August 5, 2010

Are any of you, by any chance, reading this blog post even though you should be working on your own novel? 🙂

Finding enough time to write when you’re not doing it for a living can be hard. After a long day at work, writing can feel like a chore, especially when you’re struggling with a scene.

And sometimes, it’s not so much that I don’t have the time to write, but that I don’t make good use of the time I have. If there were awards handed out for procrastination, I probably would have won a few.

Jorie from Second Nature shares my favorite procrastination strategies, by the way:

She read the two paragraphs again, more slowly this time, then went back, added a hyphen, and deleted a comma. Her gaze swept back to the top of the page to read it all again. Still no brilliant idea on how to finish the scene.

Frustration added a pounding in her skull to the pounding of her arm. Without looking away from the screen, she fiddled with the childproof cap of the aspirin bottle. It refused to budge. Jesus! Why can’t I figure anything out tonight? Annoyed, she jerked around to glare at the brilliant invention of modern medicine.

Seconds later, she dropped one of the white tablets into her hand and dry-swallowed it. If only she could solve her problems with the scene that easily. She did a word count, even knowing she was procrastinating. Eighteen thousand five hundred and twenty. Great, I’m stuck not even one-fifth into the story.

I don’t do the pill-popping, but I’m familiar with everything else 🙂

Or this one:

With a sigh, Jorie saved what she had written so far and opened her e-mail program. “Procrastinating, aren’t we?” Despite the admonition, she clicked on a new e-mail from her beta reader.

So, here are some tips that help me beat my clever procrastination strategies:

  • Remember that your first draft doesn’t need to be perfect. But you can’t fix a blank page. You can fix all the missing commas and hyphens later.
  • Set writing goals – either say that you’ll write a certain time or try to reach a certain word count.
  • Don’t wait for the perfect time to write. While I’m writing the first draft, I try to write every day.
  • Limit distractions. Close the e-mail program. Maybe that’s why I like writing on the train – no Internet, no phone calls, no chores that need to be done right away.

And sometimes, allow yourself to procrastinate, read a book or do something else.

If you’re looking for some fun excuses for not writing, click here



  1. Hi Jae,
    Do you send the first draft to your beta reader or critique partners? Or is it only the second or third draft?
    Don’t know why that question popped into my head – but I’m curious.

    • Hi Astrid,

      thanks for asking.

      It depends on how fast my beta readers and critique partners read and how busy they are. I normally send them the first draft, then revise the chapter using their feedback. And I will usually later send them the second (or third or fourth) draft.

      If a beta/critique partner is busy, she might read a chapter for the first time when I have already revised it, so that would be draft # 2.

  2. Interesting. Thanks for the answer. I guess my first drafts are a bit different from yours 😉
    For me the first draft is more like a skeleton – it’s very rough and I try to hide it from everyone’s eyes, except mine. It’s all about getting a feeling of the story and more of an idea about the characters. But then, you know that I’m not very good at plotting beforehand 🙂

    • I’m a fan of instant feedback. The responses of my beta reader/critique partners help me revise and refine the chapter before I move on to the next one.

  3. I agree that procrastinating is a real problem. I find that once I sit down and start writing, the words flow. Sitting down and starting are troublesome. Thank you for sharing good advice.

    • Thanks, Carol. Your blog looks good, by the way.

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