Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Two Projects at One Time?

When I was in my teens and early twenties there always seemed to be several New Year's Eve parties going on. You'd start the evening at one party, but it was hard to enjoy yourself when you had the sneaking suspicion that the other party was the really cool one. So after a while you'd hop on a bus and head off to the other party.

I celebrated quite a few New Year's Eves sitting on the number 22. And then, when I finally got to the right place, it would be just the same as the party I'd left - except I'd missed all the fun at midnight.

Over time I learned that it's better to commit yourself to one party and stay there, regardless of what you think might be happening elsewhere. For me it's the same with writing projects. It's better to stick with the one you've got, regardless of how enticing another project might seem to be, because it's better to be singing Auld Lang's Syne at a party than stuck on the bus while the rest of the world celebrates.

That first draft you're working on doesn't have to be well written, it doesn't even have to be competently written, it just has to be written, and written until you get to The End. That might mean some bits are pretty sketchy - they might only be in note form - but at least you've got there. And once you've got a first draft, you can always make it better.

There are of course some writers who can keep several projects on the go at the same time. There are also some people who win the Lottery every week. I think most of us know we're not going to win the Lottery, and I think you probably already know if you're the sort of person who can handle multiple projects and see them all through to completion.

I know I can't. I have to accept my limitations, and stick with the party I chose in the first place. I have to commit or I'll end up with lots of projects started and nothing being finished. And the sad truth is, an unfinished piece of writing is no good to anyone.


Jim Murdoch said...

This sounds like my father. He was always telling me that I couldn’t do two things at the same time and when I went out of my way to prove him wrong – walking and chewing gum or something – he pointed out that neither was receiving my full concentration. I only read one book at a time and I only write one book at a time. That said I have stopped in the middle of a project when I was struggling, gone off and done something different and then returned later with a clear head. You’re right, an unfinished piece of writing is no good to anyone, but ploughing ahead isn’t always the right answer either. When you can’t see the wood for the trees get out of the forest for a bit.

Writer Pat Newcombe said...

Me too. I can only do one wip at a time. The only exception is writing stuff for my blog...

Fiona Faith Maddock said...

You've answered a question for me. I have two ideas rattling round the drum inside the creative washing machine. One is the sequel to the sf debut and the other is Something Completely Different. I think I'll take your advice and tackle them in serial rather than parallel.

Tania said...

I'm currently working on promoting my new book on special educational needs as well as mulling over a novel idea I had just started writing when I got the idea to do the SEN book. Actually, it wasn't an idea - I woke up one morning and I was DRIVEN to do it. Today I got my paperbacks through from FeedARead for it. But I haven't stopped thinking about the novel and after half-term will crack on, while still promoting the other one. It fired me up!

Sarah Duncan said...

Jim - well it's different to be told I sound like someone's father, than their mother! But I think he's right...However, if you really can't move forwards, I'd agree that taking time off can be an answer (tho as I have no discipline it'd have to be the last resort for me, or I'd never come back to it.)

Pat - hmm, I must admit I find the blogging is a distraction from the writing too. But I don't find it too much of a conflict as it's v different in style.

Fiona - do the one you feel is right for you. Then stick to it. But make notes on the other one so you can go back to it.

Tania - I think there's less conflict when your projects are non-fiction and fiction. And if you're driven, you're driven! That sounds pretty good. Good luck with all the promotion now, and the fiction writing ahead.

Diane Fordham said...

Hello Sarah - Interesting for me to read this post at this particular time. I've recently started writing another novel and have been wondering about my short story writing (which I love to do). As you say combining non-fiction (writing articles in my case) and the short stories for me hasn't been a problem, but it will be interesting for me to see how I go now - with writing this novel and the short story writing in the back of my mind. Mmmm perhaps if I hit a brick wall in my novel I could work on a short story to free up any writing blockage??? Will be interesting for me to see how this pans out... Thanks for the post! x