Wednesday, February 18, 2015

12 "Writerly" Things to Do (Instead of Actually Writing)

I thought that since the last couple of posts have been kind of serious, I would write something fun and Buzzfeed list-y, complete with gifs. I'm not great at gif-ing, so fair warning that the gifs may be kind of unrelated to the article, but they will be there.

Today I'll be talking about one of my favorite topics: procrastination! I'm currently working on rewriting a novel in hopes of publishing it. I love my book and I love writing, and yet, I keep finding ways not to work on it. Why? *deep sigh* Because I'm the worst, that's why.
Luckily, most writers are also the worst and we all band together and find ways to procrastinate working on our books on this great beautiful land called the Internet. There are the traditional types of procrastination: social media, clickbait sites like Buzzfeed, cute cat videos, binge-watching TV shows, etc. But eventually you get to feeling like with all this procrastination, and all this not-writing, you can't really call yourself a writer. So what do you do? Work on your manuscript? Don't be ridiculous! That takes effort! Instead, try one of these 12 fun, low-effort but still "writerly-feeling" procrastination activities.

1. Choose dream-casts for all your characters.

Despite the fact that you never work on it, your book is obviously going to be made into a blockbuster film that will attract big-name stars from all your favorite movies. And you might as well start planning for that day now. Plus, it totally helps to be able to picture your character as David Tennant instead of a vaguely male blur.

2. Take character questionnaires online.

Now that you know what your characters look like, it's time to figure out their personalities. You might think, "I've been writing this book for a year; I think I know my characters' personalities." Ah, but do you know their favorite comic book superhero? How about the childhood memory they most repress? That's what character questionnaires are for! Be sure to find one with over 100 questions and do it for every last one of your characters, to ensure maximum time-wasting.

3. Copy and paste your writing into websites that will analyze it for you.

Did you actually open the file with your book in it? Never fear, you can still avoid actually working. Just copy and paste sections from your book into one of these websites: Hemingway App, I Write Like, Wordle, 750words, or whatever else you can find online. It'll tell you a bunch of stuff- maybe accurate, maybe not- about your writing, or make a pretty cloud out of it. And look at all those words you've already written! Why bother writing more?

4. Reread your old writing lovingly.

My gosh. You are such a good writer. It's a wonder you haven't been published yet. Well, besides the whole not-writing thing. But look at this old scene! Reread that sentence- what a good sentence. Now read it over again, but this time imagine you're J.K. Rowling, realizing that she's finally been humbled by the work of your genius. You can't even believe you wrote this, it's so good.

5. Reread your old writing and cringe.

Oh my God, why? Did you actually think this was good or was this just some filler writing? This is so painful, you can't keep reading. Keep reading, it's so bad. Is it possible to delete Microsoft Word files forever? Like, really forever? What if somebody finds this? You have no idea why you decided to become a writer. You're going to fail at writing, and life. Why are you even reading this?

6. Take a Mary-Sue litmus test online.

A Mary Sue is a badly written character with no flaws- which your characters are obviously not! And to prove it, you should take every known Mary Sue litmus test on the Internet. Just type "Mary Sue test" into Google and you're set for the next few hours. Laugh at all the questions- does your character learn impossible skills in a few days? No! That would be ridiculous. Are they more beautiful than anyone else? Um, no! You can't believe there are writers that would do that. Are they the Chosen One?... OK, what, every character has a little Sue in them. God.

7. Analyze your own writing.

If the Internet has run out of ways to analyze your writing, do it yourself. Do a search of your novel for every instance of the word 'feel' and see what emotions your characters are being too obvious about. Copy and paste the first sentence of every chapter into a different document. Hey, maybe in order they could make a poem! That counts as writing something, right?

8. Make a playlist for your novel.

There is no way you're going to write without good background music. And you know what, the generic set of five songs you keep replaying while writing aren't going to cut it. You need to make a list of every song you've listened to in your entire life, then comb over the entire list and pick out each one that relates to your novel somehow. Then you need to put them in the perfect order. This is going to be so great. Then, after listening to the first five minutes, decide that it sucks and go back to the same five songs you always listen to.

9. Design a book cover.

Maybe you're not that skilled at Photoshop. But today is the day you're going to refine those little skills you have. Even though writers don't really have much say in what actual book covers look like, you can still make something beautiful that will totally inspire the graphic designer your publisher will actually hire. Spend about an hour trying to cobble together stock photos into something that looks like your perfect vision for the cover, then give up and find a pretty picture on Tumblr that you can slap a nice font onto in five seconds. Art!

10. Find writerly things you can buy online (but don't buy them)

You know what, now is the time to admit it. You're a writer. You need a moleskine notebook with a picture of Paris on the cover- oh God, thirty dollars, why? OK, wow, this ink stand with a snowy owl quill is totally- Yeah, no, you're not a millionaire. Oh man, that is literally the library from Beauty and the Beast- oh wait, that's from a cartoon. But seriously, if you won the lottery, the first thing you'd do is redecorate your house to look like @GuyinYourMFA's dream home.

11. Read through other writers' Twitter feeds and blogs.

Ugh, J.K. Rowling is so wise. This thing she said five months ago is just so applicable to my writerly life. Maggie Stiefvater makes some good points about the life of being a writer! Totally relate, Mags. I, too, waste an hour looking at Tumblr before I get back to working, John Green. (Just kidding, I waste six hours and never get back to work. But it's the same thing, right?) So writerly.

12. Open your document and stare at it.

If you just stare at it long enough, words will appear, right?

But seriously, don't get caught into the spiral of doing all this stuff instead of actually writing. Although some of these items are helpful (other writers can provide great advice on their blogs, and character questionnaires can actually help build your characters), the most helpful thing of all is to open your file (or notebook) and write something. Even if it sucks. And if you're like me and you're supposed to be editing, not just writing, then it can't suck, so... you have to actually put in effort and it's haaaaard. (Seriously, does anyone have any advice for me on how to convince yourself to edit?)

Thanks for reading this, everyone! See you on Saturday when I'll be putting up my first TCWT Blog Chain post.



  1. Why do I feel that doing all these procrastinations would actually make one a better writer? "Wax on, Wax off" (for all those here who are old enough to remember karate kid)

  2. As I already told you on Skype: This post is everything. These GIFs are amazing. And, additionally, I may have just scared my roommates by laughing hysterically all alone in the living room.

  3. There's nothing quite like pasting part of your novel into I Write Like. I write like Stephen King? Really??? Well, I guess this novel /is/ pretty amazing. Haha.