Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The Tale of a Serial Story Monogamist

Some writers can start another project as soon as they finish one. Some can even work on more than one at once. I’ve often wished I was one of those writers. But I’m not.

I used to feel guilty for not cheating on my current WIP. Perhaps my desire to be faithful to one story meant I wasn’t a proper writer. Why couldn’t I write poems and a picture book and a MG novel and a YA novel and perhaps an adult novel while I was there, too? And why couldn’t I leap from one project to the next without a thought for the one I was leaving behind, telling it, “It’s not you, it’s me!”, then unfriending it on Facebook and not returning its calls?

Because I just… couldn’t. That’s why.

I get so wrapped up with whatever story I’m writing that there literally isn’t space in my life for another one. My characters become so real that I wouldn’t be surprised to see them getting on the bus when I’m going to work. To have more than one set of them battling for my attention would be exhausting. 

And if I dive into another project straight after finishing the previous one, I end up writing a rebound book. Before I know it, we’re having screaming rows and heading for the inevitable messy breakup. Any writer you ask will recommend having time off in between drafts of a book, as putting your work to one side for a while helps you see it with fresh eyes when you return to it. Over the years (and with several rebound books behind me) I’ve realised I need to do this before starting a new project, too.

I’m in this place right now, as it happens. I’ve just sent my first round of revisions for ACID back to my editor, and Book 2 (which I’d started just before ACID sold) is waiting to be picked up again. I won’t deny that the temptation to dive straight back in is strong – I miss the routine of writing every day; the thrill of all those plot breakthroughs and eureka moments. But I know that, for a couple of weeks at least, I need to step back.

So, while I’m story-single, I’m doing these things instead:

Tackling my TBR pile (yes, this photo is real). A combination of working at library plus my addiction to bookshops and Amazon means I have ALL THE BOOKS. I seriously need to get them read.

Gardening. During winter, I don’t go outside unless I have to (in other words, twice a day, when the Hound gives me That Look). But when spring starts to creep in, I go into a frenzy, digging the veg beds and spending what little money I have left after my book-buying sprees on plants. I’m no Alan Titchmarsh, but there’s something incredibly satisfying about watching things grow (bit like writing a book, really…).

Walking. Once the weather starts to warm up, I love to get out and find new places, like on Sunday when we went to a huge country park: woods carpeted in snowdrops, some incredible, ancient trees, and a seventeenth-century wall with bricks laid in a beautiful herringbone pattern. It was perfect.

And then there’s catching up with friends, excavating the house from beneath multiple layers of Hound hair and dust… None of this means I’m not thinking about my next project, though. I may not actually be working on it, but we’re flirting like crazy – exchanging glances, brushing past one another, exchanging the odd shy word. Soon – very soon – we’ll pluck up the courage to talk to one another, and hopefully it’ll be the start of something beautiful…

In other news: last week, I gave a preview interview about ACID on Presenting Lenore, the blog of YA author Lenore Appelhans, whose debut novel LEVEL TWO is out from Simon and Schuster BYFR in Fall 2012. If you missed it, you can catch it here, along with many other great interviews and reviews of just out or upcoming dystopian books.

I also have a Facebook author page! There’s not a huge amount on it at the moment, but as ACID creeps closer towards publication, I’ll be putting all my book news there. So if you’d like to like me, I’d like that (and you!) very much indeed. :-)

What about you? Are you a story monogamist or a story polygamist? And if you take breaks between projects, what do you do to recharge your writing batteries?

30 comments:

  1. I'm one of those who finishes one thing and moves right on to the next. I just finished something a couple of weeks ago so I had half-term off but now I'm editing, and when that's done I'll go straight onto the next book(for which I've been doing some tentative research). I suppose I like the routine and I like to keep on writing as long as the ideas are coming!

    I've been over and 'liked' your facebook page, so I'll be getting updates on all your news. I'm expecting interesting stuff, mind you . . . oh, and I also have a facebook author page *cough* please 'like' me *cough* http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dan-Smith-Author/190674884276975?ref=tn_tnmn

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    1. That's what it's all about, I think - finding the routine that suits *you*. Good luck with the editing and the next book!

      And thank you muchly for the like! I already 'liked' you when I set up my page! :)

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  2. I'm a monogamist, and I'm glad I'm not the only one. I just did a post about it actually. I finished the first draft of my current project, so I thought I'd work on something else before starting re-writes, but I couldn't do it. The call of my current project was to strong for me to focus on anything else. So now I'm taking time off. In the mean time I'm catching up with reading (my to be read pile is huge to) and focusing on uni work instead.
    Enjoy some time off :)

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    1. Thank you, Laura. I'm glad I'm not the only one too! Hope you enjoy your time off as well, and good luck with the writing when you go back to it.

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    2. Thank you Emma, and thanks for following my blog, much appreciated!

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  3. Monogamist - same as you! And recharging the batteries is problematic, I'm discovering, with small kids & lots of events in the mix. Any other writers out there solved that particular conundrum?

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    1. Hurrah for book monogamy! And yikes, I can see how kids and events can be HUGE writing-battery drain. Hope someone somewhere has the answer.

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  4. You will probably find that obsessing about publicity, etc., before ACID is released will fill your non-writing time nicely, Emma. Book 2 is with agent, which makes me anxious, too. Need to start writing again--that's the easy part!

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    1. I'm sure it will, Jane (eek!). Fingers crossed for your second book - hope your agent likes it!

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  5. I don't seem to ever stop writing. I go from one project to the next!

    My TBR pile might actually make you faint. *looks at bookcases*

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    1. And I thought mine was bad! Mind you, you ARE a book reviewer. I'm just rubbish! :)

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  6. I used to be faithful, lol...but having finished one, I'm editing a series written years ago, but in need of serious work, and...then there's a new project that I'm two chapters into!
    The editing satisfies my more long-term relationship needs and the new (totally different) work satisfies my immediate creative needs. Not that I'm shallow or anything, he he!
    Love the way you describe flirting with your ideas...they really do give you butterflies in your stomach don't they?

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  7. Absolutely. There's nothing like that feeling you get when you start thinking about a new project. It's what keeps me going through all the self-doubt that writing the first draft brings. And wow, you sound busy! Good luck with all your projects.

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  8. We are very much alike this way -- I actually have three WIPs, but my "main squeeze" just went off to be critiqued and I cannot stop thinking about it. Honestly, I'm a little embarrassed by how smitten I feel right now with the characters, so this makes me feel better. I still will be revising, no doubt, after getting feedback, so that keeps me going. But I don't want to say goodbye! My other WIPS are simmering in the back of my mind, though, and I'm taking notes/biding my time because no doubt they'll be my next true loves!

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  9. I know exactly how you feel, Julia! It's exactly like falling in love… hence the references to relationships in this post!

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  10. I always have several books gently bubbling on the back burner, so I tend to move straight on, but not to a new idea, to one I've been pondering for a while. Writers are all so different, and you have to find your own rhythm, I guess. Definitely steer clear of the rebound book(I love that idea)!

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    1. Glad you liked it, Jenny! Even though I have gaps between projects, my next one tends to be an idea that's been simmering for a while too. I have to let my stories grow for a bit by themselves before I start working on them.

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  11. Lovely blog Em - made me laugh! And... I think you kind of know the answer to this... I often have a few things 'on the go', although, often a new one gets delved into as another one is 'resting'. I just need to be writing all the time, and I like to leave a story to rest between drafts, so it suits me to go straight into another one. Partly this is also because my writing isn't genre specific - I love writing most things, so I find I can compartmentalise - a poem, a picture book, a novel - they are all so different to me that I thrive on the diversity. We are each to our own though, and the world is a better place for it I think. Good luck with your ACID edits - I bet you WOW them!

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    1. Okay, I'll admit it - you were partly the inspiration for this post, Abi! I really admire the way you can work on different projects, and in so many different genres. It just goes to show that there's no 'right' way to do it - only that you have to find the right way for *you*. And thank you for the good luck! :-)

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  12. I'm between stories too at the moment - strange lost feeling!

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    1. It is, isn't it! I've only had a week off so far, and I already feel as if I don't know what to do with myself…

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  13. As a reader sometimes I read more than one story at a time if its not too gripping. But a gripping story I like to read from start to finish in one go.

    Great post!

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    1. I can read more than one book at a time too, but I'm the same - if a story really grips me, there's no room for anything else!

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  14. I'm definitely a monogamist. I just can't handle all those characters inside my head at once! And as for breaks between drafts and projects... it depends on how much time I have!

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    1. Thanks, Talli! And yes, you're right about the time factor - eep.

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  15. I've left a little gift for you over on my blog, hope you like it! http://www.strangerthanwriting.blogspot.com/2012/03/how-heather-made-my-day.html

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    1. Thank you, Laura! Have left you a reply. :)

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  16. Jumping on facebook asap to "like" you because I really do.
    Now talking about not being able to work on more than one story at the time, I think it's a good thing.
    I wish I can stay that focused. As soon as revision is proving to be too much to handle I jump into a fresh draft. This year though, my goal is to focus on my MG wip and polish it as much as possible.

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    1. Aw, thank you, Akoss. That's really lovely of you! Good luck with polishing your WIP.

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