Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tip O'Day #454 - It Sounds Easy Because It Is.

Guest blogger Hayden Chance on "Five Habits That Will Murder Your Chances of Ever Finishing a Novel."

Writing is like catching fireflies in a jar. If you don’t grab the spark when the opportunity arises, the sunrise will come and the magic will all be gone. No shit. It’s really true. Every idea has a shelf life and if you don’t use it before its expiration date, your writing will do the same thing milk does when it’s been sitting on the counter for several days. It will sour and stink and no one will want anything to do with it. That means if you want to write a novel, you’ve got to get it done when the creative impulse strikes, and then get it out there for people to read. This sounds simple, and really it is, but writers like to develop all sorts of convoluted habits that complicate simplicity.

When people find out I’ve written seven books, six of them novels, invariably I get asked the same question: “How the hell do you write one novel, much less six?” I say the same thing every time: Process. A process is something that has steps, creates success and can be repeated over and over again. I have a definite process I employ every time I write a book, but since there’s not enough space in this brief blog entry to outline that process, I’ll give you these five poisons that are sure derail any novel writing process you choose to use:

One: Journaling constantly. If you continuously journal every thought, hope and feeling you ever have, you’re a diarist. That’s fine if you’re writing just for yourself or as a coping mechanism; however, if you want to write novels, then write novels. Not about how your favorite Adele song enhances your orgasms. Not about how that turkey sandwich you ate last week made you too tired to pick up the kids from school, so they had to hitch a ride with the creepy dude three houses down who smells like fish, and who’s wife disappeared mysteriously three months ago, even though someone still comes out of their house late at night wearing her dresses… (OK, maybe you do wanna write that last thing down. It might be good to give to the cops later.)

Without fail, when people ask me why they can’t finish creating a novel, and I ask them, “Are you writing?” They respond: “Um…well, I’m journaling a lot.” It’s great to have a diary. It’s just that if you’re not some sort of nympho like Ana├»s Nin, no one but you is likely to ever want to read it.

Two: Talking about writing, rather than writing. For God’s sake, if you’re gonna tell everyone about what you someday hope to write, at least record the freaking conversations. The more you’re talking about writing, the less you are actually writing. Writing’s like making love. It’s your job to bring that reader to the heights of ecstasy. Put your energy into making that happen ON PAPER FOR YOUR AUDIENCE. Don’t be some cheap literary whore in random conversations with everyone you know. (For one thing, you will bore them all and they will hate you like taxes.) You don’t want to shoot your wad in conversational foreplay before you’ve even unbuttoned your jeans. Save some energy for the actual fictional act. Otherwise you’ll be snoring in self satisfaction while your audience is lying next to you, worked up, unsatisfied, and thinking of how they might poison your omelet in the morning without leaving any evidence.

Three: Constantly “work-shopping” everything. Lack of confidence kills your authority. Trust your own voice, your experience and your ability to tell a story. If you don’t believe in your work, no one else will. Getting someone to read your work for clarity is fine. Hitting workshops like a junky riding a twelve-step circuit damages your ability to determine your self-worth as a writer.

Four: Taking too long to finish. The longer you take to finish a novel, the further you go from the original creative impulse. You will change. Your views will change. The continuity, clarity and integrity of your story will suffer. Your audience will know it.

Five: Endless rewrites. Write it. Rewrite it. Get it the hell out there. Endless rewrites are just fear of success.

Hayden Chance is the bestselling author of the Urban Fantasies Taboo, Forbidden, Year of the Bull and the Amazon bestseller, Anatomy of a Wish. His latest sci-fi novel, Dream Oblivion, recently hit #1 on the Amazon’s Hot New Releases. You can check out his latest work here.


  1. Well said, all of it. I expect that 'constantly journaling' could be construed to include Facebooking. :)

  2. Hayden, you have a delightful turn of phrase. "poison your omelet" that's priceless.