Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Crossing The Finish Line

I’m about 10,000 words shy of completing the first novel in a series that’s been a work in progress for about two years. 10,000 words. That’s it. On a good writing day, I can push out 2,500 words. I’m not great at math, but even I can figure this out – four good days and this book could be finished. Done.Finito.

But the truth is, I’ve been sitting at “10,000 words from completion” for about two weeks.

It’s not that I’m blocked. In the past few weeks, I’ve revisited an old project, started a new one (gulp), outlined the second book in this series AND another series, finished the first draft of a screenplay, and binge watched several TV series under the guise of inspiration. I’ve been productive.

And it’s not like I don’t have incentive to finish this book. My agent, my publisher, my critique partners, and my friends are all waiting for those last 10,000 words. Frankly, there’s a lot riding on it.

The feedback on the first half of the book has been positive – overwhelmingly positive. I have no good reason for writerly doubt to rear its nasty head.

But like a Cyclops there it is, staring me down with a smug one-eyed glare, and despite all of my monster-slayer training, this demon is a ridiculously feisty little creature.

It’s almost as though I’m afraid to type “The End” because of course, that’s when stuff gets real. The gig’s up. I’m no longer writing “my best work” – it’s written, and yeah, I know not going to measure up. How could it? In my mind, this draft is brilliant. Award-winning worthy. The great North American novel…

Ah, the stuff we tell ourselves to push through all of that…other stuff.

When I write, I slip into Genius Mode, this magical, mystical place where every word I write is perfect. The characters are three-dimensional, life like, sympathetic and a mesmerizing balance of good and flawed. I’ve chosen the most powerful verbs, ramped up the conflict, ended each chapter with a page-turning cliffhanger. There are no plot holes – every loose end is tied up with a neat little bow. The extra words are omitted. It really is a brilliant piece of work.

Genius Mode is a wonderful place to be, right?

But the gig’s almost up, and true to form, Idiot Mode has kicked in early. Instead of powering through those last 10,000 words, I’m hanging on to the “genius” –nervous about the flaws in the story, the character quirks that need fixing, the clichés that need to be axed. I’ve hit Idiot Mode too early – and that, my friends, is one nasty beast to slay.

So, I’ve taken the last two days to gather my arsenal. I’ve joined the gym because hey, if I’m going to beat myself up over writing, I definitely need to get my physical health in order. I finished Season 3 of Breaking Bad (talk about genius), and made my husband hide Season 4 as a REWARD for finishing those last 10,000 words. I’ve cleared my Mac of anything not related to this book and put it on a USB drive that is locked away in my desk drawer – and only my husband has the key. I’ve stocked up on Diet Coke and gummy bears, updated my playlist, and – gulp – deprogrammed half of the shows scheduled to tape on my PVR.

Drastic, right? Perhaps – but I know me, and THIS is the only way I’m going to cross the finish line on this book.

So – am I alone in my psychosis? Be honest, it’s okay. If not, what drastic measures have you had to employ to finish a project? And what tools of the trade am I missing in my monster-slaying arsenal?


  1. Absolutely not. I tell you. It's better than sticking with ONE idea and not finishing for four years ... :-)

    Drastic measures ... Does wagging work count?

  2. When I finished my first book, I actually stayed at a friend's house, and put my head down for 7-8 hours a day, for a full 7-day week, and pumped it out. Otherwise, I probably still wouldn't have finished it.

    It's hard without FIRM, consequential deadlines. Personal deadlines don't work (in fact, I think I subconsciously DON'T follow personal deadlines, just because I can).

    But just think of how RELIEVED you'll be once you finish those last 10,000 words! Just hunker down and whip it out!

  3. Wow, extreme indeed! I love your dedication. You go girl!

  4. Jess, YES! Wagging work DOES count :-) I've been there before, too.

    Kyle, I would love to take off for a week and just finish the thing. That's not a bad idea. I'm thinking...Hawaii :-P

    Thanks, Heather. To be honest, it's less about dedication and more about necessity. And it's killing me to skip The Voice when I'm crushing on Adam Levine. LOL

  5. You are not alone. Drop the cell in your bathtub. Make sure no neighbors Wifi can infiltrate the barriers to the workshop. Where's the chocolate? A must. Set the alarm for 330 and get your butt up and write. Write. Write.
    You can do it!

    Most importantly know that when you finish, the work will just begin. And that seriously is the fun part of the process. Editing. Love it! You will now get to decorate the cake you've baked.

    1. Really solid ideas, Karlene. Thank you. Ironically, I don't seem to need an excuse to drop the cell in the bath tub, though. I have done that twice. LOL I'm working on the 3:30 am thing...:-/

  6. Good luck, Dawn! I definitely prefer to be in Genius Mode, I can tell you that. LOL