When ideas keep coming

About two weeks ago I went downstairs to get some popcorn for movie watching with my family. Halfway between the fridge and the pantry I got whammed by an idea for a new novel. The concept, the ironic ending, the words of the protagonist all formed in the time it took me to open the pantry and pull the popcorn bag out.

I’m guessing most writers love when things like that happen, but it was a little inconvenient for me. You see, I’m already working on two other novels.

I never thought I’d be one to enjoy splitting my focus like this, and the truth is, I guess “enjoy” really isn’t the right word. What I’m doing is necessary. Most writers know how it feels to reach a point where you have to force yourself to work, where the ideas just don’t flow magically out your fingertips onto the keyboard. I was at that point while waiting for World Maker to go on submission, and my solution was to split my focus to relieve the pressure of committing to one thing other than World Maker while I stayed stuck in my World Maker headspace.

But World Maker itself is a product of a period of forced writing (a page a day!), so I know that discipline can yield results for me. The trouble is that of the two manuscripts I’d been juggling, one is a rewrite of the manuscript I finished before World Maker, and the rewrite is basically being done for voice and characterization, which is not something you can fix with a few turns of phrase. This intimidated me, which is why I started the new project, and then got caught up on all the historical research I needed to do for it.

So far, my pattern has been to issue myself a challenge with every new manuscript. With manuscript #1 (Prosorinos) the challenge was to finish. With manuscript #2 (Wishstone) it was to write a fantasy. (Until that point, I had strictly considered myself a writer of adult science fiction). Then manuscript #2 was rewritten as a young adult story (which still needs work, hence the revision for voice and character). Then with manuscript #3 (World Maker) I set out from the start to write a YA, using appropriate voice. Now with manuscript #4 (Jewelry) the challenge is to use an ensemble cast. Manuscript #5 (untitled, maybe The Getting Popcorn Book) isn’t asking me to jump into something new plotwise or artwise, so maybe its challenge is to get me to make serious progress on more than one novel at once.

Did you keep all those titles straight in that last paragraph? See how juggling multiple manuscripts feels?

Still, it’s pretty exciting to have so much writing complete and so much that’s ready to come out. There was a period of time in my writing life when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever get another good idea. Now I’m confident that no matter which of my novel ideas I focus on I can get to “The End” in a matter of a few months. World Maker, having been written in four months, gave me that confidence.

I think for now I’ll make progress a little bit at a time on three different projects. If World Maker sells, I’ll do some consulting to determine which project to finally drop everything else for.

Do you ever work on more than one project at once? Any tricks you want to share?

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3 Responses to “When ideas keep coming”

  1. […] a new title), I must get to work on an outline for book two of my two-book deal. Remember that post I wrote a little while ago about an idea I got while going for popcorn? The idea is barely 1,000 […]

  2. Hana says:

    I know this is a really late reply, but I wanted to thank you, Jen, for your wicked cool post. I like reading the struggles of other writers and knowing I’m not the only one going through the doubt, the forced writing, and all the quitting.

    I’m currently working on a parallel world story myself, but less scifi-y if you know what I mean. (Actually I don’t really know what I mean either…definitely pantsing the project, if you can tell.) xD

    Good luck with the release and here’s to many more future sales as an author. *cheers*

    P.S. Did you really write a page a day? (Like John Grisham-style.) And more importantly, did it work?

    • Jen says:

      Hi Hana! Thanks for commenting on my post. :) I really did write World Maker (now re-titled A World Just Right) starting with a page a day. For quite a few weeks it was a struggle because I am mostly a pantser, though I do stop every few chapters and try to fill in my outline. Lots of mornings I wrote what I thought was total crap, but I could pat myself on the back and say I got in my page! Some of those pages ended up rewritten, but most of them ended up taking the story in a new, and positive, direction. Once I hit the halfway point or so I was writing a few pages a day more easily than when I had started writing one. Toward the end, because I was excited and knew where I was going, I wrote ten to twenty pages a day. If you’ve never tried writing a novel that way, I would highly recommend you try and see how it works for you! The trick is, you have to stick it out all the way to the end!

      Good luck on your parallel world project!

      -Jen


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