Dual Wielding Pens

A new week, a new blog entry. Or so my new regime demands. Fortunately I’ve got something to talk about rather than rambling on about what I ate and spent last week – a mildly interesting fad in blogs at the moment. No, instead I’m going to talk about how I’m keeping focus on my writing projects. And right now, for me, the plural is key.

I’m actually writing two pieces concurrently at the moment. They are not related, and they don’t overlap thematically except in broad terms and themes; as noted previously, it’s hard for me to write a strictly happy story. The mystery of why remains such, and I’m not going to investigate it too much. So how does writing two things at once help me keep my drive?

It help avoids burn out and boredom with a story. I have a cognitive failing (just one? yes, funny, haha) in that when I’ve thought through an idea and fully formed it in completion, executing that idea becomes unappealing.

That’s probably not very clear. For example, when I’m thinking about Magic: The Gathering decks and making them, I love exploring different combinations and effects in unexpected ways to make something that works. However, once I’ve hammered out the deck list and formed a solid theory on how to play it, I usually find myself apathetic towards building the deck. Partly this might relate to cost, but I find a similar affect occurs with regard to my writing; once I’ve formed the plot outline filling in the details becomes a chore.

Not always, and I still enjoy writing. I do find myself getting distracted by alternate ideas and things that really aren’t in the plot structure but are fun to write about. Writing two manuscripts at the same time means that once I tire or become frustrated with one I can move on to the other for a change of theme and pace. It can be mentally exhausting, and means I usually get less done each week than I would if I focused on one project, but since I’m making good progress on two pieces this isn’t such a bad thing. Could be better, of course, but unlike many middle manager’s who find themselves out of their depth and caught up in satisfying unrealistic corporate goals I avoid being a slave driver when it comes to striving after ‘efficiency’.

There’s also a quality concern; if I rush both out then neither will be great. There is similarly a quality concern with swapping between two different novels at once, but that’s something I find more manageable, and can also be dealt with in editing. Knowing that I whatever I write isn’t written in stone is a massive advantage, and that I can add, change or delete as much as I need to at a later date is a comfort that I’m only just growing familiar with. I am also coming to accept that I can delete chunks of writing I’ve just completed, or am part way through writing, if I think they don’t fit or aren’t as suitable as I thought originally.

As there’s no cross over between the two manuscripts, story or plot or world wise, separate the two in my head is easy enough. It would be harder if I was writing the third part of my Shadows series (spoilers: I haven’t started book three yet) as it shares themes with each of my current projects, but without that bridge they are separate enough for me not to worry. Which means I just have to get on and write them, only taking short breaks to forlornly gaze out the window at the rare but gorgeous weather we’re having and curse myself for not owning a laptop. Career goals and all that; one day I’ll be writing on a beach somewhere in glorious sunshine and wearing one of my favourite shirts. For now I’ll cope with soft drinks in a oddly shaped flat in South East England.

How else do I keep my drive up for writing projects? Source material and immersing myself in similar works of fiction. I’m reading a few bits of fantasy at them moment, mostly Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. I’m making slow progress due to time restraints but it’s well written so I trust the story will unfold in due course. I’m also watching the Shannara Chronicles which is on Netflix, based on the books by Terry Brooks. While of the same parent genre each of these lends itself more closely to one of my projects, and it provides a welcome rest from simply splurging words on a page without reference for what other people do.

I’m also enforcing a growing exercise regime on myself, as a sound body grants a sound mind. Or something. If that becomes famous as wisdom, remember I said it. I’m working up to a half hour run every day Monday through Friday and then I’ll start adding more weight training on particular days. My gym visits are fairly frequent but also utterly irregular, so making it part of my schedule will be helpful I think in improving my fitness. It’s also some time in my day where I’m not solely focused on writing, which is relaxing.

Finally, I don’t force myself to write beyond a certain point. That point is usually after three hours of straight writing when the words I put on the page are so awfully or archaically ordered they’re almost nonsense or when I literally can’t think of what to write next – not just for that section, but for anything useful. There comes a time when the well runs dry and needs a rainfall to replenish it, and drinking mud never got anyone anywhere.

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