Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Too Many WIP

"I have never started a poem yet whose end I knew.  Writing a poem is discovering." - Robert Frost

"Writing became such a process of discovery that I couldn't wait to get to work in the morning.  I wanted to know what I was going to say." - Sharon O'Brien

Writing is a learning process.

I'm pretty sure I can safely announce that from a position of authority, having written three novels, a novella, many short stories, and now, as of tonight, 510 blog posts.  I've learned something--sometimes something little, sometimes something pretty big--with every one of them.

And what I've learned, on a broader scale, over the past few months is a lesson that I've heard before from already-famous authors who've earned their stripes dozens of times over.  It's a lesson I've talked about in terms of building business.  It's a pretty simple lesson, really. 


Yep, that's it.  Focus.  Simple, direct, focus.  Simple.  Direct. 

For example, you can't build multiple businesses at the same time.  I mean, technically you can, if you do significant time management twisting and really work insane hours and then settle for mediocre results.  But you can't do it extraordinarily well, because that requires creative talent.  Creative talent, meanwhile, requires a certain amount of quiet, "gel" time. 

Applying this to writing efforts--one thing I've been bad about, now that my trilogy is done, is starting all manner of other efforts.  It's not hard, really.  It's as simple as opening another instance of Scrivener and starting in on the new idea. 

One thinks--hell, I thought--that coming up with story ideas would be the toughest part of writing books.  It's not.  Right now I have several dozen ideas that I'm pretty sure I'll never get around to writing.  Yay! 

But aren't those ideas worth something?  No, not really.  An idea isn't patentable, nor is it copyrightable.  It's just an idea.  It's, to use a simple but drastic term, worthless, at least until it's implemented.  For a patent, an idea must at least be drawn out with some degree of clarity and explained in a manner that gives its implementation purpose.  True, in our mixed-up intellectual property system here in the U.S., you don't actually have to build a prototype of your idea to patent it, but you do at least have to create it on paper. 

Same with stories.  "I have an idea for a boy who goes to wizard school" is worth less than the time it took me to type it.  J.K. Rowling implemented that idea, though, and did so exceptionally (and commercially) well, and made a gigabuck. 

So no, ideas aren't worth anything.

That's why the ones that really appealed to me, I've begun implementing.  I wrote a Nanowrimo project that will some day, after significant fleshing out, be the fourth novel in my trilo--er, my series.  Since December 1st, I've been fleshing it out little by little.  I wrote a sci fi novel about a math professor turned pilot, and I've been fleshing that out significantly since I finally figured out where I wanted the plot to go.  I've gotten to the editing process of the story of the Al-Can journeys.  Then there's the others. 

Five--count 'em, five!--books in various stages of writing thus lay open on my desktop.  That's in spite of suggestion by several famous authors that if you start one, you should finish one.  But noooooo, I've been sure that I can do it better.  Betterer, even.

I finally came to the conclusion this week that no, I really can't do it better.  And here's why.  It's not that I don't have time to write.  It's not that I can't follow the story lines.  It's not that I can't keep the characters' voices straight--at least, I think I'm succeeding at that; I won't know for sure until I read back through. 

It's that I'm not spending the creative love on each one. 

When I wrote Cataclysm, I used to write a little on it in the morning, then drive to work thinking about where the plot might go.  I'd drive home thinking more about it and then write what I'd thought about.  Then I'd go to bed and my subconscious would consider it more until I awoke to begin the cycle again.

That's how I wrote it in just over a month. That's also how I used to put in 8,000 word weekend days.  By the time I got to the keyboard to type, I'd done my creative due diligence and knew where it was going.  In fact, I usually had figured out further than I actually had time to write that day.

Problem when I'm working on five books?  I don't really think of any one of them on the way to work.  That's because I'm creatively distanced from each one by the other four.  Then when I sit down to write at night, I often stare at the keyboard for a while, unsure of where to go with whichever story is on top of my pile of windows. 

It's a bad spot to be in.

Thus, from henceforth, I'm closing every WIP except the Elf Queen.  I'll finish that story and then move to the next one. 

Start one, finish one, is what I'll do from here on out.


1 comment:

  1. Interesting concept, and I think you nailed it about the non-writing time... I only read one book at a time for the same reason; I hate having the story interrupted by another one. Not that I can't keep two plots separate; I don't want to.

    I would say the same when I'm writing, because my non-writing time is still spent considering, revising, and living in that book. But I do like having other projects at other stages -- one being edited, one being marketed, one being contemplated for 'next to be written'... It gives me ways to be productive in those less-than-creative moments.