Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Front and Back Burners

I have had this bizarre attitude towards writing that is unlike anything else that I tackle in my life. Normally I am doing twelve things at once. I have lists to work from, and I multitask. However, early on in my writing, I decided to only work on only one project at a time, and to see it through to the end. There have been several problems with this method.

1. I feel differently about drafting than I do about revisions. I am growing to like revisions, but I miss the fast drafting when I am thoughtfully polishing my draft. It uses different skills, and when I'm frustrated with the process, I haven't allowed myself any other writing outlet. I need the imaginative, brainstorming, let's-see-where-this-idea-takes-me thrill.

2. It feels frustrating to spend so much time on a small portion of writing. When I'm drafting, I feel as though I am getting somewhere fast, and the revision process is slow. I have spent months on revising, and know that I have a few more months to go. In part because I am still learning. And hopefully will always be learning.

3. The writing process is too long to have long periods of frustration (without an outlet), especially since writing normally gives me peace and sanity.

4. I hope to publish sometime, and I realized that authors are always writing the next thing, while waiting for edits from agents and publishers. And then revising one book while writing another. So, it is okay, and maybe preferable to write another book while I'm revising. This Aha! moment clicked in while I was reading this blog. Thanks Jessica!

So, full ahead with my plan for NaNoWriMo. And I'm not cheating on my novel which is sitting in revisionland (Revisions always make me feel as though my novel has done something naughty and has been put in time-out.)

One possible backfire is that I might end up with multiple projects in revision. I'll just have to man-up.

How about you? How many projects do you work on at once? Do you simultaneously have things on the front and back burners?


  1. I have four manuscripts that I'm working on. They are all in the revision/rewrite stage. Two are much closer to being ready for submission than the others. For me, it is productive to have more than one project because when I need distance from one I pick up another. And each rewrite on any given book helps me with the rewrites on the others.

    I didn't plan this method. It evolved. When I am struck with an idea. And I mean struck, like it grabs onto my throat and won't let go I start a first draft. I have plenty of ideas simmering but when one reaches out I run with it.

  2. Hm. Tough question to answer. While I have starts to probably 30 or so books, I am only planning on working up, um, maybe 8 of them. For now.

    I need to have something fun to work on in the middle of slogging through something less fun. Sometimes revisions can be fun, but mostly, they're more intense - require more creative energy and deeper thought. They break up the writing flow, too.

    What I also have to be aware of is finsihing or the procrastination thereof. It's important to hang tough with a project and get it to a certain place where it is ready to be sent out into the world.

    I also find putting something in the drawer for a few months helps with revising and that's a perfect time to get a different first draft under my belt.

  3. Paul-- it sounds as though you have found your rhythm. And it also sounds very productive. I'm glad to be starting something similar. It's much more balanced than the way I have been working, which, ironically, I thought would give me the best outcome.

  4. Sarah--My writing partner has a ton of outlines for book ideas that he has mapped out to write over the course of his writing career. It sounds like he and you might have similar methods. I just follow my next big idea. (Here's hoping there is always one to follow!)

    I agree--putting something away for a month or two is so valuable. I think we lose perspective when we work with something so closely for a while.

  5. I usually work on 2 projects at a time.

    I usually have one in first draft, one in revision and then if you count the story that is starting to brew in my mind and maybe I'll jot down a few things so I don't forget but I haven't really started writing yet, then that would be 3.

    I have a hard time just working on one thing, for many of the reasons you mentioned. Sometimes I'm more in the mood to work on a different set of skills or maybe I'm more excited to tackle different things at different times.

    Good luck w/ your projects!

  6. I have two in revision, one in rough first-draft shape, and then I'm planning on starting a new project for NaNo. I like to work on a few projects at once, but I think I have one too many at this point, but hopefully one of them will finally be DONE! Good luck with yours!

  7. he-he-he. All the problems you list with your current method are the same problems I have. But I'm not a born multi-tasker at all, so I've really struggled with how to incorporate working on multiple things at once. Let us know what you figure out that works for you!

  8. C.R.--I'm hoping to get into a groove like yours. Your project load sounds really balanced. I'm actually really excited to start the new project--I've been thinking about it for months.

  9. Anna-- That's the real test--finishing the book (in the polished, excellent, agent-ready way). Good luck with all your projects--and with NaNo. It sounds like you've got a lot of great things in the works.

  10. Anne--Adding a project feels right to me. Before, I felt like I was punishing myself by not drafting another idea. I think I was afraid of giving up during the revision stage, and thought that if I added another cool idea, another book, then I would just run with that one, and not finish revisions. But I need the creative movement of drafting. It feeds my writing soul. And I am so attached to the initial book, that I'm sure I'll keep pounding it out. I'll definitely keep you posted as to how this new method works.