Writing excuses are easy to come up with. Easy to justify.
But to publish, you’ll need to learn how to avoid using at least six of them—maybe more. My goal is to help you avoid using these six writing excuses by showing you how I overcame them to publish my first novel shortly after my eleventh birthday.
Writing Excuse 1: I Don’t Have Time
Deadline time. I knew to finish on time I’d need to wring every ounce of writing time I could out of life. I quickly washed a potato, threw it in the microwave, and hurried back to the computer to type until the microwave timer beeped. I flipped my potato, rushed back to the computer, and typed until the next beep. Butter and salt for flavor (and inspiration), then back to the computer, taking bites of food in between bursts of thought.
If you want time to write your book, you’ll need to take it wherever you can. Lack of time is probably the biggest issue authors face, which is why I mention it here first. So how can you fit writing into your schedule?
Like, really early. If I wanted to get any writing done in the mornings before school started, I had to get up at six AM and write until seven when the house started to stir.
Time and again my parents let me stay up until nearly midnight frantically typing. They mostly forgave my grumpiness the next morning.
While my siblings watched TV or read books, I learned to keep working to bring my story to life. This eventually became a habit, and to this day I often create worlds while my siblings watch someone else’s. What little things take away your free time? Social media? Gaming? Sacrifice these and you’ll find you have more time than you realize for writing—and you won’t even miss those other things.
Writing Excuse 2: I Can Wait Until Later
I started Phoenix Feathers because my dad challenged me to NaNoWriMo—National Novel Writing Month—on October 25th. It would have been easy to wait until November to start. But I was like, “Why wait five days for no reason? Can I start now?”
In those first five days, I finished about a chapter a day. Thanks to un-procrastination, I finished the rough draft of my 30,000-word book five days before the end of November.
Not saying I’m scot-free from procrastination. I had about three weeks to complete this post. I kept putting it off in favor of other projects, thinking, “I have plenty of time.”
I finally started two days before deadline. I’m confident saying it’s a lot better being ahead of schedule. At least you’ve started that way.
Writing Excuse 3: I Don’t Know How to End My Story
You know the feeling. You start with a promising setting. Great characters. An intriguing storyline. Then the story dries up because you don’t know where you’re going.
I learned this through sad experience. My brother’s metal modeling sets inspired me to write a book (Metal Earth) about a planet made of metal. Great setting, but I didn’t know where my story was going. I had no outline, no plot, and no destination. Just vague ideas.
Disaster. I floundered after a few chapters. It was like writing with my eyes shut.
I also started Phoenix Feathers without an outline, but my dad knew about my first novel attempt and told me an outline would help.
After I wrote my outline, I had guidelines and a destination while leaving plenty of room to surprise myself with plot twists. It became a lot more fun after laying the right foundation.
Same thing happened with this blog post. No outline, no progress. Full intimidation. With an outline, it became easy and fun.
Moral: Learn to outline, dude.
Writing Excuse 4: I Lose the Flow of My Own Story and Forget Things
Losing the flow happens to everyone. For me, it’s usually when I’m inactive on a book for even a few days. With poor Metal Earth, it became hard to drop back into the story after weeks away. The story flow went kaput.
However, it’s hard to write every day. Maybe you just don’t feel like it. You’re bored of your own story. I get that feeling a lot.
Consistency is the only thing that breaks this down, and that’s the reason NaNoWriMo is so powerful. I wrote probably three and a half hours per day every writing day of that month, and I never lost my place or forgot what I was writing about.
How can you develop your own habit of writing consistently?
Writing Excuse 5: I Have No Motivation to Write
You can break this feeling down with persistence and a little bit of … self-motivation. Let’s just call it a bribe.
With NaNoWriMo, I probably couldn’t have finished in time without “THE BRIBE.”
I alluded to the bribe in my dedication of Phoenix Feathers. My dad offered to buy me and my brother a $20 Lego set each if we completed our books before the end of National Novel Writing Month.
Now, a $20 Lego set for writing a book in a month seemed pretty good to me. But here’s the reality: Sometimes I dogsit a really cute Golden Doodle for $10 an hour. Two hours of that and I could buy my own Legos. We estimate I worked at least 100 hours on my rough draft. If I dog-sat for as long as I worked on my book, I would have made $1,000 dollars last November.
I got a $20 prize and a shiny new novel. It was a way better reward.
The novel was the thing I needed, but the Lego set is the thing I wanted. It’s just tricking your mind by providing the right motivation.
It doesn’t need to be big, but reward yourself with something at big milestones and keep envisioning holding a printed copy in your hands. When I finally got my first author’s copy in the mail, I ran downstairs giggling and hugging my book to my chest. That’s reward enough if you stick with it.
But it could be as simple as promising yourself a favorite snack between chapters or as big as taking a vacation when you type “The End.”
You can also find more subtle means of convincing yourself to write every day.
I’m competitive. Since my big brother was also doing NaNoWriMo, we turned it into a race. Who could type longer? Who could finish a chapter faster? If you know anyone else writing a book, challenge them to a contest. Awaken the fierce desire to win.
Don’t know another author? Challenge yourself by setting goals. Daily word count. Typing speed per chapter. Making your fingers fall off from typing so fast (okay, maybe don’t challenge yourself that much).
Small goals and rewards will push you through doldrums days until you have a good habit that carries you far beyond.
Writing Excuse 6: I’m Not Good Enough
When I started writing Phoenix Feathers, I didn’t know how to type. I wanted to write it by hand, but my dad wouldn’t let me. Most authors don’t have this problem, but I had never really touched a computer. Typing Metal Earth was eight pages of painfully slow pecking, and that was my first real experience with typing.
I complained to my dad while writing Phoenix Feathers: “I have so many ideas and I just can’t type them out fast enough!”
Slowly, though, I sped up. This post went much faster than any page of Phoenix Feathers did. My dad, a professional speed-writer, now calls me “competent.”
With any writing difficulty, work at it until it crumbles.
You might wonder why I saved the “not good enough” excuse for last—especially when established writers still have a hard time valuing their own work when they’ve read so many good books.
I have a natural gift for speed-reading. When I’m in the right mood, I’ll read about thirty full-length novels per month. One of my earliest memories is peering over my dad’s shoulder as he read a Hardy Boys book and wondering why he read so slow. And my dad is a pretty fast reader.
With all the good books I’ve read, I could’ve been intimidated by other authors. Instead I realized I’ve learned grammar, story structure, and creativity from other people’s work. No need to compare my work to theirs.
I actually thought, “I’ll never create something like Lord of the Rings, so why compare?” (I read the trilogy probably three times a year.)
Don’t ignore thoughts of not being good enough, but don’t let them hold you back. Imperfections and all, your writing will be yours. And if you have the occasional cliché, it’ll be your cliché.
You’re more ready to write your book than you think. If I can do it, anyone can. You’ll love holding that first book in your hands. End of story.
Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! What are the biggest writing excuses you find yourself battling? Tell us in the comments!