Writing My Novel: Never Look Back

Beej May Novel Word Count My novel is not perfect.  My novel.  Is not.  Perfect.

There, I said it.  As much as it pains me to say it, I know that my novel as it stands right now is work in progress and very, very raw.  There will be a time and a place for me to make it perfect, but now is not that time.

I have to keep reminding myself of this fact because as I write, I constantly want to go back and fix the plot holes and polish things up.  And I know that I cannot. Because if I do, then my novel will never get finished.  And no one wants that.

Translatable Skills

Luckily, my biggest asset in the academic world also translates into creative writing, too.  Unlike my wife who reads, rereads, thinks, overthinks, ponders, boggles, and aches over every last word she puts on paper, I am very good at sitting down and churning out a complete piece of writing as quickly as I need to.

Do I need a research paper done in 6 hours?  Done.  Do I need a novel finished by the end of June? Done.

It may not be good.  In fact, it probably won’t be.  It may need a hell of a lot more work done to it than hers does, as she pores over the minutiae, but I can get almost any first draft done beginning to end in no time flat.

And by learning how to do that in college, I have helped myself with my novel writing process.  I know—based on years of aspiring to be a writer—that I have plenty of ideas, but little  enough follow-through when I go back to edit.  When I do that, I see all the problems, consider the work lackluster, and never go back.  So I am taking a skill I know I possess and translating it.  And so far it’s working wonders.

A similar skill I gained by learning I can work straight through before editing is that I am a master at keeping threads of thought together in my head.  Cut/Paste (or, if you’re more into keyboard shortcuts like I am, CTRL-X/V) are my best friends, and I am very good at reorganizing entire chains of ideas once they’re on paper.

Looking Forward, Not Back

Open BookRight now, my first draft has 41,015 words.  That means I am sitting almost directly on top of the halfway point I set for my goal.  Normally, I would think that I have reached a wonderful milestone and should start working on making this half as cohesive and polished as possible.

But not now.

Not this time.

With the schedule I have set myself, I should be able to finish this novel and disseminate it to beta readers by the end of June/the beginning of July.  Once I have a collection of opinions on what works and what doesn’t, I will be able to settle in and polish the everloving crap out of this thing.

But not before.  I won’t let myself.  I need to see this through to the end before I can start back at the  beginning.

A Slave To…

One thing I know about myself is that I am a slave to two things: calendars and routines.

If I write something on a calendar and set a date for it, it’s as good as done.  I was raised with the mindset that when you start something, you finish it.  So when I put “2k” and a wordcount on each day of my calendar, my novel was as good as written from that moment.  As long as there’s a schedule and even a loose path I can follow, I’m there.

I am also a creature of habit. I like doing the same thing every day.  That repetition comforts me. So when I said that I would get up at the same time I go to work during the semester and treat writing my novel like a job, nothing changed.  When I said, I need to set 8am-12pm as my “novel writing time,” then after a few days, that became my novel writing time.  Once I finish my novel, it will become “short story time” and then on to “second novel time,” at least until I start back teaching in the fall.

The point, though, is that I have now made writing a regular part of my life.  And I’m the kind of person who works best when things are regular parts of my life.

Solo, Schmolo (But Not Han. He’s Awesome.)

futureIt’s not to say, though, that I am not keeping track of what needs to be done as far as revising the book.  I have a document set aside for revision notes that I will eventually be able to dig through and combine with opinions I get from beta readers.

I don’t want to go in this alone.  In fact, I can’t. While my voice and ideas matter a great deal to the success of the project, it’s the feedback I get based on this first draft that will really make it a saleable book.  And I can’t get that feedback until this first draft is done and behind me.  Then, and only then, will I allow myself to start looking back at what I’ve written.

But that’s another post for another time.  Right now, though, my attention is solely on getting a first draft completed. I can worry about its quality at a later stage.

What quirks have you found about your work habits that help set you apart from the crowd?

By B.J. Keeton

B.J. KEETON is a writer, teacher, and runner. When he isn't trying to think of a way to trick Fox into putting Firefly back on the air, he is either writing science fiction, watching an obscene amount of genre television, or looking for new ways to integrate fitness into his geektastic lifestyle. He is also the author of BIRTHRIGHT and co-author of NIMBUS. Both books are available for Amazon Kindle.


  1. Well, kudos to you for setting a goal and keeping at it. If you need any help editing anything, let me know. I’ve done a bunch of creative fiction workshops over the years, so I’m happy to help. Good luck seeing it through!
    .-= Chris´s last blog ..Games vs Real Life (a Guide) =-.

  2. I really envy your ability to work to a calendar and just get things done. I reckon it’s a huge part of being a professional writer actually as without it, even the best intentions and talent are meaningless. I’m a very slow writer myself and it just takes me forever to get stuff done. I’m kinda like your wife I think as I need utter peace and quiet and then re-read everything I’ve written 15,000 times. It makes writing a slow, long process.

    Not to say that I lack discipline, it’s just that the effort of writing takes me so long that it becomes very hard for me to make the time for it!

    Anyway, you’re inspiring me to get cracking on my novella and just get it done! 😀 Awesome post!! 🙂
    .-= We Fly Spitfires´s last blog ..The Power Of Twitter (Twitterの新しい使い方) =-.

    1. I’m a slave to a good calendar and routine. There are days so far I’ve not wanted to do it. But I’ve trucked through, and I am 3k ahead of schedule right now. It just takes discipline and willpower, nothing else.

      You should get crackin’! The sooner you do, the sooner I get to buy it for my Kindle. 😉

  3. Wow, great spirit and work ethic! Keep it up, I’m excited to see what you come up with. Reading your posts about writing has really helped me keep blogging. Some days I just don’t feel like I can write well, but when I think about you cranking out 2k words every day for a novel I feel like I can accomplish something soon.

    I’m really trying to be a producer of something instead of always being a consumer.
    .-= Void´s last blog ..Air Traffic is Fun With Flight Control =-.

    1. Here’s the thing, Void: I know that the words I’m putting on the page are kind of bad. In that they’ll need a //ton//of revision before I get ready to send them out to professional agents. But just sitting down and doing it is making me get better at writing. Even if you don’t think you write well, you’ll get to the point where you do think more highly of your skills.

      The same thing happened with my blog. Go back through my archives and read some of the stuff I posted a year ago. It’s miserable. It really is. I’ve thought about taking it down, actually, but I don’t because it’s something to look back at and see just how far I’ve come in my blogging and writing career. Nothing makes a writer better than simply sitting down and doing the act of writing. The words can always be fixed later, and you’ll learn tips and tricks along the way as long as you read, too, but you can’t let the doldrums get you down.

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