Kay: The Road to Hell is Paved with Works-in-Progress

Original photo by Matthew Bowden freeimages.com/photographer/thesaint-30769

Original photo by Matthew Bowden freeimages.com/photographer/thesaint-30769

I’ve been following the “Write a Novel in a Year” column by Anthony Ehlers in Writer’s Write occasionally—it helps to keep me motivated, and it’s good advice. I’ve been regaining enthusiasm for my project that has languished now for months. Progress has been boosted by my return to regular swimming, where I get some great ideas as I go up and down the pool, and I’ve also had some thoughts before I go to sleep—both hopeful signs for my picking up steam on this book.

The Writer’s Write column is in week 24 of the 52-week program, which corresponds to the time when most writers—and I’m no exception—hit the sagging middle. This week’s column has lots of good advice generally about goal setting, preparation, and the importance of style compared to story, but I particularly enjoyed his “5 Quick Hacks” for finding the kernel of what you’re doing when you get stalled. They are:

  1. If you don’t have time to write a full scene, give it a quick and dirty draft – write it as a five-minute short story.
  2. Imagine you have to write a report on the status of your novel. What would be the highlights or successes? What would be the challenges? Sometimes seeing it written down can help you refocus.
  3. Think back to the last book you read or movie you watched. How would you describe the style of the piece? Did it add to your enjoyment of it? Or simply detract?
  4. Have a conversation with an ‘imaginary editor’ about your book. What kind of questions would they ask?
  5. Have the same conversations with the characters in your book. What would they ask about what you’re doing to them? What answers would you give?

Finally, did you recognize the title of this post? “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress” was first said by Philip Roth.

6 thoughts on “Kay: The Road to Hell is Paved with Works-in-Progress

    • So far I’m mostly revising what I’ve done and making notes of new ideas. Not too many new words are on the page yet. But I’m hoping my iron will will prevail. 🙂

  1. Love the quote! And I also love that number one hack — short stories are totally up my alley. I’m a little afraid of creating a “string of pearls” — but on the other hand, what’s wrong with a string of pearls? They are all pearls, right? In the best possible world, they’d be a variety of diamonds, each one bigger than the last. But, we don’t live in the best possible world, and I’d be satisfied with a pearl. Heck, at this point, I think I’d be satisfied with a shiny piece of plastic. Being stalled has gone on for far too long, and this weekeend, I’m busting out!

  2. Thanks for the heads up about the Writers Write series. I shudder to think what my characters would have to say to me right about now. I started the revision of my current WIP with the retyping and revising in real-time approach, got derailed by the day job, and left my lovely couple on the outs with each other somewhere in the middle of Act I. I’m coming back to rescue you soon, Daniel and Emme, I swear!

    • I think Daniel and Emme are probably off having coffee somewhere, waiting for you and rethinking their strategies. 🙂 Good luck with that day job and getting back to your writing.

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