novel ideas

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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There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.

— Ernest Hemingway