The Distracted Writer’s Guide to Fiction Writing

We’ve all been there. We want/need to write, but there’s just so much going on. Post-production. The day job. The family life. The… I dunno, it’s summer and you really want to go swimming. Boohoo.

Either way, I’ve found that trying to keep up the ‘normal’ level of typing up new words gets harder for me when there’s so much going on. I’ve even faced some serious doubts in the past few weeks, most notably because I was so exhausted by the increased demands of my day job. (You wouldn’t believe how many books people can read during summer. Or… nevermind.)

This post was sketched out while I was doing something else pretty early this year, and I can’t remember what anymore—probably a big jigsaw puzzle. I’m as distracted by life in general right now as I was that day, though. Thus, I finish. And edit. And post. Happy summer, right?

Accept the long game. If you’re writing short stories, you just might be able to get away with smaller chunks of time every few days, and still have the feeling you’ve accomplished something. If you’re in this writing thing for the noveling experience, though, there will just be downtimes every now and then. Remember that resting is not the same as stopping and we’ll be fine.

Note ideas down as they appear. Even though—especially when—you might not have the time to address them right now. Getting ideas out there helps keep your idea creating brain in working order. It also helps smother the feeling of not doing a thing about your writing when you can’t write. It might also—though not always, unfortunately—lead to ideas you can actually use later on!

Find as many ways as you can to get excited over that one thing you’re currently writing. This one might just be the hardest idea from this short list, or it might… not. When we’re distracted, finishing something counts double than usual. It takes more time, too… but if we can just keep rolling, it’ll be worth it. (As a recent example, I’ve realized something just this morning as I’m writing this—I can’t write three new novels this year in a new setting. It doesn’t really make sense, not with what we’re trying to go for, here in the SnW headquarters. What I can do is write the Johnny’s Girls sequel this year—sure effin hope so. And I’m doing my best to ‘get excited’ over it. Luckily—and I mean luck of the lovecraftian queer dieselpunk nature—it’s not that hard.)

Don’t start a new novel until you finish the current one. Unless you’re using a novel you hate as a procrastination technique, which is between you and said novel. This is a lesson I’d do good to remember more often!

Try to remember that there will be time to write that brilliant new thing, and that time will be later. Wait, isn’t this the same as the last two ideas? How come a post about being distracted turned into a post about delayed gratification? Interesting…

Celebrate finishing as much as you celebrate starting. It might be a personal thing, or a general one—I’ve no idea. But to me, endings are hard*, and every new thing is a shiny new thing and beginnings feel more of a win than endings. I think it’s time to start changing that.

Know your fucking why. And this, my friends, is the reason I’m posting this list right now, mid-August 2020. The past few weeks have seen me go from ‘we’re doing this writing thing, and we’re doing it now!’ all the way down to ‘what about next year?’. I’m just so damned tired. And I just can’t, anymore. But writing… well, it is precious to me**. This year just might be the first time I’m trying to use writing as a means to an end. (Other than, you know, getting published and having a creative outlet.) This year, no matter how stupid and painful and hard and heavy and unbelievably tiring it is, writing has become something else. Because of that, frankly, there’s no distraction in the world which could keep me away from the keyboard for more than a few weeks.

In hope the next half of the year offers more time to rest and write in total, stay safe, and keep up the good job, no matter how distracted you get.

We’ve got this.


*Chuck Shurley.
**C’mon, really??

Photo by Maria Teneva on Unsplash.