How to Write a Novel Without Going Nuts
I’ve written five novels, seen four published and adapted two of my books into screenplays in eight years. Yes, I’m crazy. Rather, I’ve come close to going crazy more than a few times.
My most recent brush with almost-crazy was during a frantic five week rewrite of Good-bye To All That (Touchstone, July ’10). The only thing that 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 career.
The first is most important, least sexy and 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’m not saying all writing has to be about outlines and deadlines, but when your editor is sending you emails with promotion plans and your book cover and you’re not done with the book yet? That puts having a plan into an urgent perspective. 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.
The second piece of how to not let writing a novel drive you crazy is so contrary to the actual writing of a novel, that it’s easy to not do. And it is: stop typing. Taking breaks and doing something besides typing won’t up your word count, but it could help you meet it all the sooner.
I’ve found, after eight years of sitting at my desk, is that I have to make a point to leave my desk, novel and all that goes along with my writing career for at least an hour a day with little breaks here and there to supplement my daily big break from it. 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 that there aren’t many people who’ll want to hang around you. Around my house the phrase “Have you been to the gym lately?” has become my husband’s way of telling me I’m tap dancing toward crazy.
It’s taken me a while, years, but 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 that I’m sure are way more fun, but these two have consistently worked to keep me from going off the deep end.