Sunday, July 8, 2012

Far, far too much 'ketch-up'

Okay, I've been neglectful. So now I'll probably try way too hard to 'ketch-up', but maybe it will be all right.

Since last you heard from me, I've been working at revising one book and finishing another. Somehow I also started outlining this year's NaNoWriMo, joined a writer's group, and brought back the manuscript for the book this blog and its sister web site are supposed to be associated with, Word Catchers, Tale Spinners, and Dream Weavers.

This came about through Kelsey Minnick's association with a professor and a publisher who are both interested in helping young writer's learn to write. More about them as they permit.  But Kelsey's work with young people sort of reactivated my own interest, and I figured I'd better a) complete the manuscript -- after all, it is mostly done. It just needs some features added, plus revision and then b) get busy on this blog again. Well, in typical fashion, I've reversed things. I'm starting on this blog first.

I've often discussed the pluses and minuses of working on more than one project at a time. I've come to think that there is some sort of built-in, definitive limit on how many projects in what stages a person can carry. For me it seems to be 2 active books -- 1 in revision and 1 in writing, plus 1 in outlining or total creativity stage. Post-work includes submission and promotion and must, unfortunately, be pretty much ongoing. For new writers, unless you are as flighty as I am, I recommend 1 book in writing plus, maybe, 1 book in total creativity. That's a lot to handle effectively right there.

A Writer's Work is Never Done...

What do I mean by 'total creativity stage'?

Aaaaaahhhh, that's the best stage, the dreamy stage, the what-if stage, the stage where you can set down one thing and totally obliterate it with something else the next day. You scribble notes. You lay in the hammock and day dream. You create flow charts and graphs and outlines. You go online and research funeral shoes (I found some on eBay once, seriously!). You go to the FBI website to see what the latest scams are and view the 10 most wanted list. You read about NOAA's report on the non-existence of mermaids ( a sad one if ever I read one), then you sit back and sketch what the mermaid in your story looks like.

This is the stage where people pound on the bathroom door because you've been in there so long thinking about your story that you forgot to come out. Dinners overcook; horns honk because you didn't move after the red light changed, moms and teachers despair over you ever doing homework again. Well, okay, that last one is really not good. You do have to learn to put your imagination on simmer while you get the assignments done. But you get the idea.

The only trouble with this stage is that it is so easy for it to overtake the work you've already begun. I can't tell you how many serious but ineffective writers I've encountered who let themselves get so distracted with multiple projects that they don't complete a single one. They  think of themselves as terribly prolific -- and actually, they are -- but they are not productive. I must admit, it took me a long time to realize that in order to accomplish I have to focus.

So, find what works for you. How many projects can you productively manage? Find ways to store up your wonderful ideas that won't distract you from your current, most advanced work. You have to finish something in order to say you have written. The day after you write 'The End' on that project is the day you can head a new page with 'The Beginning' on the next.

~  The End ~