Monday, June 24, 2013

Spinning Plates

by James Batchelor

In an ideal world, we’d knock out novel after novel, short story after short story, poem after poem, all in a nice, neat, orderly fashion. Our ideas would queue up politely just short of the forefront of our mind, waiting their turn with calm and patience.

Sadly, this is the real world. Ideas fight for prominence in our minds like New Year’s Day Sales fanatics with sharpened umbrellas and a mean right hook. It gets real nasty. And as a result, we can be writing one thing but thinking about several others.

At the risk of being momentarily narcissistic, let’s take a quick look at my own writing To Do list.

A fantasy trilogy: I’m quarter of the way through the first edit of Book One, halfway through writing Book Two, and I’ve outlined Book Three. My Nanowrimo novel from last year: 25,000 words along and in dire need of an outline. That urban fantasy novel I started as a writing challenge at this month’s Writebulb meeting, not to mention the other potential stories I can continue from past challenges and flash fictions. Not to mention a pile of previous story ideas, unfinished Nano projects and even some fan fiction.

The point is, many writers have so many projects to write, so many plates to spin, you can never tell which one you should be focusing on.

Do you concentrate on whichever story excites you the most, inspires the most passion in you? Certainly, your writing is likely to be more enthusiastic and potentially better. But there’s the constant danger that your sadly-fickle human mind will get distracted by another idea and your current project will get discarded, who knows for how long.

Do you write them in some sort of order? Perhaps in the order that you first think of them, or whichever one you think is most publishable, or in the order of whatever could be finished quicker? This would seem the most logical for those of us who think so practically, and nothing helps keep you on track like a schedule. But what if that new idea pops up and triggers that spark for Project B that Project A is so sorely lacking. The flickering ember may be extinguished by the time you finish A. Is that something you want to risk?

Do you write them simultaneously? A few (thousand) words towards something different each day? It’ll keep you fresh, and truly challenges you as a writer. Of course, your consistency might suffer and leaping from world to world, character to character might send you a little loopy (we’re writers, though, we’re all a little loopy).

Which of these is the right path? As with so many things about writing, it’s up to you. Whichever works best for you. Try each method and see which makes you most productive. Or come up with your own. There is no right answer.

There is, of course, a wrong answer.

Don’t spend too much time worrying about what to write first. Don’t spend hours, weeks, days second guessing yourself, dabbling in projects but not putting words down. Write. Always write. Doesn’t matter what you’re writing, providing you are writing. Otherwise, you end up with a massive To Do list and an unshakeable apprehension about not one, but all of your projects.

In fact, go write something now. Just a few words (it’s never just a few words, is it?) on whatever you’re working on. Or something you haven’t worked on for ages? Or start something completely new?

Seriously, go write. Keep your plates spinning.

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