Novel Reboot

There are as many different ways to write as there are writers who do the writing. Schools of thought about this process vary from one novel every two months to 12 years of slogging. Or twenty years for some. There is the write every day, write when you feel like it, write for one hour then spend two hours on marketing variations of schedules. For those of us with day jobs – basically 99% of us – write on the bus, write at every break, write at night after the kids have gone to bed, write for two hours every morning before joining the frightful freeway mob. Write all day on weekends.

I’ve tried most of these methods. My first real novel idea I conceived when I was a teenager and took its many versions to numerous workshops over the course of 20 years. It’s never seen print. I’ve successfully done NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I wrote on the bus, I wrote during every break and got another novel completed.

Depending on the nature of the current job, I wrote at night and on days off. As the day job changed, I started to write every morning—very early. It was helpful to have a deadline, like a publishing date for Book View Café.

The hardest part, most writers will say, is getting your butt into the chair. Or at the standing desk, or on the sofa, or the local Starbucks. My biggest problem is the conflict between being easily bored and at the same time craving routine. (Libra vs Virgo—I was born on the cusp). When I hit a wall with a book, I like a change of scene. A house on the coast, an airplane, a bar. Starbucks. A writing retreat.

Another thing I do when the book no longer “sparks joy”, when breaking through the wall is beyond my strength at the moment, when there is no real deadline except for the moveable one I set up for myself (more of a vegetative-state line), I think of taking a neglected and rejected novel and giving it a reboot.

It’s a bit like watching, for the 14th time, a favorite movie, or digging out a beloved set of books to read every other winter. It lights a low-intensity joy. Currently I’ve got my eyes on the slip-stream, tarot card book, set in Mendocino, California and the fantastical story of aslylum-seeking aliens living together in a South Seattle apartment building. The tarot card book needs editing and writing clean-up, the aliens-book needs a total re-write, as I have decided to change the primary point-of-view character to the motel manager, originally just a minor player.

Neither of these books have been published. The tarot book’s been rejected by multiple agents, and the aliens book has not even been work-shopped. So I am setting aside my two current unfinished works, a historical and a dystopic. I do envision these to be completed one day, but in the meantime to get my butt back into the chair, I’ll give the two old ones a look over.

Some projects that I have started are permanently closed, as I dove in then realized this was not a book I could write. The two novels that I am sidelining I can do, and I also can see the endings, thinking the historical will be bigger than I planned, and the dystopic more in the novella range.

Without a publisher waiting for a book, or fans hankering for the next one, I have a bit of luxury. I can switch projects without risking disappointment and frustration, or worse, owing money.



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison

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