Friday, January 8, 2010

Author Jill Myles: "Finish the First One!"


Procrastination and self-discipline: how do writers avoid the first and cultivate the second? All writers, from neophytes to best-sellers, deal with these issues at times, often daily. Today, newly-published author Jill Myles, author of GENTLEMEN PREFER SUCCUBI (Pocket Books, December 2009) and SUCCUBI LIKE IT HOT (January 19, 2010), offers her insights on these challenges. This is the seventh stop on Jill's blog tour.

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1. Writers supposedly love to write and usually work on topics that interest them -- why, then, do you think procrastination often poses such a problem?

Procrastination is a writer's worst enemy and best friend. Best friend at the moment, because it's so very easy to put something off, right? But worst enemy because it's so insidious. As writers, we are fascinated by ideas and want to write them down. But I feel that if too much time happens between you and the last time you worked on your story, you begin to lose the affection for that particular story, and something new and shiny takes over your mind and you suddenly want to work on it instead. Which is great...except the cycle tends to repeat itself more often than not. So instead of having one finished book, procrastinators can end up with twenty stories...with only one chapter written. Been there, so so many times.

Which is not to say I don't procrastinate anymore - I do all the time! But I've also trained myself to finish things a little better. :)

2. Do you find yourself procrastinating more in certain writing situations (for example, at beginning of a new chapter, or when writing confrontational scenes) than others? How do you get over the hurdle?

Oh, absolutely. I don't put chapters in my books until after the story is finished, so I think in terms of scenes. And I find that if I leave mid-scene, I'm in a hurry to get back to the story mentally and keep writing to finish it. If I leave the story after I've finished my latest big scene? It can be really hard to get back into things because I feel that I'm having to start a little from scratch.

I also procrastinate when I get to the climax of the story. Usually when you're down to the climax, it turns into a weekend-long slog/marathon where I have to write in a breathless frenzy just to get it out of my head, and to be done with it. And since I know that it's going to be emotionally wrenching and take all weekend...I procrastinate. Of course! ;)

3. Do you write to a strict schedule? How do you discipline yourself to assure your output? Do rewards figure in your scheme?

No, no strict schedules. I work a day job, so I'm lenient on myself during weekdays and my goal is a lot lighter. If I get between two and four pages on a week night, I'm happy. And if I don't get anything, that's okay too. But on the weekend, I push myself to do as much as possible. I have massive guilt issues if I don't work on my story, so I don't really reward myself inasmuch as I tell myself that I can walk away from the computer with no guilt if I get ten pages done on Saturday, etc.

4. Have you found any techniques or books/articles particularly helpful on this issue?


I really like Write or Die! It forces you to sit and start typing. I'm also a big fan of egg timers and word wars just to get started, because sometimes getting started is the hardest part! I haven't found any books that really help with this sort of thing -- to me it's mostly a mental state of mind and the only solution for me to get past it is to just sit down and start writing. No excuses, no editing, no procrastinating, just sit and start typing (again, Write or Die comes in super handy for me as a motivator).

5. If you were a perfectly disciplined writer, what would your ideal schedule and output look like? How far off are you from achieving this in real life?

Hm. If I was PERFECTLY disciplined, I'd love to write every day. 1000 words a day on weekdays and 5k a day on Saturday and Sunday apiece. That'd give me 15k a week. It's a completely manageable goal for me - I've written that fast before. I just...am lazy. Human. Lazy. Well, both human and lazy. And I waffle back and forth between hitting this - a deadline is a huge, huge motivator for me, even if it's far out in advance. When I'm writing toward a deadline, I can really push words out on the page and more or less hit my ideal output (at least, most weeks). When I'm working on a spec project? Less disciplined, because there's no finish line attached.

6. Do you see any connection between self-discipline and success? Has this connection proven true in your own writing life?

I don't know if it's all kinds of self-discipline as much as it is a certain kind of discipline. You have to finish stories and you have to edit them. I don't care if the story is 50 pages long or 500, but you need to get into a habit of finishing them. There's no feeling quite like finishing a novel, and it makes you feel like you can do anything in the world -- especially write MORE novels.

7. Anything else you'd like to add?

Just that if you're struggling, give yourself a goal to finish the one you are working on -- no matter how much it sucks! My first novel was a trainwreck from start to finish, and I was struggling with finishing it too.The climax I had planned out was at least 10-20k long and I was already hitting 150k on my book, so I was feeling intimidated and not close to the end and defeated and so...I wrote a cliff notes version of what would happen. I think it was a total of three pages long, but it explained everything that needed to happen in the climax. After that, I wrote the ending and felt a huge sense of relief. In my mind, I *had* finished that first book, and proved to myself that I'd done it. Who cares if I'd shorthanded the end? I could fix that in revisions. And I did. And then I kept writing.

So often, when people find out I write novels, they tell me their spouse or son or boyfriend is writing a novel. And when I ask about it again, a few weeks or months later, I'm always told the same thing. "Oh, he put it aside" or "Hasn't been writing" or "He gave up." SO FRUSTRATING! Finish the first one. I promise you, it's such a rush that you'll want to do it again and again. But you're sabotaging yourself if you don't finish the first one from start to finish, even if it's a crappy finish.


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Thanks for the words of wisdom, Jill. It's always encouraging to see how other writers work and wend their way to publication. May these two novels be the first of many completed projects to issue from your pen!

Jill is hosting a contest to celebrate the publication of her books. Her agent, Holly Root, is offering a query critique for one lucky winner drawn at random. Leave a comment here and you'll earn one entry for the drawing. Commenting at each of the other blogs on the tour will earn you additional entries. Jill will announce the winner's name on January 27. Good luck!

The tour continues Monday, January 11 at Shana Silver's blog, where Jill will discuss her writing process.

18 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

It's so true about pushing through and finishing! I love hearing how published authors have to force themselves to do it at times too.

I don't see many blog tours go around. It's a great idea! I'll have to keep that in mind.

Augusto said...

What an informative interview! Thank you for sharing. I am very interested in the contest.

nkrell said...

Such a great interview! I can totally relate to the procrastination part and it's nice to hear that even published authors get that way sometimes. I can tell when I'm feeling it...you know, when you just have to get the story out. I love that when it happens!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Ah, procrastination...I'm amazed at the stuff I can find to do rather than write (which I claim to love! :-) But I'm always impressed with writers like Jill who manage a day job AND manage to write a book (or six!)

Julianne, what a lovely writer you are! Throughly enjoyed the excerpt from "Silence."

Julianne Douglas said...

Thanks, Cathy! You just made my day. :)

Tere Kirkland said...

"I also procrastinate when I get to the climax of the story."

I'm the opposite, actually. I usually rush through the ending in the name of being FINISHED, and hope I can clear things up in revisions.

It's probably because I usually set a date for myself to finish drafting by that I'm in such a hurry to be finished.

Thanks for another great interview! And thanks, Julianne for hosting!

Shelli said...

I heard the Write or Die starts backspacing over words if you stop too long! hilarious

Addled Alchemist said...

Amen, Jill!

erinkendall said...

I so know what you're talking about, Jill. I've been unmotivated as of late on my main project. Your advice is excellent.


Cheers,
Erin K.

Margay said...

Jill, procrastination is one of my BIG problems when I start a new story or get to a difficult/fun part of a story, or even the climax, like you. it's nice to know I'm not the only one who struggles with this.
Margay

xid trebor said...

Julianne-thanks for the interview, Jill, thanks for the words of wisdom. It's nice to know that if you set a goal and keep pushing towards it, at least you'll have something, rather than a couple of pages of ideas.

Christina Farley said...

This was so interesting. I have a day job as well and sometimes I get so envious of those writers who don't have to work but have heaps of time to write. It really encouraged me to see that you are doing it in spite of it all. Thanks for sharing Jill and thanks for the interview Julianne

Hilary Wagner ~ Writer said...

Julianne! Great interview!!!!
Go Jill!

xoxo -- Hilary

Creative A said...

"Usually when you're down to the climax, it turns into a weekend-long slog/marathon where I have to write in a breathless frenzy just to get it out of my head, and to be done with it. And since I know that it's going to be emotionally wrenching and take all weekend...I procrastinate. Of course! ;)"

This had me cracking up. Two weeks ago, I went through the very same thing. My ending was taking about 20K longer than I expected and I had finally, finally reached the climax....so I kept writing everything around it. Doing anything I could to avoid that climax scene. :)

Another fun interview, Jill!

-Mandy

Ash. Elizabeth said...

"I don't know if it's all kinds of self-discipline as much as it is a certain kind of discipline. You have to finish stories and you have to edit them. I don't care if the story is 50 pages long or 500, but you need to get into a habit of finishing them. There's no feeling quite like finishing a novel, and it makes you feel like you can do anything in the world -- especially write MORE novels."

--this answer really stuck out to me. I couldn't agree with you more!

Yat-Yee said...

I have heard from other writers about how they leave in the middle of a scene, to make sure they come back. I put off something that I know I really need to do, but don't have the heart to execute them. Okay, you caught me. I am lazy when I think about the amount of work that I have to do and so just go off and take some quizzes, and enter some contests....

cheesebk said...

you are sooo right! it simply gives you a good feeling to be able to say: yes, I have finished it. so far, I finished two and am working on two other.... and it is really good to know you were able to sit down and finish what you started. it gives you something to be proud of to know that you achieved that ;)
thanks for the insights!!!

Feywriter said...

Borrowing that technique of finishing mid-scene. Today took me forever to get started on a new chapter. All momentum from the previous writing session was gone. I had to resort to Write or Die to jumpstart things again. Thanks for the interview.