Tuesday 17 April 2018

How to never write a novel

It is often said that each of us carries a book inside us. I don’t mean an actual oblong chunk of paper swishing around in one’s intestine, but a story – somewhere in the multi-corridors of the mind - that is clamouring to get out and is sufficiently interesting to comprise a saleable novel. Sadly, as I approach my 60th birthday, I’ve yet to find my potential blockbuster.

Instead of producing the next Harry Potter bestseller, what I have discovered is that I’m an expert in procrastination. When I sit down with the intention of crafting my masterpiece, I soon manage to distract myself onto another activity. It seems I have developed a deft range of strategies to impede and sabotage the creative writing process.  

Here are my wonderfully effective ways of putting off until tomorrow what you should be doing today:

1st-level strategies: (before sitting down in front of the laptop)

  1. Convince myself I need to use the toilet – it is amazing how paying attention to the bladder or bowel can evoke activity therein.
  2. Long for the smell of cocoa beans until there is no choice but to go and make myself another cup of coffee.
  3. Prod the flesh above my trouser belt to the point where vanity kicks in and I decide to go and engage in 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise on my static bike.
  4. Wonder if Mrs Jones is in the mood for love.

2nd-level strategies: (once I’ve opened the file titled ‘novel’)

  1. Decide that much more preparation is required before starting my story.
  2. Opt to research the history of World War II on the basis that the father of one of my peripheral characters fought in it.
  3. Reread my multiple ‘how-to-write-a-novel’ books.
  4. Succumb to the pull of ‘Naughty America’.

3rd – level strategies (Once I’ve started writing)

  1. Agonise over the third word of the first sentence and dedicate the next half-hour to flicking through a Thesaurus.
  2. Re-read book on punctuation to decide whether to use a semicolon, dash or comma in 1st sentence.
  3. Carry out a word count every 60 seconds.
  4. Succumb to the pull of ‘Naughty America’.    

4th – level strategies (Once I’ve written a couple of pages)

  1. Imagine a potential reader peeing her pants with laughter at what I’ve written (despite my novel being a crime/thriller).
  2. Decide it’s crap, and press ‘delete’ button.
  3. Reflect on the possibility that the fact that I loathe anything written by Ernest Hemmingway might indicate I’m clueless as to what makes a decent writer.
  4. Google how to access treatment for my sex addiction.


  Photo courtesy of freeimages.co.uk   


  1. Haaa.
    2.Re-read book on punctuation to decide whether to use a semicolon, dash or comma in 1st sentence.
    I usually just go with a dash - or a ... if I don't know.
    --Looking forward to reading your book one day, Mr. Jones. x

    1. I seem to be going through a phase where I overuse semicolons; they appear rather versatile punctuation marks.

  2. I can so relate to this :-( As per my grandiose plans, my novel should have been out two years ago.

    1. I suspect you are in a club of millions with the same problem. Keep plugging away, though, and I'm sure you'll get there.

  3. I'm snickering. Laughing. Chuckling. And I'm not past the first level!! You seem to have sex on the brain - which is ironic since I wrote about it today! You MUST write because you have such a wonderful way with words. A coaching session I was in said to sit down and write straight for 30 minutes without reading, stopping to correct spelling or grammar, or fix anything. Just flat out write. Let it flow and go. It is hard for me because I HAVE to correct but if I can stop that it is interesting what comes out of you. NEVER EVER DELETE. You may have jewels in there you need to pick up!

    1. Very sound advice. The free-writing exercises are interesting and productive, although - like you - I often find it difficult to control my on going urge to correct and rewrite.

      And as I have sex on the brain, I'm off now to read your latest blogpost.

  4. I am soooo with you on this. I'm working on my memoir now, and it will be very different from my Spandex book (not nearly as humorous). It is difficult to write and I procrastinate like crazy---many of the same things you have listed here. But one thing I learned at the conference that really stuck with me---write the book for yourself and stop writing it for a specific audience that you are trying to please. This is the only way to diminish the anxiety blocks and to let your true voice be revealed on the page. You know how they say "dance as if no one is watching"? The same goes for writing. Good luck, and get writing!

  5. This really made me laugh! I am the master (mistress) of procrastination too and find all kinds of things to do rather than knuckle down and do some writing.