Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Desperately Seeking Advice


It’s time to think about my next writing project. Time to branch out and have more then one thing on the go. Time to decide on what to do next. I have two subgenres that interest me: romantic suspense and paranormal romance. My current work-in-progress is a romantic suspense but I do have a paranormal romance rolling around in my brain. I’ve actually done a bit of work on it and have a binder and everything. I picture it as a novella. Well, three actually as there are two brothers and sister.

I’m thinking that’s the way to go. Something completely different. If I’m going to be working on two projects, I feel they should be markedly different. Shouldn’t they? I had always planned to move on to another suspense. The characters for my next suspense are firmly entrenched in my head. I know them; I’m familiar with them. But do I choose with my heart or my head? My heart tells me to choose the paranormal but my head tells me to pick the romantic suspense.

The one thing I do know for sure is I need develop better organizational skills. I need to take what I’ve learned while writing and revising the first draft of Common Ground and apply it to my next project. I was so overwhelmed with acquiring ‘knowledge’ on craft and learning to write properly that I ended up thinking too much pre-first draft. So, I dived in and started writing and fumbled my way to the end of my first draft. I decided to be a pantser. I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a total pantser.

Now I’ve got character charts to fill out and a sense of how much I need to know about setting, time and place. I need a theme and character goals both internal and external. I need to do these things at the beginning of the whole process not in the middle of the first draft when things have gone awry. I’m considering the storyboard idea. Maybe I can figure out a way to be part pantser and part plotter?

My next project is going to have goals because besides being more organized the whole process of creating and revising needs to move faster. I need specific goals and a short list of tasks for each goal. My targeted time allotted for each task – a half and hour. So creating an outline would be a goal not a task. At the very least I need a calendar or some kind of timeline.

I’m not sure how to juggle two or more projects either. Do I split my time down the middle? Save one for the day and one for the evening? (Like that’s ever going to happen!) Or do I just go with the flow? When my current work-in-progress stalls do I switch to the other for a few hours and then come back to my main wip with a fresh perspective? Accomplish a couple of tasks and head back to my priority project and what I need to get done to feel like I’m moving forward instead of standing in place.

How do you choose projects? Do you have projects on the go that are completely different? How do you organize your multiple projects? Do you set up a schedule or timeline for each project?

24 comments:

Hayley E. Lavik said...

Hi Karyn, I haven't tackled multiple projects as once, as mine all feed into one-another, but I've plenty of experience with writing different projects at the same time. As with all things, it depends what suits your particular work habits best.

When I have to juggle multiple papers and writing, I try to separate my time in the day, or separate days as that lets my brain get deep into one topic for longer, rather than skimming the surface. I'll finish class for the day and then stay and work on a paper on campus or somewhere in town if I need a change of pace (location seems immensely important to me). Then home, which gives me the drive to unwind, dinner and such with Hubby, and then another block devoted to the assignment (since I prefer to focus on one thing at a time). I usually do 2 hour stints or so for essays unless I'm in what I grudgingly call the zone. After that if I don't have to keep pushing (which I usually do, I don't stir until deadlines become a reality, bad habit) I spend some time to relax again, then grab the late part of the night for writing.

With multiple assignments I find it's easier to either work cyclical, go straight through one and then use that composition momentum to do the next the following day, or do similar stages.. outlining, etc. Again, my work ethic rarely sees things actually turn out so organized. Since you're undertaking more than 10-20 page papers, working on things at similar stages might help, if that's an option. Otherwise, having something completely different to work on would be a good change of pace. I think that's what I'd prefer. Get stuck at the sagging middle and I could go do some outlining or write a beginning when it's all fresh and new.

As for the which, my thought would be go with the heart. The most important thing to writing a good story is writing one you believe in, and that you're invested in. The moment a writer loses interest in a scene, it falls flat. If you've got that suspense all planned out in your head, but you're not passionate, it may not turn out the way you want it to. Wait until it starts demanding to be told.

Likewise if you're trying to decide what/when to work on your projects, my inexperienced thought would be go with the heart, whatever you're itching to write. If you're on a roll with one, there's no sense switching. If you have dual commitments for publishing deadlines, that's another matter and then splitting time is valuable, but if it's your pursuit and your payoff, go with the flow. But then I'm not the sort of person that thrives on charts and schedules, and maybe the idea of an intricately labelled project pie chart gets other writers excited :)

Silver James said...

Karyn, I agree with Hayley. Go with your heart! Especially now when you have the luxury. Once you are published, your life becomes a series of dates on the calendar and having to use your head because this project is due, even though your heart is yearning for the project languishing on the hard drive. Enjoy the "freedom" now while you can.

Before, I could work on one WIP until I got stuck and the writing stale. Then I could move on to another. I can't now, as a rule. I "plan" only to have Publishing Life intervene. Not that I'm complaining! Remember how I said I'd have SOTW ready for Nationals? Not gonna happen without a miracle. Why? I've got some changes to make to the next Faerie book and then my editor will submit it for a contract. Businss comes first. And that also means that I need to start thinking about the third book in the trilogy - sort of plotted but not one word written. I'm not panicked. Yet.

I'm the last person to give advice. LOL. I'll just say this, go with your gut. When the heart and the head are at "war", my gut tends to sneak in with the best advice. ;)

Karyn Good said...

Hi Hayley. You have a great handle on what needs to be done and how to go about ensuring that happens. My work habits? Um...they're about to be tweeked as the end of school approaches. I do find I need to spend at least two hours on a project and the last hour is always my most productive. But maybe if I start with a small task from a new project first I'll be able to transition into the other project with the creative already juices flowing.

I've never been happy when I've tried to micro-manage myself. The very thought gives me hives. But a little organization might be a good thing.

Thanks Hayley, you always give me something extra to think over and use.

Karyn Good said...

Hey Silver, great news on the second book being that much closer to a done deal. First things first. We'll be just as excited about this project as we are about SOTW.

I just might have to dig up my paranormal story binder, which is all your fault by the way. Witches and warriors beware. No royal seducer though, no Theo. Although...maybe Theo as someone else. ;)

Good luck on your projects. BTW I left you some more suggestions.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn,
Like Silver said, I'm the last person to be giving advice about organization. Not a lot of it happening here.

Silver and Hayley are also right in that if you have a choice, write the story that is calling to you right now. The one you feel passionate about at the moment. Once you're published you have committments and obligations. Not that I'm complaining!

Jana

Silver James said...

Karyn, you rock! Absolutely and completely. I'll be putting a poll up tomorrow on the four or five I've narrowed down. :D

Ban said...

unfortunately i do not choose which project to work on at a particular time - the project chooses me and i have no choice but to work on that wip and only that wip. if i try to force another, i end up sitting there, re-reading what i've got, trying to convince myself i need to actually write something !!! *sound of buzzer* my brain doesn't work that way. unfortunately, telling you to just follow your muse (which i tend to do) often leads to lots of disorder ... sorry i can't be more helpful :(

Karyn Good said...

Hi Jana. I think you're right. I'm going to enjoy myself and have fun. I think I've been taking myself a little to seriously lately.

Karyn Good said...

Hey Silver. I love coming up with that kind of stuff. Absolutely love it.

Karyn Good said...

Hey Ban. I think the problem is I could do either the suspense or the paranormal and get into either one. But I downloaded Underworld to my ipod so I think I'm leaning towards the paranormal.

Maybe your outline pushed me over the edge!

Ban said...

gotta watch rise of the lycans myself - got it the other day and haven't popped it in yet ... what am i waiting for ?!?! i LOVE the underworld movies !!!
anyway ... if i helped in ANY way, no matter how small, i am flattered ;)

Karyn Good said...

Hey Ban. Loved Underworld. I was going to make myself wait and watch it later but ... I have zero self control.

Scott Speedman ... who knew!!!!

Helena said...

I have a lot of experience in the multiple approach, but it's not all good. I have more unfinished projects in my computer files than I care to reveal. Of course, I tell myself that I will get back to them eventually, and I also rationalise that they happened for good reason at the time.

Some of my wips are results of courses or workshops that required me to work on different projects. Also various genres are represented. I think it's easier to work simultaneously on two very different genres. For me that might be fiction and poetry, or fiction and non-fiction, but not a romantic novel and a short story, or two different romances. While I'm in each of those worlds, I seem to have to give my exclusive attention to the plot and characters of the story. I live with those people and don't want to desert them for some other character's life until I get to the end of the story. However I believe I could leave a rough draft to work on something else before plunging into the revision stage.

This is all very theoretical because I have been very much a 'go with the flow' kind of writer up to now. I think I need to be more structured and then maybe I could do what you are wondering about. I have already begun thinking of a prairie or western romance while I am trying to finish my current story, which is probably tagged as women's fiction. But I really don't think I should disract myself from finishing the current story.

Not much help, am I?

Ban said...

yeah, not much good with self control myself (relatively speaking of course ;) - can't believe it took this long for you, a vampire lover, to see it !!! wait 'till you see the next two

Karyn Good said...

Hi Helena. I think I know what you mean. I'm trying to figure out if I'm using the idea of a new project to distract myself from my current wip which is actually going quite well. This close to being done the first round of revisions and then its time to start on the 2nd round of revision. But then I actually have to do something with it!

Karyn Good said...

My son is downloading the second one tonite! Can't Wait!!! Bad, bad, distraction!!!!!!

Janet C. said...

A little late, but here I am. I really have no advice only desperation. So, Karyn, when you figure it all out, let me know.

Like Helena, I have many starts on my laptop - hoping one day I'll get to those stories and characters. I have jumped from here to there, but have found that I don't get deep enough into any one project - and then I get none of them done. So, my goal is to get Gillian and Mac's done first, while 'playing' with Grayce and Droyn's story. Let's hope it works out.

Underworld, eh? I'm going to have to take a look at that.

I look forward to hearing more about your journey (and, cf course, reading more of Chase and Lily's story).

Karyn Good said...

Hi Janet. The funny thing is I dug out my binder on the paranormal story and was surprised by the amount of work and research I'd done and forgotten. I then opened the word file and found almost 19,000 words of the story already there. I can't wait to hear what you all think of it.

Um, I didn't think you were into vampires or werewolves? Cuz if you're not - I wouldn't recommend it. Although who knows it could open up a whole new interest, so go for it and let us know what you think. ;)

Well, the first revision is almost done so if you want to read the second half and let me what you think of the plot points!?!?

Janet C. said...

Yes, yes, yes.

I have all of August without Internet; so if you're not in a hurry, I can read and critique to get it back to you by September. Unless you need something back faster - I'm afraid packing boxes garner most of my attention these days.

And I'll watch any movie genre - big movie buff here. You have a lot done on paranormal - I think you've given yourself the advice you need :)

Captain Hook said...

Great topic, Karyn.

(Note all my answers here are related to my pre-writing hiatus)

To answer your first question, in my writing I am uber organized. I have my binder of outlines (divided into genres) that I am continually adding to. At last count I think I had 137, so I don't think I'll ever run out of things to write.

I do tend to juggle a bit. I usually have one book that I'm editing (Cassandra's Secrets at the moment), one that I am writing the first draft of, outlines that I continually write as ideas pop into my head, and anywhere from 3-10 shorts in various stages of writing/editing.

Things do take me longer this way, but I stay happier. As some of my Critique Circle friends say I have "writing ADD".

As to how I pick which project to work on at any given moment, there are a lot of factors that contribute to it. There are some stories that flow better with certain types of moods. There are certain stories where the characters hold my brain at gunpoint and won't let go until I write their story. (The latter is usually the real determining factor :) I'm terrified of guns)

I think that was a pretty rambly answer, but I hope it helped.

Silver James said...

Karyn, I didn't realize you were finishing first round of revisions. Advice: finish, then set it aside and work on the paranormal. Come back for the second revision after a bit of time has passed. Then you can look at it with fresh eyes. When you come back to it, read it like a reader, not the writer or editor. Second pass, edit. I didn't believe it, but it really does work better.

And while it's simmering, write the heckfire outta that paranormal!

Karyn Good said...

Hey Captain. You are awesome! If you can keep all your projects organized I should be able to keep two organized! When I think about it I think, yeah, I'm in the mood to try something different.

Thanks for the insight into your writing world.

Karyn Good said...

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, Silver. I'm not planning on doing too much to the paranormal until it's done!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karyn, you've rec'd some great advice here. I agree that you have to write the book of your heart otherwise you won't be able to concentrate on the other and you won't get either done.

Not to take away from these other wonderful suggestions offered here, but in her workshop, Allie Pleiter talks about effectively working with 4 projects at a time. She's going to guest blog with us on July 11th so you can question how she does it then. And if you won't be around at that time, email me your questions and I'll ask them, okay? :)

Excellent post, Karyn.