Want to finish your novel? LOCK. YOURSELF. UP.

by Ksenia Anske

Photo by Kyle Thompson

This will ruffle feathers, I'm sure. And until last week I was afraid, very afraid, to say it out loud, until I got a chance to read an interview with Haruki Murakami, where he plainly states that he doesn't do writer's groups, doesn't interact with other writers much, doesn't go to big meetings or conferences. And, a line from another interview I read with J.K. Rowling struck me as well. She said, she hates meetings. I. DO. TOO!!! I was terrified of admitting this, but slowly I slid into the isolation of writing and reading and only seeing a few people that mean a lot to me. That's it. That's all I do, mostly, write and read. And, you know what, I'm on the finish line because of that! Want to finish your novel?

Don't go to writer's groups. How. Dare I. Say it!!! OMG! Well, I've done my share of writer's groups. And, please, let me explain before you bite my head off. They were wonderful, simply wonderful. I've learned a great deal. I also learned, however, that they distracted me from the actual task of writing. Why? Because the influence of other group members was often stronger than my own impulse. I went with their suggestions, of course, because back then I was so green, I didn't know any better. Also, I had to adjust my writing impulses to the particular schedule that not always worked, and again I thought it was my duty to adjust. Nope, it broke my natural rhythm, in fact, it didn't let me discover my natural rhythm, until I started writing on my own. And, reading other manuscripts took too much time, which leads me to the next point.

Don't critique. I used to do this a lot. And, some poor people used to read my awful writing and critiquing me a lot. What happened is, overtime, I started getting better and got more and more annoyed at reading other writer's work that was badly written. It was not the actual reading that got me annoyed, it was the unwillingness of other writers to listen to my feedback. It frustrated me to no end. What's the point of critiquing then? If I send my stuff to you, I want you to lynch me bloody. Then why are you not taking in what I have to say? In short, I stopped. I still try to read everything people send me, but if it's bad, I stop as soon it gets boring, send them my one line response, and am done (mind you, the one line is usually not BS but honest advice from the heart).

Don't go to writer's conferences. After saying this, I think I will not only lose my readers here, but also lose followers on Twitter and all my other social media channels. But, there is no point in going there until your novel is done! And I mean, DONE! Not in your first draft, not in your second or third of even fifth. But in its last, however long it took you to do it. Why? Again, distractions. Time spent on people, talking, you get the picture. Folks keep asking me, do you have an agent? I don't. Why? What do you mean, why? Because there is no use for me to go look for an agent now, I'm not done, and I won't be done for a while. I have to show something, and if it's half-baked, I will burn the person forever. So no, no no no.

Don't read bad books. This is really hard to say. My heart bleeds over this, because I tried. I tried reading indie books, and there are only a few that I absolutely loved, like Hugh Howey's WOOL, for example. The rest were in various stages of being done, a few were complete trash. Again, the problem was NOT bad writing, the problem was, they were published too early, they were simply too unripe! Another couple of drafts could've fixed them. Yet authors are impatient (me too), and off the press their books went. Bad, bad mistake. I hope I won't make it, and I hope you won't make it either. Because we don't want to waste people's time on bad writing, do we? I know I don't, because I don't want to waste my time reading bad books. There are better things to do in life.

Don't read about HOW TO WRITE. Ok, this one is not so black and white. I did read books on writing, like Stephen King's On Writing, and I do read an occasional article or blog post (you can see my favorites list on the right of the blog), but it happens very rarely. Why? Because after reading a bunch of them, I understood that they all say the same thing. To write well, you have to do two things, a lot: Write. Read. Let me drive the point home. It's very simple. WRITE. READ. And I mean, read other novels. That's it! You will pick up the craft by doing it, by absorbing it, not by imitating what other people told you. In fact, this is the reason why I'm trying to be funny and honest on my blog - to make sure it's worth your reading time. Feel free to drop me and to never return. That will be my lesson learned, I'll have to try harder.

ISOLATE YOURSELF. Do you really want to finish your novel? Think about it. Do you? Well, if your answer is yes, prepare for a long haul, mostly alone. You are creating a world, it takes time and zero distractions. You will have to cook in your brain, boil in your juices, dive deep into your psyche and marinate, marinate, marinate. The only way to achieve that is to lock yourself up. For 6 months. Or longer. Sometimes for a year, or two, or three. That means, not much social life, no partying, nothing. Guess why writing retreats are such a success? People are shelling out money to be locked up by someone else, because they can't do it themselves. It's hard. Oh, it's very hard. But you can do it. You know how I know? Because I did it. If I can, you can too.

Now, if you're still reading it, bravo! Thank you for sticking around this long and spending your precious time reading this post. Seriously, I mean it (all jokes aside). I hope I saved you time with this, so you can stop feeling guilty and start writing in earnest, like I did. I'm still not done with my novel, but I'm on the finish line and I've worked up a routine that I know will allow me to actually finish (started the bloody thing 3 times). As always, feel free to agree or disagree or butcher me in the comments - I can't wait to read what you have to say!

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