A Writer’s Life For Me

So. A few things:

One, this article from a pantser on writing everyday. This article is inspiring, at least to me. My own personal writing streak has been going since Sunday. I’m looking forward to seeing how long I can keep it up.

Two, the before mentioned article writer said he usually had multiple projects going at once, so that he can make his writing time as productive as possible. If he isn’t in the mood to work on one thing, he works on something else. Now, there are times when you just have to knuckle down, grit your teeth, and write through whatever it is. But for me, if I am not inspired or if I’m discouraged or if I’m convinced there’s something wrong, my productivity goes WAY down. (I haven’t quite figured out a cure-all for how to get past that, by the way. I could tell you a lot of things that have helped, though.) Back when I wasn’t trying to write for publication, I’d just not write for a few days and wait for either inspiration, excitement, solution, or a plot bunny to show up.

I don’t have that luxury now. I probably panic more than anything else when I hit a block or snag.

I don’t recommend panicking. I recommend you find a way to allow yourself to write a “bad” first draft. (No, I don’t know how to do that, either.) I further recommend you get used to the idea that editing is a long, long process, so you might as well enjoy it. (Don’t even ask. I know very little about how to enjoy editing.)

Okay, back to the point. If you ever look down at the very bottom of my blog, you will notice a word count meter. I’ve had one for my WIP Shifting Sands for a while now. If you look down at the footer now, you will actually see two meters.

I now have two WIPs.

As I said earlier, I cannot afford to not write for days as I wait for inspiration or for my subconsciousness to untangle a knot. As I’ve also said before on this blog, Shifting Sands has been giving me all kinds of problems. And as you may not know, the last month for me has rendered me unable to work on sorting out messes that the story has been giving me (Busy, busy, busy and then sick last week.).

So what’s wrong with Shifting Sands? Possibly nothing. Or maybe there’s just one problem and I haven’t figured out what it is yet. Maybe I just hate the style I’ve written it in and need to go back and fix that. Maybe I’m not ready to outline novels so intensely yet. Maybe it’s trying to type it instead of writing it in a notebook. Maybe I am just too worried that I’m going to mess it up. Suffice to say that writing that particular story has been giving me more grief than joy. And with writing, if you don’t love it, you need to evaluate why you’re doing it.

Well, I love writing usually. And I want to tell this story. But something I can’t put my finger on yet is wrong.

I went about three weeks without writing anything substantial– I was too busy and too tired. Ouch. That lead to guilt. And feeling like I absolutely had to write. It seemed like everyone else was being productive and there I was, trying to force words out for a story that I cringed reading parts of. And I was sick last week, so every problem with the story suddenly seemed larger.

On Saturday, I started playing with the idea of starting a new story. Not giving up Shifting Sands, just giving myself time for subconsciously sorting out the problems with it and releasing myself from worry of getting it right, and from the pressure I was feeling (as a reaction; I was not actually being pressured) from everyone else who was being productive and seemingly happily so. Besides, it could be something I wanted to write for eventual publication anyway, so I would still be “working”. So, Sunday I started L.A.S.E.R..

L.A.S.E.R. is urban fantasy, almost completely pantsed, and is being written in a notebook. So it’s pretty different from Shifting Sands.  And if/when I get stuck on L.A.S.E.R., I’ll flip back to Shifting Sands. I’m not saying it’s a perfect solution, but for now, it’s working.

And lastly, NaNoWriMo starts in just over two months. I have no idea what I shall attempt for the endeavor. I don’t even know that I will participate. Out of all the NaNos and Camp NaNos I’ve done since November of 2011 (six total), I’ve only had one successful one (November 2011). And by successful, I mean I wrote something that I actually finished and I didn’t drop out. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to participate in attempting to write 50k in one month; giving myself plotting headaches and euphoria when I’ve written 2k in a day (that is truly not sarcasm–being drunk on writing is an awesome feeling). The problem with the before mentioned sentence is that I have trouble keeping up with the 2k every day and 2k usually takes up everything I’ve planned (pantser, remember). Plus, a lot of my writing is trial and error. I have to start writing a story before I actually know if I want to write it and see it through (I don’t know why. I apparently don’t know a lot about what I’ve said in this post.). And at the rate I’m going, I may very well end up editing for NaNo (again) and that’s just not as fun. But I may yet participate. We’ll just have to see what happens.

 

So, what’s up with you guys? Any thoughts on having multiple projects at once? Any other thoughts on the article or writing streaks? Who is planning on doing NaNoWriMo? 

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44 thoughts on “A Writer’s Life For Me

  1. Interesting. I hope it works— with me, if I let myself work on another project, it’s tantamount to quitting the first one. I’m not talking about everything in life— sometimes something just needs to take some time, so you work on something else and come back to it— but for me, no problem in my writing will be fixed by me ignoring it. The idea might come quicker that way, but if I’m constantly thinking about the solution, I have a much higher chance of solving the problem than if I just let the inspiration come. But, as I keep saying, that’s me. I know several writers who have several WIPs all at once. I don’t know how they do it, but it seems to work. I think it was Ray Bradbury, but I can’t find the quote now, who said that he had a stack of unfinished manuscripts in a drawer and every day took out a different one to work on. Maybe it was F. Scott Fitzgerald. Whoever it was, they’re famous, so it obviously worked. If it works for you, go for it. I’m glad you found something to make it work.

    • Thanks for the encouragement.

      I think it possibly was Bradbury, but I’m not sure.

      You do make a good point about something, though. I’ve never had two WIPs before (not novels) and starting a new one usually did mean I was quitting the first. So what I’m going to do is try to get to my 30 pages of LASER as efficiently as possible before I take another look at Shifting Sands. I don’t want to destroy it’s chances since LASER is still technically a plot bunny.

  2. Hmm… I’ve tried having multiple WIP’s at once. It was nice, when I was bored of one, I could work on another. Sometimes I even could make progress on multiple in one day, and that was an even better feeling than just being productive on one. However, I’ve found for me, that if I have multiple projects, usually one ends up getting pushed to the back-burner, so while it’s “being worked on”, I actually do nothing with it. And often, that project ends up being the one that I’m supposed to be working on the most. So I think I just get too distracted if I have too many WIP’s.

    I haven’t decided which is better for me yet, though, having one or having multiple, since if there’s only one project and all your focus is on it, sometimes you can get burnt out. Right now, I only have one project, but since all I’m doing is prewriting, I have a little more freedom. If I get bored of world-building, all I have to do is switch to character-development. Or vice-versa. I just haven’t decided yet if doing the prewriting counts as my “writing” for the day, or if I should actually write something.

    • I’m still testing this method, but I do see the danger of the “back-burner” thing. After I get about 8k written on LASER, I’m going to look at Shifting Sands again to see fi I can figure out why it’s not working.

      I’m not sure if I would count prewriting as “writing” or not. On the one hand, yes you are actually working and writing something towards making a story. On the other… I guess I’d say it depends on how long you’re taking to do the prewriting. World building can lead to world builder’s disease, where all you do is world build and you never actually write. But if you only take a couple weeks (or however long to do it), then I’d count that as writing. I think it’s a personal preference (I’m impatient and a pantser, so I’m not the best person to ask).

  3. Good points. It’s true, there comes a time when you just have to buckle down and say, “I’m going to write today. Junk or no junk, I WILL write today.”

    I’m usually pretty successful when I do that. Of course, it’s horrible for the first few paragraphs. Or pages. It’s slow, it’s awkward because I’ve been out of the story for so long and still have no idea what should happen next, and it’s paaaainful. But eventually, about 90% of the time, something decent starts to leak out and I’m pleased with myself for sticking with it long enough for that to happen.

    So, when I get burnt out or just plain tired of a story? Well, unfortunately, I usually set it aside and ignore it. I honestly do not think that’s the best idea for me, because that ignoring it can last quite a while. With my sequel, after NaNo last year, since I wrote the second half of the first book and the first almost-half of the second…I stopped in a bad place. And swapped over to editing. Which was great, don’t get me wrong–that editing had been a long time coming. But the problem was, I had no idea what would come next in this story. And so I left it. Until I was done editing and then some. Sure, I came back to it now and then and squeezed out a few sentences, but I was stuck on that one scene for months. I started a new story in the meantime, as you know, and that actually got pretty far before I started having problems. Especially considering I literally just started writing almost out of nowhere and continued that way. Probably the most entirely pantsed thing I’ve ever written. But, inevitably, I hit a block with that. What’d I do?

    If you said “Left it there” you’re right. Ding ding ding! We have a winner!

    At least I started working on the sequel again. Got past that one scene. But I’ve only written a few times since then. Maybe…five or six days total? So, yeah. This comment is getting long. Perhaps suffice it to say, I get it. I’m still not convinced I can properly handle more than one project at once, even when one is editing. I’m horribly inconsistent. I’ve gone a month, two months, maybe even more without writing anything on my WIPs. It’s not just you, and if it makes you feel any better, I’m very good at creating excuses to explain why I’m so unproductive.

    But hey, isn’t life in general just like that sometimes? Some days you feel productive, some days you’re sick, some days you’re just lazy for no reason whatsoever other than you feel like being lazy. Some days you think you’ve got this thing down, whatever it is–a routine, a habit you’re trying to break or create, a new whatever…but other days you wonder why you’re even bothering to try. The problem is, I suppose, is that most of the time, we live by how we feel. So we get discouraged and give up and then feel guilty and so on…it’s a vicious cycle. It’s why we have to decide to do things, then keep at it. We have to decide something is important and do all we can to complete it. And when we inevitably fall short of the standard we set for ourselves, or we mess up somehow, and we feel terrible…we have to pick ourselves back up again and keep going. Other people are helpful for that, too, because we all know what it’s like to mess up. Right? 🙂

    …I realize the comment is getting long and then write another long paragraph. *facepalm* Nice job, me. Hope some of this essay made sense…and here’s a hug. *hugs*

  4. LASER?! I know what that is! 😀

    I don’t think I’ve ever tried two WIPs at a time, so I don’t really have anything good/interesting/witty to say, other than I really hope it works out for you. 🙂

    As for NaNo, I was sort of thinking “I’ll think about that later….” Until I got the preview email this morning. I kinda sorta maybe started fangirling and getting all excited. Suffice it to say, I will be participating. I don’t know what I’ll be writing, but unless something goofy happens, I will be participating.

    • And you, my dear Lillian, are the only one who does. 😉

      Thank you for the encouragement. 🙂

      I may still be writing LASER or Shifting Sands by NaNo. Or I may be editing again… *shudder* But hopefully we will all have some idea or inkling of what we’re doing by the time November rolls around.

      • You’re welcome. 🙂

        That would be very helpful, yes. I’ve done the “I have no idea what I’m doing” thing for NaNo, and have no desire to ever do it again.

        Also, because your title inspired me….

        “Yo ho, all together. Hoist the manuscripts high. Heave ho, scribes, and inkers, never shall we die…”

  5. Oh well, I guess I’m even more unproductive than you during this past month or two. I think I have a similar problem… I am editing, but I am writing simultaneously, because I’m adding a lot of scenes to fill a large gap I edited out. And sometimes I don’t want to work on it, but a WIP I started earlier hit a dead end, and I hadn’t been able to un-deadend it. So I think, maybe, sometimes, you can write a short story or a poem or something like that. It won’t be a waste, and it makes you feel better too.

  6. This is how I write, too. 🙂 I have a whole list of novels I can work on if I get stuck, which helps a lot. 🙂 I also sometimes skip ahead and write the scenes that just demand to be written as well. 😉

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