Five Things I’d Rather Do Than Finish My Novel: How to Procrastinate Productively

There is a crisis point in writing a novel that I never knew existed – that is, until I reached it.  I have written many half-books.  If I combined all of my half-books into one grand and glorious whole book, it would be something like a Dosteovsky novel after it had eaten too much Tolstoy.

funny road sign changed prioritiesI have only a few times reached the threshold of the very-nearly-almost-book.  That is to say, I don’t generally finish books.  I have written a novella or two, short stories aplenty, and  I am working my way through a serial that may or may not ever end.  But to come within chapters of a complete manuscript of what would be an actual legitimate book?  That has not happened for many years.

There are three chapters left in my book.  Maybe four.  And then the first (albeit sketchy) draft is done.  So why I can’t I write three mangy chapters?  Why?  Somehow, bringing everything I have written to a sound and satisfying conclusion seems more difficult than writing the 200-something pages that came before it.

But creativity demands an outlet, so instead of writing my three (or four) last ever final conclusive chapters of my book, I have thought of a whole load of things that I can do instead.  I thought I’d share these lovely delays distractions activities in case someone else out there is in need of an escape from the crisis of the very-nearly-almost-book.  Or, heck, even the half-book, the sort-of-nearly-off-the-ground-book or the I-have-the-beginnings-of-a-genius-idea-book.  Everyone needs to procrastinate once in a while, right?

1. Bake Your Troubles Away

DSC_0075My default when I can’t settle down and get work done is to make something.  Right now, there are two loaves of bread rising in the kitchen.  A couple of days ago, there were ginger snaps.  I may have possibly been ignoring my novel for a while now…

Here’s the ginger snap recipe, just in case you are in need of a baking distraction.  A mostly finished novel does not smell like cinnamon, cloves, and heaven.  These do!

Best Ginger Snaps Ever

2 C Flour
2 t baking soda
2 t ginger
2 t cloves
2 t cinnamon
½ t salt

¾ C shortening
1 C sugar
1/2 C molasses
1 egg

Mix wet and dry ingredients separately, then combine. Roll into (smaller than golf, bigger than grape-sized) balls and roll in plain white sugar. Place on greased cookie sheet (or use parchment paper). Bake at 350 for 10 min.


The cookies won’t look or feel done when you take them out, but they ARE done! Just let them sit on the pan for a while until they solid enough to remove to a cooling rack.

2. Organize Something

Yes, that pesky closet that has been threatening to evacuate if you try to stuff one more pair of shoes where they simply cannot fit.  That closet needs to be organized.  Right now.  Way more important than three measly final chapters of a novel.  And you never know: you might find Narnia in the back of it if you just look one more time.  Who would want to risk ignoring Aslan’s call? I know certainly wouldn’t.

3. Buy a New Book

So you can’t finish your own book.  What of it?  There are so many lovely finished books out there. Just think of it: whole stores filled with shelves of books just begging to be read!  What about them?  Don’t they deserve your attention? What about that used copy of Branwen Uerch Llyr that you’ve been wanting to order for ages?  Nothing will make you feel quite so good about ignoring an unfinished novel as purchasing a nice, tidy, completed one. Especially if it’s medieval, Welsh, and needs translating.  Seriously, the best thing ever.

4. Go for a Walk

Exercise is very healthy and satisfying and sitting in front of your computer wrestling with the end of a book is so very not healthy and satisfying.  And walks are such a good way to gain inspiration and perspective and scope and all those other deep, deep things that writers always seem to be after.  (And maybe while you’re gone the chapters will mysteriously finish themselves. Miracles happen!)scotland countryside mountains

5. Start a New Novel

I shouldn’t have suggested that, should I have?  Because what we writers of very-nearly-almost-books do not need is a new project to distract us from the one that is begging us for an ending.  But then, writing something is better than writing nothing, isn’t it?  And we’ll come back to that book later, anyway, won’t we?

Of course we will.




This post is very likely not a good post for anyone to read who is at the crisis point that I have reached.  However, it seems that we very-nearly-almost-book writers should stick together, share ideas, and perhaps even finish our projects one day.  These are my own particular favorite ways to ignore the fact that my book is missing an ending.

What are yours?


6 thoughts on “Five Things I’d Rather Do Than Finish My Novel: How to Procrastinate Productively

  1. Anyone who knows me personally can attest to my excellent cat-napping abilities. These “Flashnaps” (it sounds more exciting, doesn’t it?) may be anywhere from 7 to 20 minutes long and can take me from addled and numbed to fresh and aware. Usually, I can trick myself into thinking this is “procrastinating” and get back to work afterward. One word of caution if you take my example as inspiration: limit naps to less than 20 minutes. If you reach REM sleep and awake with an alarm, you’ll be much more groggy afterwards than before!

    1. You and your “Flashnaps”… I take Hibernating Bear Naps. It takes me a good hour to calm down enough to sleep and then it seems like the nap should be long enough to be worth the prep time. And then it takes a good half hour to crawl back out of sleep mode. Needless to say, I don’t nap when I have things that need doing.

  2. So how did you finish your dissertation? Oh, maybe I shouldn’t ask that kind of question here! 😉 In any case, nothing motivates you to finish ANY book so effectively as the threat of imminent death and destruction if you don’t.

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