novel, Prose, rant, writing

13 Ways – How to Never Finish your Novel

  1. Show it to at least 20 people (include non-novel readers )
  2. Ask for everyone’s opinion
  3. Rewrite based on feedback from above
  4. Take frequent breaks – wait a few weeks, months, then go back in
  5. Perfect each sentence before moving on to the next
  6. Reread previous work before continuing to write
  7. Tell your friends the storyline, maybe even read some aloud to them
  8. Read story aloud to friends
  9. Gather ideas for the title
  10. Read the million-dollar-popular and critically acclaimed lit darlings
  11. Follow trends as you perceive them
  12. Revisit old childhood wounds, pay special attention to non-supportive people
  13. Clean the house

This is a real list. I’ve done all these for Sidetrack Key, my second novel and the one I carried the greatest mythology about. Notions like – everyone has a novel in them, but the acid test is the second novel, stuck in my head. I don’t remember where I heard it, but it has haunted me for years. I’m certain someone else said, once you write the first, the next will be easier, but I probably thought that person was an idiot – such are the thoughts that live in the antechamber of my psyche.

Why do I remember the story about the guy who came out of his own Broadway hit play to rapturous approval and applause and became severely depressed because, I’ll never write something that good again?

When writing means too much, negativity rules and I fear becoming a sad, one-trick pony. At that point, approval seeking rears its ugly head – so embarrassing. I’m at my best when I simply don’t care about anything but the work itself, but I wonder what else I would lose if I could shut out the voices. It’s a package deal, I think. I am a deeply flawed human being who loves to write about deeply flawed human beings, and some days are better than others. But it’s all worth it when a section of work emerges from nowhere, playing its own tune, not caring if anyone dances (to stretch the metaphor). I have days and passages like that, and wander the streets with a dumb, spellbound joy when I feel I have grasped the essential feel of a moment, and there is nothing better on earth… except cats.

From Raymond Carver

If you have one or two people who know what they’re doing and champion your style, you’re lucky. Perhaps you have a wonderful guild or group that works for you. But people like me have to be careful, because the voice that says who do you think you are lurks in a basement that doesn’t even exist here in South Florida. These hidden tunnels are small and deadly and have many secret passageways that lead to the mother lode of paralysis.

So my cunning plan is to write the next novel in the No Name Key series in three months and have it out within five.

I recently came across this entry from Flannery O’Connor’s, “A Prayer Journal.” Thank you, LD. I wouldn’t have found it on my own.

Quick reminder to sign up for my newsletter if you would like to be in the drawing for one of five signed first editions (print, not digital, unless you prefer digital) there’s still time – the dramatic drawing happens at midnight!

4 thoughts on “13 Ways – How to Never Finish your Novel”

  1. This is really great Jessica! I will save this because it has real value to me and I love the way you write right to me!

    1. jessica says:

      Thank you for your generous feedback!

  2. A thought provoking blog post that speaks to me about listening to, and becoming, my own muse. It is interesting how easily we victimize ourselves believing others know better. On the other hand, as writers, ultimately our success depends on the connection we make with our readers which can be as divergent as pebbles on a beach. Is the electric thrill of knowing something we’ve created works enough? To answer my own question, I say yes it is and no it’s not. Great post, Jessica. Now I’m going to revisit a paragraph in my manuscript that keeps calling. Thanks for the inspiration.

  3. Amber says:

    I actually procrastinated reading this post because I knew the subject matter would hit close to home. But “I’m at my best when I simply don’t care about anything but the work itself.” Says it all. It’s getting there that’s hard.

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