How Not to Write a Novel: N M Browne

Every serious writer is a master of procrastination. I am sure that, if you are reading this, you are already on track. However, if you are running out of ideas, I would like to share with you my top procrastination tips. I can guarantee that if you follow these, you will never finish a novel again.
1.     Make a ‘to do’ list.
If you think list-making helps avoid procrastination, you are doing it wrong.
    There is only one possible pad you can use for list making and only one pen. You keep them in any one of several places about the house. To find them you will have to clean your office/workspace, reorganise your bedside cabinet and clear all kitchen surfaces. Clearing kitchen surfaces necessitates making room in your cupboards. Your pen is obviously a cartridge pen which takes only one (obscure) brand of cartridges which are rarely in stock anywhere, necessitating several hours online and/or a shopping expedition.
     Once you have the correct pen and pad for list-making, begin with at least four tasks that are impossible. I suggest things like getting to the bottom of the laundry basket, upgrading your website, filing your emails and preparing your tax return. Do no writing until they are done.
2.     Research.
Before writing a book you must research broadly , particularly if you don’t know what the book is going to be about. This may involve foreign travel, shopping trips, visits to the cinema/gym/art gallery/theatre etc in order to overhear interesting conversations, get a feel for a possible novel setting etc. It is essential to engage in random internet trawling, facebook interaction, and book buying. 
     You will need to read everything and, if you are really serious, take notes. Always keep notes in a special notebook (as above.) Draw lots of maps and diagrams and make lists of possible character names. Write all notes illegibly in longhand so that, in the unlikely event you ever want to access the information in your notebook, you will have to track down the original note source and read it again. Under no circumstances have a plan.
In order find the best agent/publisher and sell your book in shedloads read all the posts on internet chat rooms that deal with writing and the publishing industry. Sign up for mailing lists and join online writing communities. Blog and read other bloggers. Post compulsively about your ideas and worries. Ask for advice and dispense it. Get into arguments. 
Change your mind about the marketability of the book you might like to write. Think about writing another one. Repeat as necessary.


Chris Longmuir said…
I loved this post and it struck a chord. and, as you see, I'm procrastinating by reading the AE blog which I do every morning, before breakfast, after I've checked my emails. Now, I wonder what else I can do before breakfast, You see the working day doesn't start until breakfast is over, so the longer I can delay it, the more I procrastinate.
JO said…
How familiar this all is. And I would add, start each day with good resolutions to get more writing done, and finish it with a resolution to try harder tomorrow ...
Jan Needle said…
I was thinking of putting a heading on my notes - Chapter One - and the words The End at the bottom of the pile, then publishing it on Amazon. It would be the longest work of pointless fiction ever!
I have done all of these at one time or another and sometimes all at the same time. The pens and notebooks in particular. And the endless lists. (I sometimes write things on them that I've already done, so that I can tick them off.)
Fran B said…
Related totally to the research phase / tunnel / way if life. I had such fun researching my new novel ( set in the Hebrides in the 1920s), browsing museums, poring over old books, meeting lots of delightful enthusiasts who could keep me talking and (mainly) listening for days about their pet subject which might or might not have any relevance to my eventual novel. After two and a half years of this (no, honestly), I had almost forgotten how to write fiction. Thankfully, I broke out of the tunnel at last and got on with it but it took courage!

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