer to finishing, completing, and publishing.

Disclaimer: if the following activities don’t work for you, then you’re doing them wrong. Try again. If they don’t work the second time, then maybe they just suck for you.

1. #amwriting=You Must Be Writing, Right?

Every time you post #amwriting or one of the related hashtags on Twitter, you have to spend one minute writing for every character that you used. If you used all 140 characters, well guess what? You have to go write for 140 minutes. That way, yes, you “am writing.” (That’s just bad grammar…)

2. Mirror Mirror

Next time you post on a forum, time yourself to see how long it took you to compose that comment. If it took you ten minutes, then you have to mirror that with your writing. Ten minutes talking, ten minutes doing. Doable, right?

3. Killing Lizard People is Serious Business

Every time you “like” or “favorite” or “retweet” a bit of advice from a writer, blogger, etc. that you like, then you have to go follow that advice. If the advice is “Kill all lizard people in your novels. Lizard people are lame.” then you have to then go find all the lizard people in your novel and kill them. Sorry. Them’s the rules.

4. TV, TV, TV

If you like watching TV, movies, etc. that’s awesome. I like those things, too. A lot. But every time you watch a TV show that you love, hold in all your thoughts about that show that you might share on your various social media accounts. Spend that time writing. Use any emotions (positive or negative) for your writing. If your favorite character on a TV show was killed, use that in your writing (I’m looking at you Game of Thrones). If you’re overjoyed with a romantic situation that finally came to fruition, use that. Let your writing be your sounding board.

5. Oh, Internet!

Anytime you have an argument with someone on the internet over something trivial (or even better something you have no control over), have your characters do that in return. Conflict!

6. Hey, Buddy, Wanna Write? GO WRITE!

Find a writing buddy. Talk to him or her about writing for a bit. Write down how long you chatted about writing. Then scream at each other maniacally to “Go write for ___ minutes/hours!” This doesn’t work via social media or email obviously. You have to call them by phone or Skype and actually scream. Screaming is the only way this works. I like screaming.

7. Tell Someone You’re a Writer? You Know What That Means!

There have been some arguments on the Interwebs about the semantics of what a writer is. I’m in the camp of “You write stuff? You’re a writer.” However, I believe for every time you tell someone, “Yeah, I’m a writer” that means you should section off a chunk (or sliver) of writing time whenever you next sit down at your computer or favorite writing napkin. Write as if some nebulous internet debate depends on it. It does.

8. Cats Are Cute, But Obliterate the Productivity Section of Your Brain

For every minute you spend watching cat videos on Youtube, you have to spend twice as many minutes writing. Yes, twice as much time. Cat videos are the black hole of a writer’s existence. You must fight for that time back.

Are you noticing a pattern? Basically I’m suggesting what’s the equivalent of pledging for a marathon or putting money in a swear jar. You have to dedicate an equal amount of time to an activity that’s not writing to actually writing.

For math wizards out there:

Talking About Writing+Actually Writing=Victory Dance
Talking About Writing-Actually Writing=Sad Face

Of course you notice I didn’t suggest sacrificing work or family time above. That time is important and I wouldn’t want people to alienate themselves. The things I mention above all relate to what I call “the Great Time Leeches.” I’m certainly not suggesting eliminating social media, forums, or other forms of entertainment from your life. “Time Leech” sounds negative, but I’m only referring to it as it pertains to your writing.

Yes, spending hours on social media is leeching time away from writing. Yes, reading blogs and commenting extensively is taking time away as well. Are these bad activities? No. But I’m only offering a way to have your cake and eat it, too. By making talking about writing symbiotic to actual writing, then the activities feed off each other. They both thrive. You don’t get down in the dumps because you’ve cut yourself off from everyone and you also get productive writing time in. Win-win.

If you’re a writer, write. If you want to talk about it, talk about it. Just figure out a way to make it most comfortable for your own personal situation. It’s really all about your personal goals as a writer. And sometimes talking about these goals will certainly help you. But reaching your goals requires work. Lonely (but fun!) work.

Ideally, every single free minute I get I want to dedicate to writing. But, hey, that’s not realistic. I have to chat, socialize, learn, share, play, and exist. I’ve got to write, too, though. And you do, too.

So now count how many minutes it took you to read this and go spend that time writing.

Do you struggle with talking more about writing than actually writing? What have you done personally to get your writing time in? Share in the comments below! (And close those cat videos).

For discussion of all things fantasy-related, check out Philip Overby’s Fantasy Free-for-All.

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Hugh Tipping
Hugh Tipping
5 years ago

Practical, sensible advice. A “show don’t tell” approach to your writing life. Making time to write means shifting minutes from things that don’t contribute to your writing. Love it. Reposting many places!

Philip Overby
Reply to  Hugh Tipping
5 years ago

Thanks, Hugh! I hope it helps you in your writing ventures!

Daniel Adorno
7 years ago

Haha, this was a funny piece! Yeah, I’m guilty of getting sidetracked, not usually by cat videos though. It’s often reading author blogs, looking into marketing strategies, and all that fun indie publishing stuff available online that drains my time from, you know, actually writing. The idea of making up that wasted time with writing is a great motivator and I’m going to give it a test run and see if it increases the ol’ word count. Okay, I spent ten minutes reading and responding–off to writing to get my time back! πŸ˜‰

Paula Herrera
Paula Herrera
7 years ago

Very insightful and informative, Philip! Becoming a full pledge writer is not that easy. Most people experience blockage even before they start on their writing plans. Long time ago, I was able to finish my first short novel, but nothing followed after that. I was quite frustrated due to the denial of a publisher to publish my work that time. Now, I’m too accumulated with my daily tasks and works but I still have a lot of ideas in my mind that I wanted to write-down. I just can’t find enough courage every time I want to start writing a novel again.

Ron C. Nieto
7 years ago

Great article, Philip!

I think we all have this problem, in one way or another. Some of us can keep it manageable, some of us get devoured by the procrastination monster at the end of the day. Sadly, I’m still working toward counting myself in the former category… I specially liked your “mirror, mirror” and “write with a friend” (screaming included) ideas!

Here’s what I do for productivity:

-Have a deadline for my writing projects-

This one ties in with thinking of writing as if it were another job. I don’t tell my boss “sorry, I couldn’t find the time to do this, cleaning house was more important”, so I don’t do it for my novels either.

I’ve found the best way to keep a hard deadline is to book your editor way in advance (if the manuscript has to be off, it has to be OFF!). If you don’t have an editor, then ask a beta reader to go over it at a certain date, and to give you hell if you are late πŸ™‚

I use an android app to keep track of the project’s progress via graphs and a progress bar. It’s called Writeometer, and it also gives you an estimate of how much you need to write each day if you want to make it on time.

-Make writing a habit-

Like having your morning coffee or brushing your teeth. If you parcel out half an hour each day for writing, it becomes easier to fit the rest of your social and entertainment activities around it. Because, as you say: we will still be social, and still read articles, and still spend ages commenting (this reply stands as case in point).

Another cool app to try and develop habits: Rewire. It creates a nice chain of green balls when you’re performing, and it’s really disheartening to see it broken by red balls. You’ll write just to keep that from happening!

-Reward yourself-

So, how do I go about not letting the internetz and all that interfere with my writing? I set myself writing blocks of time. Less than half an hour, and I won’t be productive. For each writing block I complete, I give myself a treat.

Wrote half an hour? Okay, your may look at twitter. Wrote for an hour? Fine, check the forums. Wrote for two hours? Kudos! You can watch the next episode of your favorite series now.

(Disclaimer: this has caused me to fall hopelessly behind on all my favorite TV shows)

The thing here, for me, is to write before my mind wanders off paths suggested by interesting content that doesn’t relate to my novel.

No app for this one, sorry πŸ˜‰

-Do NOT press the red button-

We all have a “red button”. Cat videos, beating a particular videogame, playing Candy Crash on Facebook… Mine is Pinterest. It’s Alice’s hole to Wonderland, I swear. Entire afternoons have gone missing while I bounced from one image to the next.

I have solved this by only allowing myself to use Pinterest before I’m going to bed or while I’m commuting. That way, I have a forced deadline to the activity, and I’m “wasting” minutes I wouldn’t have spent writing anyway.

Now, to incorporate your suggestions to my techniques!

Here’s to our continued productivity.

Thanks for the article!

Heather Smith
Heather Smith
7 years ago

Hahaha, great advice. I was amused as to how I was reading this post while thinking, “I guess I better get writing as soon as I’m done reading this, otherwise I’ll feel guilty”.

Andrea Robinson
7 years ago

THANK YOU!!! I caught myself doing it JUST NOW — getting sidetracked once again. Fortunately, this article is helping me realize it faster. I literally thought, “I’m doing it AGAIN!”

I love the balance that you’re suggesting between getting sidetracked and distracted and then using the sidetrack as an excuse to plow it back into writing. After all, we have to have interests in life or we’ll never have anything to write about!

Done with style, a smile and a sense of humor – you made the pill go down easy.


Anne Marie Gazzolo
7 years ago

Love this! Great advice that I will have to remember when I am feeding my Pinterest addiction instead of writing. And I will have to read all those writing articles I find there rather than just pinning them and them.

Namarie, God bless, Anne Marie πŸ™‚

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