Posts Tagged ‘keep writing’

Juggling Multiple Projects

By Catherine Dilts

Eight years ago I received a helpful bit of writing advice. A multi-published author recommended having a minimum of three projects going at a time.

If you’re struggling to complete a story, this may sound like bad advice. Juggling multiple stories can become an avoidance technique.

Writing the beginning of a story involves one type of brainstorming. Endings are a different game altogether. If you’ve never completed a short story or novel, push everything else aside until you get a rough draft finished. Only then will you have an ingrained roadmap required for simultaneous creative trips.

Why should you try working multiple projects?

The Simmering Pot stage:

Let’s presume you have finished a short story or novel. It may be a very rough first draft, or you may plan to submit it soon to a magazine or agent.

  1. Set that story aside for a week. Even a month. When you come back to it, you will see it in a more objective light. Everything from typos to plot holes will jump out at you.
  2. While that completed draft is resting, begin a new project. Those creative juices tend to stagnate if not kept flowing.
  3. You start working, and an idea occurs about the first project. Like a pot on the stove, you set it aside to simmer, but find yourself returning to stir frequently. Resist the urge to do major editing. Instead, jot down your thoughts on a sticky note, in the margins of your manuscript, or in red in the electronic file.
  4. Return to the second project, slamming out a hasty draft. When that’s roughed out, step things up by jotting notes for a third story. Only then do you return to polish the first story.

The Shifting Priorities stage:

When you have three stories going at once, you can allocate attention to the project that best suits your mood or time constraints. You do not work on all three stories every day, or even every month. You can focus on one story at a time. The point is, if you get stuck creatively or time-wise, you have something else waiting for your attention.

  1. Marathons – You may require stretches of uninterrupted time to plot. Maybe you get bogged down in character development or research. Final edits may be when you most need several continuous hours to work. Save your longer writing sessions to do this work.
  2. Sprints – Work or family obligations make it impossible to get in a good brainstorming session. When you have three stories going at once, one may be at a stage where you can effectively work in fits and starts. There are points in my short story process where it makes sense to carry a manuscript around, jotting notes as they occur to me.
  3. Passion – One story jumps to life, consuming you. Focus on that tale until the fire wanes. Remember though, writing isn’t all about the Muse inspiring you with intense creative bursts. Be ready to put in the plodding along hours, too.
  4. You get a nibble. A request to send chapters to an editor. You can drop the other two projects to work on the one most likely to get a contract.

The main reasons I like having multiple projects going:

  1. Your pace of production will increase when you juggle multiple writing projects. Once a project is completed, and pushed out of your creative queue, start another to take its place.
  2. You won’t experience blank page syndrome, that empty feeling when a story is finally really finished. Instead, you’ll pick up a work-in-progress and hit the ground running.
  3. When a story is with an editor or agent, you won’t be as anxious waiting for a response if you’re working on other projects.
  4. When an agent asks “what else have you got,” you have an answer.

You may have experienced writer’s block. Sometimes, setting a story aside can get you “unstuck.” The danger is that you’ll never get back to that story, or writing in general. You don’t want that to happen.

Nor do you want to skitter from unfinished story to story like a frog hopping across a pond. Or like that aunt with a sewing room jammed with piles of fabrics in various states of un-done-ness,  jutting pins and fraying edges a testament to procrastination. Finish your projects – unless one proves to be totally unworkable. I have several completed novels and short stories that will never see the light of day, but finishing them taught me valuable lessons.

The friend who gave me the three project rule is a short story author. I write both short fiction and novels. This technique works juggling a mix of long and short fiction. A short story may cycle through the queue faster, while a novel may work slowly through the process, but it still keeps my production high.

Give it a try. You may find yourself turning out more stories, and at a faster pace.


Catherine Dilts

Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She takes a turn in the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with two novels, Ink Or Swim and A Thorny Plot. Working in the world of hazardous substances regulation, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. The two worlds collide in the humorous mystery novel Survive Or Die. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at http://www.catherinedilts.com/

Longevity

By: F.P. Dorchak


Longevity.
How do you “get” it?
Do you need to attain it?
Why keep writing?

I don’t know that it’s something to so much as shoot for…as it’s more something you just…fall into. I’m not quite sixty, and have been writing for some fifty-one years. I’ve written ten full manuscripts (at about two-to-three years per manuscript), but have only released five novels and one anthology. I’ve lost track of how many short stories I’ve written. The better of them are in my anthology, Do the Dead Dream? An Anthology of the Weird and the Peculiar, which won the 2017 Best Book Award for Fiction: Short Stories. The anthology came out October 1, 2017, but only sixteen of those have been individually published. And though I’ve been writing fifty-one years, you’ve never heard of me. Or my work. Or my newest abovementioned effort.

Yet still I write.

I think we can get too caught up in the accolades and tropes of society. Like “longevity.” What should be the ameliorated focus is appreciating the voyage…not being praised for, nor identified as having attained, some loftily defined or heralded conclusion. Though it is nice.

Let’s talk more about the voyage.
Enjoy each moment.
Enjoy the beauty of writing and the imagination.
Enjoy creating mental images from your generated words. From stringing together characters into words into phrases into sentences into paragraphs, pages, and books.

How you’ve created a notional construct…translated it through your physical form…your arms, your hands, your fingers…through use of a material instrument—a pencil, pen, a keyboard—into physical reality for others to read. Interpret. Create their own notional constructs. How you are also influencing the emotions and thoughts and perceptions of other people.

Fear. Anger. Love. Enthusiasm. Astonishment!
Marvel at the volume and diversity of what you’re conceiving!
All of the different stories that are being created from some weird place that you simply cannot touch. Yet directs your focus. Your beliefs. Your…living.
That is both there and not there.
The origin and generation of which scientists and philosophers cannot even begin to agree upon.
And from that medium…you’ve created tales.
They just keep coming and you keep writing.
You start submitting to publications. Some get in…most do not. You’re disappointed.

But you keep writing.

You feel like a sweating, barely containable firehose in full-on operation! You can’t get your stories out fast enough! As Time marches on you find that you’re getting better…more efficient at linking words into organized arrangements…and doing it quicker. In fact…you’re using fewer words to get the job done. You’re discovering less vulgar…more refined…ways at hammering home your concepts…and they’re hitting harder than ever. Where it used to take you a paragraph…you’re now employing sentences…sometimes only two or three…and at times…as many words.

You find—much to your utter amusement—that as you submit your romances, your mysteries, your horrors, you have created…a body of work.

You’ve become more confident about your words and your ability to wield them. You’re less bothered by rejection, or what others think…and move on to the next one…the next publication. You write just to write. It’s what you do. Who you are. You know that rejections are not about you—they’re about them. That your work isn’t right for them…philosophically or practically. You know you’ll eventually find your audience…large or small. It is your audience.

Besides…you’ve got work to do.

You keep writing.
That dulls…erases…the disease of rejection.
You feel good again!
Stories!
Just keep issuing forth.
You translate them!

String words together in ways that astound you, and you wonder how that happens. From where do your ideas and methods originate?
Some will get what you’ve done…some will not. It doesn’t matter. You have stories for everyone.

And you keep writing.

Then…somewhere down the line…before you know it…you’re looking down upon your body.
Freed…like never before.
Your corporeal existence laid out before you like a crystal-clear and multi-dimensional Venn diagram.
A life well-lived!
Or not.
But it was your life.
And you have even more ideas.
So you…reach out…in ways…unimaginable…until now—
And, yes, you’re just itchin’ to tell these tales….

@ F.P. Dorchak


F.P. DorchakF. P. (Frank) Dorchak writes gritty, realistic speculative fiction. Frank is published in the U.S., Canada, and the Czech Republic with short stories, non-fiction articles, and his five novels, Sleepwalkers, The Uninvited, ERO, Psychic, and Voice. His first anthology, Do The Dead Dream? won the 2017 Best Book Award for Fiction: Short Stories.

Check out F.P.’s website or click here to read a few of his short stories.