Why I Can’t Just Work On One Book At A Time…

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In an ideal world, I would work on one book at a time. I would be sat there all fresh, waiting for an idea to come along. I would start jotting down notes, forming character bios and doing research. And all of this would happen with a clear mind, a mind undisturbed or distracted from anything else.

Sometimes I think how nice that would be. I once heard another author say that she never starts a new book until the last book has been released. So, for her, it is one book at a time and one book only. Sometimes I envy that approach and think how much tidier and saner her head must be compared to mine!

But as they say, it’s no good comparing yourselves to others, especially when it comes to creative pursuits. We all do things so differently, in our own way, and that’s what makes us unique, I guess. At times, I have worried about my approach and longed for it to be different. These days, despite the headaches and chaos my approach brings, I wouldn’t change it. It is always going to be this way and I have finally accepted that!

For example, at the moment I am preparing to release two books. One, is a re-release, an updated version of my short story collection Bird People and Other Stories. It has a brand new cover and I will release it without much fuss very soon. I just felt it needed a tidy up and I’m really happy with it’s new look.

The other book is a new short story and poetry collection. It needs a few more edits and proofreads and a front cover, so it won’t be released for a while, but it’s basically ready.

While preparing those, I am also working on my four-book post-apocalyptic series, The Day The Earth Turned. I have just finished a rewrite of book one and started a rewrite of book two. Book three is awaiting its second draft and book four has been planned but not started. This is what I call my priority project, although, releasing the two finished books is technically the priority. I work on this series every night. I edit at least four chapters before I let myself do anything else.

I am also working on a YA series with Sim Sansford. I wrote about our process last week. We are approaching the end of book three in the trilogy, but of course, there will be plenty of rounds of edits and revisions to come for all three books. With this project, I respond as soon as I get a chapter from Sim, so I’m writing a chapter maybe once or twice a week, which is not too time consuming at all.

Also on the go, is a spin-off book from my five-book series The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. Two characters are introduced in book five and they really annoyed the hell out of me by growing and evolving so much that they started to demand their own spin-off book! I started making notes for this a few years back when I was still working on The Boy series! Then about a year ago I started writing a rough first draft in a notebook. At the moment I am typing up what I have so far and seeing where it might go. I only work on this if I have completed my chapters for the priority series already mentioned!

I also have another possible series in motion. My son and I drew a wonderful map a while back for a town called Black Hare Valley. Originally, we were going to attempt to write it together but he changed his mind. I couldn’t let the idea go though, and ended up writing a sort of prologue/short story for it. I also wrote a ton of character bios, added to the map and came up with a load of ideas for a YA supernatural/folklore type of story. I am desperate to start writing this but at the moment I have to be satisfied with adding to the planning every now and then!

Added to all of that, I have written half of the sequel to The Mess Of Me and would love to get back to this at some point and I have written a first draft of a YA psychological drama which is just sat there waiting for it’s turn to be worked on. Then, there is another series I’d like to write with Sim when Fortune’s Well is finished. I had an idea one day that grew into a short story…inevitably the story grew into a novel…and possibly a series. But all of these have to wait!!

And then the other day I got another idea! I don’t know why my brain does this to me! It just won’t stop! I don’t know how to make it stop?! I suppose I should be glad I don’t have the opposite problem. No ideas at all would be far, far worse, so maybe I should be grateful. But honestly…I really didn’t need another idea, did I? And this one really wouldn’t go away so I have started writing it….Eek, I know, totally insane.

The new idea won’t take up too much of my time (or so I have convinced myself!) The idea came from me and my sons current obsession with everything zombie and post-apocalyptic. My older son and I have watched The Walking Dead for the first time and have now started watching Fear The Walking Dead. We are pretty obsessed with both shows and the obsession has rubbed off on to real life, where we’ll constantly find ourselves commenting on whether something would make a good zombie killing weapon or not, or how well certain fences and gates would last against a horde of zombies! My younger son is too young to watch anything zombie related but he has enjoyed playing Plants Vs Zombies on my phone and every night when we watch our shows, we have to tell him afterwards what happened. He knows all the characters names and is as obsessed as us without ever having watched either show! We have to do zombie vs survivors set-ups with his Lego or his PlayMobil and any time we go for a walk we have to pretend we are survivors looking for supplies and so on. So, I got this unwanted idea to write a journal style book from the point of view of a teenage boy at the start of a zombie apocalypse. I know it’s an overdone genre but what the hell…I probably won’t even do anything with it. I’m writing it long-hand into a notebook and I write one entry a day just as if it really is my diary. Some are very short, some quite long. It’s so much fun. So addictive. And I’m finding it easy to fit in around my other projects.

So, I guess that’s why I won’t ever be able to work on just one book at at time. My brain won’t let me. Ideas are everywhere. And writing is just so much goddamn fun!! I am too addicted to escaping this world and devising worlds of my own. I have too much fun creating characters I fall in love with and wish were real. I just hope I live long enough to get all these books written and published, That’s my main drive and ambition and purpose in life. Get them all written.

First Draft Relief as The Voices Fall Silent!

I’ve blogged before about the delirious happiness involved in getting to the finish line and completing the first draft of a novel in The Gloriously Ugly First Draft .

Last night, I was thinking about that blog post and about how wonderful it is to finish the first draft, because I was in that position again. Actually, I’ve written two as of yet unreleased books since that blog post, but they are still waiting beta reader feedback and further edits!

As I mentioned in the other blog post, I have a constant problem with characters interrupting me when I am already working on something. It’s really no good me having plans because they get ripped up at every turn. So, while still working on Elliot Pie, I wrote A Song For Bill Robinson and it’s sequel, Emily’s Baby. Enough to be dealing with, right? But as usual, my characters thought I could handle more.

For a long time, I’d had these alternative endings in my head for The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. I wrote one of them into my short story collection, Bird People and Other Stories and the other one I started working into a screenplay. I’ve always loved the idea of this book becoming a TV series, so for fun and for a challenge, I started writing new material for these characters. Once I started I could not stop, but it didn’t really get in the way of the novels I was working on, as I used a notebook and pen and just wrote in spare moments, moving the book around the house with me. I got so addicted to this new material, that the characters got louder and louder all over again, keeping me awake, telling me their story was not over and finally enticing me into writing a whole new book.

I will explain all this in more detail in a later blog post, but what I finished last night was the first and gloriously ugly first draft to what will be called The Boy With The Thorn In His Side Part 3. This is a whole new book, new material, new problems for these characters, and with the original ending moved to the end of part 3. As I said, I will talk about this in another post.

This is about the relief of a first draft being finished and last night felt incredible. As it always does when a first draft is completed because although I know the hard work is yet to come, and that potentially years more work will be needed, I get the relief in my head of these people falling silent. That’s what happens as soon as the first draft is done. They shut up and go to sleep. Okay in later drafts, they occasionally pop up and steer me in a different direction, but generally, it’s over and I can sleep again. The story has been told. I’ve spewed it out! I’m free of it! And that is a huge relief. Especially with this story, as let me tell you, it’s been keeping me awake at night since I was 12 years old! I am really, really hoping that this does it for them. I am really hoping they will now be at peace and leave me alone! As much as I love them…I have so many other books to work on!

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And of course, now that those characters are silenced, the ones waiting to be heard have suddenly got louder.  I’ve planned and plotted a four book YA series, which keeps getting pushed back due to these other projects, but today on a dog walk, wow did they pipe up! Streams of dialogue were coming out of nowhere…my every thought whilst walking was about these books and characters. So I guess now it’s their turn to keep me awake!

 

‘I Got A Head Full Of Ideas That Are Driving Me Insane’; Tips For Dealing With A Busy Mind

I’ve always loved this line from Bob Dylan’s ‘Maggie’s Farm’. I first heard it on a best of Bob Dylan compilation tape I bought when I was 12 years old. Yes, I was a strange kid, obsessed with words, old music, and writing. I used to scrawl lyrics and random thoughts over my bedroom walls and floorboards. And at the time I discovered Bob Dylan’s lyrical genius, I was also discovering how addictive it was to put words together. Little poems. Songs. Stories that grew into novels. I’d get one idea and become obsessed by it, only to have another equally exciting one show up on its heels, demanding my attention.

I remember the feeling of having too much inside my head. And having no escape from it, no way to turn it off or quieten it. I was always thinking about something. I disliked small talk and found it hard to concentrate on people when they spoke to me.

These days, it’s even worse. Just like when I was a kid, I have these people in my head. These made up people who feel so unbelievably real and who all have desperate stories to tell, and who all want their turn NOW!

So how do you cope when your mind gets this noisy? How do you focus on what is important and not end up burning out or giving up? I wouldn’t say I’ve fully figured this out yet, but here are a few tips for anyone who has a head full of ideas problem;

  • Count yourself lucky. Yes, I know it can feel like a burden and a curse. If only just some of these people would shut up and go away, you could concentrate fully on the task at hand. But it pays to remember having too many ideas is actually pretty cool. You’re never going to run out of material. You have decades worth of books and sequels lining up to be penned. That’s lucky and that’s exciting.
  • List your projects. I did this about a year ago. I have a to-be-read list and I have a to-be-written list. I’m a list person and there is nothing more satisfying than putting a tick in a box. So make a list of all the ideas for books you have and then enjoy that feeling when you get to tick them off. Also, this way you won’t forget any of the ideas!
  • Multi-tasking is your friend and ally. If you are taking the indie route, you’re going to need those multi-tasking skills in an abundance, so this is another reason to be happy that your mind is so busy. If you can juggle all of those projects and ideas without losing it, then you will probably do pretty well as an indie writer, juggling writing with building an author platform, promoting and so on.
  • Give yourself a day off each week. I didn’t always do this. I didn’t feel like I could. How was I ever going to get all these books written if I slacked off at any point? But then my kids kept giving me sad eyes and saying they missed cuddling up on the sofa with me. So I take every Saturday off. Completely. I don’t turn the laptop on. I sit downstairs with them and watch whatever they want to watch and take a deep breath. It’s my reward for all the hard work in the week.
  • Make sure it’s still fun. I think serious writers, or at least those who are serious about actually selling their books, should treat writing like a job. I always wanted writing to be my job, and now it sort of is, although obviously, I have to do other things to earn the real money! Viewing it as a job doesn’t have to take the fun out of it.On the contrary, writing should be a fun job. The best job in the world, in fact. So keep an eye on the fun factor. You might be churning out novel after novel and hitting all of your word count targets, but are you still having fun?
  • Feel free to slack off a bit every now and again. I’m doing this at the moment. Or at least it feels like it to me. I’m going over the sequel to The Tree Of Rebels I started a while back which is about half written. I’m editing a bit but I’m not doing any actual writing yet. I have two books with beta readers, so you know, can’t do much there right now. I’m gearing up for the release of The Tree Of Rebels, but until the artwork and formatting is done, I can’t set a release date and put the plan into action, so that’s all kind of relaxed right now too. It’s nice. I know things are going to get hectic again really soon, so I am enjoying the peace. I’ve been watching TV! Unheard of!
  • Remind yourself that one day you will have more time…I’m a mum of four kids and I’m also a dog walker and run writing groups and workshops. My youngest child is almost three, so hasn’t started pre-school yet. He’s 24/7. My older kids are fantastic but let me just say this to all you new parents out there, it doesn’t get any easier. It gets harder. Sorry, but it does! Anyway, I have days when I feel frustrated that I didn’t get much done, but then I remind myself that one day the kids will all be grown up. They’ll be gone one day. I’m not looking forward to that, by the way, but wow, I will certainly know how to keep myself busy when the time comes! So for now, I remind myself to be patient. These are busy days and I’m torn in many directions, but it won’t be this way forever.
  • Write weekly lists to help you stay calm. I would be lost without my weekly to-do list. I sit down every Sunday night and write down the things I would like to achieve in the coming week. There will be things I need to do, such as writing this blog or putting together the monthly newsletter, and things I aim to get done, such as more editing, research or whatever comes up. Basically, I sit down each night and decide which things on the list are the most pressing. I usually split my time in half between promotional things, and actual writing or editing.
  • Don’t push yourself too hard. I could write into the night and not stop. I used to do that before I had kids. I’m more sensible now, because I know I have to get up early and look after them all, but also because I’m kinder to myself. My mind needs a break. I turn everything off around ten pm and climb into bed with a book. Reading helps me calm down and tune out from my own mind. You can guarantee the ideas will start up again once I turn out the light, but I quite enjoy this if I am honest. I always fall asleep playing mini movies in my head, where various characters move about and talk and basically perform the book for me.
  • Have other hobbies and passions. I think this is vital. Obviously, I have the kids, and I expect most writers will have family commitments of some sort, as well as a day job. But I think having other passions in your life can really help you switch off from the writing, and give your hectic mind a break. I love gardening and being with my animals. I can easily lose a few hours just weeding, planting and digging. I love reading and will happily pick up a book at any time of the day, including whilst making the dinner. I’m pretty addicted to music and will waste away an hour or two on YouTube if I ever get the chance! Make sure writing is not your only obsession.
  • And finally, remind yourself that it will all get done one day. One word at a time, one day at a time, one book at a time. You will work your way through that list of projects. I’m sure more ideas will arrive when you really don’t want them to, but consider it a privilege and just keep going as calmly as you can!

Now I just need to keep reminding myself to do all of the above and I might just survive!

Please feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to know how you cope with having too many ideas!

 

 

 

I’ve Slowed Down A Bit…(and that’s a good thing)

For the past few weeks, I’ve felt a bit like I am on holiday. This weird, and decidedly naughty feeling has crept over me every day since I handed The Tree Of Rebels back over to my top beta reader. For those that have been following the whole saga, it was meant to be the final, final, draft, but I then decided to hand it over again, and attack it one more time once I get it back. This was meant to be a moment of relief; I’d hand over one project, (the one that’s been driving me crazy) and jump straight into the next one. The next one is the second draft of my novel Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature, a book that was consistently calling to me and generally interrupting the flow of things while I worked on The Tree Of Rebels.

You’d think I was gagging to finally, really get my teeth into that one, and you would be right. I was, and I still am. But something made me stop. It’s been two and a half weeks now since I parted company with The Tree Of Rebels, and I have still not dived into the next book, despite how much I want to.

You see, normally I would have. I would have started that second draft the very next day. I would have divided up my time and my attention, between that, and the million other things I constantly need to do, just like normal. I would have split my time in half each evening; half the time for Elliot Pie, half the time for ‘other things’, such as my short story collection, proposed articles for Author’s Publish, my preparation for the kids writing workshops I run, reviews for Underground Book Reviews, and not to mention, the big fat ugly elephant which sits and reeks constantly in my room. Promo stuff.

Promo stuff; like sorting out my websites, like finishing the process of getting all my books re-available in ebook and paperback after my indie publisher went bust in February, like researching and submitting to review sites, like building an email list, like figuring out how to best ‘sponsor’ a post on my Facebook author page, and so on and so on…

Basically, I have a constant back-list of ugly things to do, and I am constantly putting them off. Why? Because the characters in my head are so totally real, vibrant and alive, that I actually feel physically sick and guilty if I ignore them. Add to that, the very real and crawling in the pit of my belly panic that I have that I will die before I ever get time to write all of the books I want to write… I mean, really, there is just not enough life…

Anyway, I don’t know what, but something happened. Maybe common sense invaded my fucked up writer’s mind and beat the characters over the head with a club to make them shut up. Maybe I just got really tired of juggling lots of balls, and lets face it, seeing very, very little financial reward for any of it. It’s time to get real. It’s time to grow up…well, just a little bit. I love writing. I love it with every fibre and essence of my being. It is completely and utterly who I am, who I have always been, and all I ever want to be. But I can’t just sit and write my books. I have to figure out a way to sell them. I have to give the right amount of attention to other income streams.

So that’s what I’ve been doing. Grown-up stuff. I’ve finished the short story collection and at some point this week I fully intend to upload it to KDP. I’ve set up my email list, and the very lovely subscribers to it will be getting a new and exclusive short story very soon, and many other goodies and sneak peeks in future newsletters. (If you are interested you can sign up here ) I’ve been adding bits to this site  and to my Chasing Driftwood site. I’ve submitted some articles, drafted a review and proposed an author interview. I’m all prepped and ready for my next two kids workshops and my adult writing group.

I’ve been turning the laptop off at nine or ten pm each night. I’ve been curling up on the sofa to watch old X-Files with my kids while they are on Easter holiday. I’ve felt calm and unpanicked, and like I am on holiday! And all because I have pushed the novel writing aside…the thing I love the most…

And yes, all of this time, Elliot Pie has been there. Dear, sweet little Elliot. Who has waited so long to get my full attention, who is there whenever I set foot on my beloved wild common with the dogs, chatting away, thinking his thoughts, writing his lists, trying to think up ways to convince his mum that the world is not such a bad place… He has whispered, and he has giggled, and he has sighed sadly and wandered off again to leave me to it. I am mental, because I really do love him. He is real. Like they all are.

But slowing down has been good for me. Elliot will still be there when I am ready. I am trying to convince myself that I am ignoring him in order to build a better future for him! (See…? Totally fucked up writer’s mind.)