Writing Like Crazy

I’ve come close to losing my marbles more than a few times and I blame it all on typing. With five completed novels, four published, two of those adapted into screenplays and another two original screenplays written in seven or so years, I've spent a lot of time with imaginary people.

My most recent brush with almost-crazy was during a frantic five week rewrite of Good-bye To All That (Touchstone, July ’10) last fall. What saved me from going completely bonkers was that I didn’t have time to check into a padded room and two other crucial things I’ve incorporated into my writing life.

The first is most important, least sexy, so obvious it’s easy to ignore is planning. Yes, a writer has to have a plan to give her a general idea as to what she’s writing about and when she wants to get it done. I have to have both an outline and a drop dead due date or else I won’t have any idea what I’m doing it and I’d never finish it anyway if I happened to figure it out along the way.

I’m not saying all writing has to be about outlines and deadlines. No, that would be taking away what little fun there sometimes is. But when your editor is sending you emails with your book cover attached and you’re not done with the book yet? That puts having a plan into urgent perspective.

My second piece of advice is so contrary to the actual writing of a novel it's crazy. What is it? Stop typing. Yep. Halt all work on what it is you want, need or have to get finished and do something else. Taking time away from your manuscript won’t up your word count, but it could help you meet your ultimate goal of finishing it all the sooner.

After years of sitting at my desk, I have to make a point to leave it, my manuscript and all that goes along with my writing career and do something, anything else. While it might sound indulgent and counterproductive, I’ve realized I’m a writer, not a machine. When all you think and talk about is your novel-in-progress, you’ll soon find there aren’t many people who’ll want to hang out you. Around my house the phrase “Have you been to the gym lately?” has become the husband’s way of telling me I’m tap dancing toward crazy.

Half the work that comes with writing a novel is finding a balance between writing and real life. There are a myriad of other coping mechanisms, some which I’m sure are way more fun, but these two have consistently worked to keep me from going off the deep end. With lots of new writing projects on my horizon (see list below), I know I wouldn’t be doing anyone any favors if I chained myself to my desk. With that thought in mind, I’m off to the gym to pay attention to that part of me which suffers most because of my career—my ass.

What might drive me crazy if I let it:
  • I’m writing my fist young adult novel and making great progress. I owe some of my word count to my mid/late 1980s New Wave heavy playlist. I like what I’m listening to and it helps me mark time.
  • I’ve been asked to write for a new blog launching February 1st. Can’t share many details yet, like what it’s called, but the founders liked the idea I pitched them and I’ll be posting at least once a week. It’s going to be fun and facetious.
  • I’m co-writing a novel with my friend Heather Poole. We’ve talked about doing this for a few years now and the time is right for both of us. It’s going to be funny, smart and sexy.
  • My screenplay for Life Over Easy is with a major production company (if you’ve seen a movie in the last 12 months, it was probably one of theirs) and I’m also polishing another romantic comedy I wrote. 
A version of this post was first published 9/10/10 on The Book Tree. 

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