Ready, willing, and able . . . or not

Not the novel, but the novelist.

Procrastination, sometimes called dithering or dawdling or waffling, is one of the skills I’m particularly adept at. I can think of a dozen reasons to put off doing something before I’ve finished my breakfast. Even when the time has come and I know it has come and I have no reason to avoid facing it, I can convince myself not to act hastily. I can persuade myself that I’m being prudent by waiting just a little longer.

I have muscled my novel, The Sleep of Reason, into shape. I really think it is finished. It’s coherent and whole. I’ve been at it not quite two years, and in that time I wrote the story first with a first-person narrator then completely over again with a third-person narrator (just so I could add the very last line to the story). I’ve been through it a dozen times, fine tuning the prose, punching up this passage, making that passage more subtle, introducing new ideas, cutting out old ones. I’ve renamed every single character with an eye toward literary or historical reference (or just to be playful). I’ve added sensory detail. I’ve added psychological weavings. I’ve heeded the advice of my reader. I’ve identified novels that I think are similar (which are few though notable: The Magus, The Shadow of the Wind). I’ve even watched as my clever insights for fine tuning the story dropped off from several brilliant, insistent revelations a day to the only occasional, workmanlike observation of an adjustment that I may or may not need to make.

All of which is to say I’ve been procrastinating at full capacity.

But no more.

This morning I sent out my first query to an agent, looking for representation. I’d done this more than a few times with the one Finnegans novel I thought was ready, so I am practiced at the drill. Nonetheless, it’s one of those big steps that I want to run from. I’d been working on a query letter and a synopsis for The Sleep of Reason for a few weeks, amazed at how hard it is to distill a 107,000 word novel into a few concise paragraphs. (But even that struggle may have been procrastination; the longer I spent retooling the query the longer I could put off, you know, actually using it.)

Utilizing that fine resource, AgentQuery, I searched for likely targets and found several dozen. And so my first query went into cyberspace today.

As any writer knows, this marks a significant change in the creative cycle. No longer can I consider my novel as being written. I’ve put it into the category of being finished now. Sure, it is possible and even likely that I’ll dip into it to fix this or improve that, but I’ve crossed a line and now my focus is on sending it into the world. Plus I’ve given myself official sanction to turn my creative attention to other works. The mind teems with short story ideas and with the next novel I must write, which I’ve named Larger than Life, an altogether different type of story and story telling than The Sleep of Reason. I’d love to stay and chat, but there’s work to be done.

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One Comment on “Ready, willing, and able . . . or not”

  1. Mary Fraser Says:

    Hi Paul ..just been ‘blog dipping’ this afternoon and came across your site (via Strictly Writing). It has been known that too much blog dipping is detrimental to the procrastination process but hey it’s Friday! I enjoyed dipping into your site and could so identify with the whole procrastination thing! Enjoyed the post. Time to start writing now … or maybe I should just check and see if the washing cycle has finished …


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