Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Juggling Ideas - The Creative Process
As I have spoken about many times before, I write more than one piece of work at once (pieces can be found here). I have been asked by a lot of people, writers and readers, how I manage to keep it all straight. I have a system that works for me and the way to do it is to make sure that your system works for you too. I am very aware that I am not unique on having more than one book on the go, and everyone has a different system.
For me it's simple, every month I write a big long to-do list. On that list are a set of four chapters - two for each book - and they are my must-do for the month. I also have a set of bonus chapters, again two of each book. For a long time I was lucky if I managed to get the usual chapters done. It was rare for me to get the bonus chapters. It was only when I made the decision to do NaNoWriMo in 2015, pledging to do a page a day rather than the usual 50K words. I managed to zoom through not only my usual four chapters, but bonus ones AND what I called "double" bonus ones. I made the decision to start my own challenge every month with the hashtag #JoWriMoGo and so far, it's working for me.
Now, what does this have to do with juggling ideas? I find that what works for me is to write two chapters of one WIP and then switch to the other and write two chapters of that one. I'm careful with my outlining - what George R. R. Martin refers to as a gardener and an architect - and I make sure that I have copious character notes. As I switch from one book to the other, I make sure to read the last two chapters so that I can familiarise myself with where I am in the story. So far, it's worked for me, but how do you find a way for it to work for you?
One way is to experiment with a similar set up to the one I use. In the beginning I worked with different amounts of chapters, but in the end I found three left me in a position where I had started a scene and then wanted to complete it, four was too many, the higher risk of getting caught in a writer's block that stopped both stories from moving forward. One chapter was too few. I would barely be getting started and then I had to force my brain to switch over to a completely different set of characters. After a bit of back and forth, I decided that two was the perfect number for me. It may not be for you so don't be afraid to switch it up until you find that balance.
Another way is to not have a pattern. I find that this way doesn't work for me at all. The basic idea is similar to the method I use, but it's a way to avoid writer's block on one WIP holding you up on the other(s). You write as long as you can and then when you are losing motivation for one, you switch to the other and do the same. It doesn't work for me because I like to move along at a similar pace and the two switch and two more means that I start, and finish each book at around the same time. This method lets you have more than two ideas on the go and it means that whatever mood you happen to be in, you'll always have a story ready waiting for you. If it works, more power to you!
And finally, there's a mix of the two. It sounds like it couldn't work by meshing the two ideas together, but I've heard that it's possible. You have a set number of chapters to write, but you have more than two works in progress. (It's possible to do that with my preferred method, but I think it would deter me with more than two). Whenever you sit down to write, you roll the dice or decide which one takes your fancy and roll with that. I can't speak to the effectiveness of this method as it's not one I can implement in my work, but I have heard that it works really well for a lot of writers, so maybe it turns out to be the one for you.
Overall, I have found that if you do plan to juggling more than one WIP at one time, you need to have some level of organisation to be able to keep track of what you're writing and when you're writing it. I am lucky to be someone who needs to be somewhat organised by nature. However, that's not a hard and fast rule, as I said, if you can make it work for you, then that's something to be proud of. As always, your mileage may vary.
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