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6 Plausible Excuses for Not Finishing Your Novel During the Pandemic


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Hacks for Hacks: sense of humor required
* sense of humor required

Warning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Despite all of your big talk about having lots and lots of writing time, you just couldn’t pull it together to finish your book. It’s okay to feel disappointed, but may I suggest you instead avail yourself of one of these handy, bulletproof excuses that will fend off any judgement from your writers group, your readers, and most importantly, yourself. Let the enabling begin!

  • “I was social distancing.” Writing has a reputation as a solitary pursuit, but we underestimate how much socialization we require for our craft. In the last fifteen months, you stopped going to your writers group,  and you didn’t get together with your author friends to talk shop. It stands to reason you wanted to socially distance from your characters, too.
  • “I’m just lucky to be alive.” If you’re reading this right now, you’re one of the lucky ones who survived the pandemic (though my critics would say you’re not so lucky as the ones who survived and are not reading this column). We have all cheated death this past year, some more narrowly than others; who could blame you if all you can do is just be thankful you’re alive. As it relates to failing to finishing your book, this is a valid excuse whether you were in the hospital with COVID, have developed a new substance-abuse problem during quarantine, or had a misadventure due to post-vaccination recklessness.
  • “I used that time to catch up on my reading.” With so many great books in the world, and with so much time at home, it’s surprising that more people didn’t lose themselves in some great stories. You may ask, does doom scrolling count? This is an excuse list, of course it does!

  • Smith Corona Typewriter
    photo by Matthew Dillon

    “I wanted to focus on my mental health.” The coronavirus pandemic took a huge mental toll on us all, and we won’t know the full extent of the trauma for years to come. In that context, taking a break from your literary career is some solid self-care, as few things are better for a writer’s mental health than doing literally anything other than writing.

  • “I couldn’t focus while the kids were home all the time.” Who can concentrate with all those juvenile hijinks going on while your children did remote school? I do recommend that if you use this excuse, you actually do have kids. Otherwise, you may have to answer an entirely different set of questions.
  • “I decided to quit writing.” You madman. You princess. You’ve done it! Your friends and family will be so happy for you.

What’s your excuse for not finishing your novel during quarantine? Share it in the comments!

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About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris (he/him) left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.

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