NaNoWriMo – How to Wrap Up Your Novel: Advice From Anansi Authors November 28 2014

Our authors know the insane pressure felt by everyone scrambling to finish NaNoWriMo this weekend, they’ve all been there themselves with their own works! Here is some advice from the trenches on deadlines, winding down, and the end of your novel:

 

9781770898745_1024x1024SHANE BOOK

How do you deal with the pressure to complete your writing on a deadline? Do deadlines help you or hurt you?

As an aid to self-discipline, deadlines are essential. For example, had I not been given a deadline for this interview, I probably wouldn’t have finished it.

I think a lot of the pressure comes from thinking your writing has to be perfect. One of my first teachers, the poet Phillip Levine used to say, “When you’re having trouble writing, lower your standards.” I think that applies to meeting deadlines.

What is your best method for really focusing when you have to meet a deadline?

The word itself is pretty direct: it has the word “dead” in it. At a basic level, it’s a weird sort of abstract imperative, embedded with the threat that if you violate it, you will perish. That is one serious word. Of course the other aspect of the deadline is that often this threat is close to empty. And yet in order to stay focused, you must never think about the deadline’s malleability—for the moment you notice its actual porousness, the deadline is drained of its power.

If I’m having trouble taking a deadline seriously, I think about other people: the person whose own work depends on me finishing whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing and the person who asked me to complete the task in the first place.

In the thick of your plot or work, how do you start winding down to the end? How do you know it’s the end?

I don’t think anything is ever “over.” You just give up on it. Or someone—often in the form of the deadline-giver—takes it out of your hands. Here I’m reminded of something the film director Robert Altman said: “Things never end. There are no ends. There are stopping places. So, you really choose a stopping place.”

I try to not stop revising something until I have a sense that I, at least, won’t feel humiliated if someone else sees the piece. I remember a story about Al Purdy going around to different bookstores and buying up copies of his first book because he didn’t want anyone to see it. That’s not a feeling I ever want to have about something I’ve made. There are already so many books published every year, many of them mediocre—why knowingly add to the noise? If you’ve done all you can to make the work not suck, someone may still deem it to be terrible, but at least you’ll know you did what you could.

Do you have any advice to writers approaching the end of their manuscripts?

Now I’m reminded of what Robert Altman said when someone asked him for advice, “I’ll give you the same advice I give my children: never take advice from anybody.”

The dirty secret behind so much craft of writing talk is that there is no secret. It is just very difficult to write well; it takes a long time and a lot of work. Show your writing to people you trust but in the end, you must rely on your instincts. You’ll know when the manuscript is done.

 

MARIKO TAMAKI9781554981526_07566f57-0478-494d-a531-2f998ce2bbba_1024x1024

How do you deal with the pressure to complete your writing on a deadline? Do deadlines help you or hurt you?

I’ve never imagined writing as something that happened outside of time constraints. I think if I did, I would never finish anything. Typically, I give myself a deadline even before one is imposed. Which sometimes gives me this moment of pause when I’m rushing to complete something in order to hit a deadline only I know about. I think, “Who’s going to be mad if I don’t get this done by Thursday?” Then I think, “Me.” I’m such a taskmaster. I’d never mess with me.

What is your best method for really focusing when you have to meet a deadline?

The key for me is to have the time to make a deadline possible. Which sometimes means not doing things. Like not going to a movie when you have a whole evening free to write. Mostly for me it’s about carving out whole days whenever I can, so I can spend the whole day writing and taking little breaks instead of busting out something in a few hours. That makes it sound like a bummer but it’s not really. Once I’ve got my writing done I can do whatever I want and I’ve always enjoyed that earned freedom. Plus, I work well on a deadline but not under stress. Giving myself more time makes the whole thing less hectic.

In the thick of your plot or work, how do you start winding down to the end? How do you know it’s the end?

I don’t have a lot of trouble recognizing the ending of a book. Or knowing what that will be. A lot of it is connecting the end with something that feels like an ending, like the end of the school year, the end of summer. Something.

Do you have any advice to writers approaching the end of their manuscripts?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from the amazingly talented Billeh Nickerson. I was talking to him about the trouble I was having getting through my first draft, because every time I started writing I would go through everything I’d already written. Which was giving me less and less time to move forward. And he was basically like, “Move on. Don’t look back yet. Get it done.” And it’s true. You have to get to the end, first. Then you fix it.

 

 

9781770893061_1024x1024JONAS T. BENGTSSON

How do you deal with the pressure to complete your writing on a deadline? Do deadlines help you or hurt you?

Deadlines are great for keeping you focused, especially during the hard part when you forget why you started writing in the first place. So push through – but also remember that no literary awards are given out for “best at keeping deadlines.” If you need to break a deadline let your editor know well in advance. The last thing the world needs is more half-cooked book.

What is your best method for really focusing when you have to meet a deadline?

Let people know that you will be dead to the world for a while. Don’t even think about fiddling with social media. Only use the Internet for porn as intended.

In the thick of your plot or work, how do you start winding down to the end? How do you know it’s the end?

If you have set up everything the ending will play itself out naturally. If you can’t seem to get it right, your problem is most likely with the beginning or the middle.

Do you have any advice to writers approaching the end of their manuscripts?

This is always a bit scary – you will probably feel like going back and introducing new characters or maybe restructuring the whole thing. But stay with your original idea and see it through. You are in for a lot of rewriting anyway.