What I Learned in July

At the beginning of July, I decided to undertake two big projects–revising a novel while writing another. To some of you, that’s no big deal, and you’re wondering why I stopped at two. Others are thinking I bit off more than I could chew–one big project is all a writer should focus on. While there is no right answer when it comes to how many projects to work on at one time (every writer is different), I discovered I belong in the latter group: One project at a time is enough.

My revision is for a YA modern fantasy, while my draft is a supernatural tale aimed at adults. I figured there is enough difference in the tone of the two pieces that I wouldn’t have any problems keeping one out of the other. And I was correct on that account. The problem became more of a mental challenge. In splitting my focus between the two projects, I didn’t feel I was giving enough time to each. When I was writing, I thought I should be revising, and when I was revising, I realized I should be getting words down on the page. Other authors may be able to get over that, but I’m not one of them. (Keep in mind that neither of these is on a deadline. Deadlines have a way of focusing the mind, which would have made this easier. So why not impose an artificial deadline? To me, artificial deadlines are just that: artificial.)

In addition to learning that I work best with one project, I also learned another important  tidbit: don’t over-outline. I know it works for some authors, but, again, I’m not one of them. I can’t simply sit down and write and expect to create a book (what some call “pantsing”). I’d like to, and I’ve tried, but it doesn’t work. I can do it for flash fiction and short stories, but for longer works, I need an outline. On the current first draft for the adult supernatural story, I put far too much in the outline, so as I’m writing, it feels as if I’ve already told the story. That, to me, is not a satisfying way to write, and it ultimately leads to weaker prose.

I’ve decided to focus on the revision for the time being. I’m currently at the stage where I’m letting beta readers look it over, so in the meantime, I’m going to focus more on flash fiction (for those of you in the #fridayflash community, yes, that means I will be rejoining each weekend, at least for the time being) and other smaller tasks. I thought about working more on my adult supernatural story while I was waiting to return to the revisions, but ultimately decided to hold off until the revisions and beginning marketing were done on the YA novel. I’ve learned my lesson: One big project at a time.

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About ericjkrause

I am a speculative fiction writer, who writes flash fiction, short stories, and novel-length work. I have a few ebooks available, and am working on finding an agent and publisher for my current project. I am also hard at work on future novels.

Posted on August 10, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I can only work on one thing at a time. My brain can’t handle it. I use the flash fiction as a break from the big projects, but I can’t do anymore than that. I’m also a loose outliner. I have a rough sketch of the arc of the novel and major plot points, but I let everything in between free-flow.

  2. I feel the same way and prefer working on one project at a time – though it doesn’t always work out that way! 🙂

  3. Thanks for the comments!

  4. I have several projects going, although I do have my limits (other projects are impatiently waiting for attention) and I tend to put my primary focus on just one. The other projects give me something to accomplish while I’m stuck on the primary.

    As for outlining, I’ve found that an outline is a great way to get some focus on a story — but the story can and often does go its own direction after a while. If I don’t let that happen, I end up fighting the story instead of writing the story. No fun, and often no story, results.

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