Focus

29 Jul

Don’t you love memes?

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So despite or maybe perhaps because of quarantine, my niece is writing a book and now she’s told me that she has another idea for a different book. She tells me she’s writing a page a day (sort of) and is torn between what idea she’d like to do.

I’m encouraging her with both projects. That way if one’s feeling dry, she’ll have something else to dabble with. Maybe one’ll spark and she’ll write a ton, then get tired of it and go back to the other one. Maybe she’ll have so many ideas, she’ll have to pull some of them. At her stage, it’s important to just write. And sometimes, it’s important for us writers to do it too – to strike while the iron is hot, and jot down the ideas or a scene or whatever, so we can come back to it.

Now, that doesn’t mean you should be frittering off in endless directions and have five ‘on the go’ novels with no end in sight. Pick one and try to finish it. But is it stagnant? You have writer’s block? You really want to do something else? Obviously this isn’t if your last book ended in a massive cliffhanger or you have a deadline in your series. But, if you’ve been writing for a while and you think you can end the book in reasonable amount of time, by all means philander with another idea. But finish the book you’ve been spending the last few months on, unless you know it’s an absolute dud.

Most writers I know have tons of ideas, and ideas by themselves are important, but there’s more to it. The stick-to-it to make a scene really work. There’s a lot competing for the prospective reader’s attention; the least I can do is ensure I’m providing a certain quality to my writing – so that means I’m going to rework scenes and make the best novel I can. I have ideas I can’t get to for years – the reality is that a book is a long commitment, even if it’s a relatively short book compared to my usual bricks.

My usual way of dealing with a plot issue I can’t solve was to do something repetitive, preferably active, and let my brain sort it out. At the end of all things, passions turn sour simply because it’s no longer fun; I feel great after a workout but believe me, getting motivated to do it some mornings? Hah! You might want to sew an outfit, but you have to go through the tedious process you don’t like – whether that’s restitching something or doing a long, arduous task that seems like zero fun, and will anyone really appreciate and notice all the hard work I’m putting in? Sometimes monotonous tasks are relaxing; my partner at work crochets. When we’re not running calls and have some down time is when we get to chill out. I typically read, write, edit, but some people I know practice musical instruments or do crafts. 85% of the time, she’s relaxed as can be, feet up, enjoying making a blanket or a scarf. When she’s on the home stretch, or she’s wondering if she needs to redo that last segment? I wish I could be more objective and helpful when she wants honest feedback. You can tell when she’s done with something – she gets frustrated and just wants to be done with it – afterall, it’s been freaking months, often times with her undoing weeks worth of work in a single pull if she doesn’t like the way it’s going.

I think that’s part and parcel of being an artist, is that unless you’re being told from on high what to do for money, you typically see the flaws and faults in what you’re doing, and either just want to be done with it, and the next project… well, it’s going to be amazing. Your magnum opus, the project that will define you as a writer. You need to finish what you started, so that your skill level is better for that next project.

Leave it in a desk for a while, start to write the next project, let it breathe, but finish it. You might have abandoned another project for it, once upon a time. Revise, edit, repeat. Do your writer thing. Tower of Obsidian was the seventh book I wrote, and Dreams of Mariposa was under contract after Witchslayer’s Scion. I got nothing on markets and I’m writing a third book for a series the publisher seems kinda meh about.  I’m not abandoning other ideas to work exclusively on the series, the way I see it is that the longer we take to publish the first book, the less time readers have to wait between books should I get the series option.

So by all means dabble in another story. But finish your book. You’ll be glad that you did, instead of having to revisit and relearn the rules you made yourself when you come back to it in a few years. As for me, I need to take better notes for future me.

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