Bad Advice Wednesday: Tear Through That Second Half

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

1 comment

vintage manuscript

I’ve been talking to several friends who are in the same spot as me–a novel or other book maybe half finished, 150 or 200 pages under the bridge (and awaiting revision), and that feeling of slowing down, of weeks turning into months, and months starting to look like years.  My big idea, which I’ve often done with shorter work, is this: I’m just going to bust out a very rough pile of pages, get myself to a (no doubt tentative) end, then go back and really write.

But really write with that flimsy skeleton in place.  As I make the push, I won’t write out every scene, but where I’m most clear on what’s needed, just put in brackets: [That scene with Sam and the tractor.]  Or whatever.  Where it’s harder, I’ll jot instructions, but also try some language, just keep busting forward.  Where I have no idea what should happen, maybe a list of possibilities, then a leap to the next firm ledge: “Okay, here, we know that Sam is back from his trip, so now he gets married.  Needs to be a full-blown scene.  No idea who the bridge should be…”  And then, make up a bride, just plug her in as a placeholder, one that can teach me things about what the book needs.

And write a few scenes in full.  And write the ending, if I know it by then, or write an ending, plus a list of other possibilities.

That’s my advice–don’t be content with the slow pace, but block out a proscribed amount of time, say one week, and bust out a simplified, horrible, messy, likely stupid, but nonetheless useful draft.  Don’t take all the time you wish.  This exercise is timed.


Bill Roorbach is going on book tour and suffering from anticipatory anxiety, which no doubt and as always will lift the second he gets in the car and backs out of the driveway tomorrow morning early…

  1. Debora writes:

    How did he know I had something half finished on my desk collecting dust and, by the looks of it, a little spider has moved in.