Nearly Finished: Or, Why It’s Not Always Easy to Nut Up or Shut Up

I’m nearly finished with my rough draft of Eye of the Tempest. In fact, I’m just about to embark on (gutting and re)writing one of the mini-climactic scenes that will shortly lead up to the big bang climax. This is not to say that the book is nearly done. There will still be a lot of editing after my agent and betas read it, and I also have a series of “fixes” I’ve identified that need to be changed before anyone even sees it. I also write what I like to think of as “thin” rough drafts, that I go back and pad with more detail.

But first I have to get to the end. And that’s what I’d like to talk about today–how hard it is to get oneself over that last hump which is the near-end of the book. I think this difficulty consists of a bunch of elements, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Commitment issues! We all have ’em, to a certain extent. And let’s face it: finishing a book is a commitment. You’ve committed yourself to having written book X, when, conceivably, you could have written books Y, Z, or (unpronounceable symbol, a la Prince, here), instead.
  • Boredom issues! I’ve already moved on, to be honest. Part of me is thinking about the next book, a small part of me is thinking about the next series . . . but here I am, still with Jane in a cave, where we’ve been for months. I love the little minx, but the end stages of a book are a slog, simply because it’s been THIS book for SO long.
  • Deadline anxiety! I spend about 1/4 of the time I should be writing planning what work I need to be doing to meet my deadline. It’s an insidious form of procrastination I find unable to resist. Like shortbread, or men with prison records. (Just kidding, mom! Really! Sort of!)
  • Real life! It’s like the Murphy’s Law of Deadlines–One never has a deadline, say, in the middle of one’s summer vacation, or the dead period in one’s work. Deadlines must always come slap-dash in the middle of a crisis, or the busiest time in your job, etc. Even if you think you’ve scheduled your deadlines well, Murphy’s Law of Deadlines will exert itself, making sure your ceiling caves in or your plumbing fails, just the week before.
  • The near-phobic anxieties we all must endure, to be authors! Authors, no matter how cool we are on the surface, all have to be basket-cases, somewhere, deep inside. We’re all afraid that THIS is the book that sucks. It was fated to suck; it couldn’t NOT suck; and now we have gone forth and hoarked out that suckáge on the page, for all to point at and laugh. This near-phobic anxiety runs on an inverse ratio, so the closer you get to finishing, the more you’re convinced you’re wading through suckáge.

I’m sure there are more hurdles to jump before finishing a book, and would love to hear about some of them, from you. Because then I can spend this afternoon anxiously meditating on everything y’all have said, rather than doing the writing I need to do, today.

Procrastination itself also runs on an inverse ratio: the closer you are to finishing, the more Facebook sings its siren’s song.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you about why you find finishing a project (any project) difficult. Or you can just use your comment space to tell me to shut the hell up, get off Facebook, and finish this damned chapter. I will then stare at your comment, wide-eyed (and not writing) as I think about just how right you are.

Posted by Nicole Peeler

Author, Professor, Lover, Fighter

9 thoughts on “Nearly Finished: Or, Why It’s Not Always Easy to Nut Up or Shut Up”

  1. Hey lady! You are so right about the insidious procrastination of planning what you need to do to get what needs to be done done in time… I'm a master with a paper diary, a google calendar and a google spreadsheet which I use as a timetable! I even have different colours for different types of jobs (research, teaching related etc)…

    But I think you forgot another, possibly equally insidious form of procrastination…. the time spent trying to figure out which think is most important and therefore should be tackled first! I'm currently debating between marking my students' midterms, finishing up an article I've been working on since July, finishing up reading the book I have to write a review of by November, and starting on another book I need to write a review on!

  2. @NicolePeeler I finished 4 books fast. But not getting published means I keep wanting to go back over them with all I've learned in between

  3. Oh, man, the boredom problem! Once a book is in first-draft form, I *know* what's going to happen. The exciting part is over. 🙁 Not that editing isn't fun in its own way, but there's nothing like those first draft butterflies…

  4. Louisa: Haha! Yes, I call that the "shifting the list." It's a total beartrap! 😉 BTW, I'm starting the C25K over again. Why not? 😉

    AJ: Great meeting you in SF! And that's it, exactly. Plus there's always the scenes you want to write, further ahead, and getting to them can be like slogging through a swamp. For me, I then write like I'm slogging through a swamp, and have to back and gut everything.

  5. Well, I personally cannot fricking get myself to not be working on my writing, fiction or nonfiction, right up until that last second. Last month I wrote 4 articles the last WEEK of the month. I had all month mind you– but sent off the last one the NIGHT of the deadline. That sucked. I just finished a short story a week ago, and my biggest problem was yes, the ending, but because I kept wanting to change it or fine tune it. Was it too sappy? Did it need actual sex, or was the sexual tension good enough? OMG, should I rewrite the whole damn thing? *snort* I will have to get back to you on the book ending–I'm going to NaNo this year for the first time. LOL

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