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.

My 2018 Goals Vs The Reality

So, this has become a bit of a tradition for me. Every New Year I set myself some writing-related goals and then at the end of the year I compare the goals with what actually happened. I find it helps to keep track of things and it can also be encouraging to realise how many I did achieve. So, here we go. The goals I set myself at the start of 2018 and what actually happened…

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  1. Release Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature – This was a goal for 2016 and 2017 but finally, I achieved it in 2018! After attempting to find a publisher and getting pretty close a few times, Elliot pie found a home with the all-women indie collective Pict Publishing. Elliot Pie was released at the start of October 2018. Phew!!
  2. Continue To Work on My YA Trilogy – This time a year ago my YA novel A Song For Bill Robinson was at 4th draft stage and I had penned a sequel and started the third book. All did not go to plan, however. I ran out of steam on the third book and decided to change the ending of the second and blend the two, making it two books, not three. I have not had a chance to attempt this yet, but Bill Robinson, the first book, is basically ready. I need a bit more feedback from beta readers, and at least a few more edits and proofreads, and then I will try the publisher route again, whilst also looking at possible front covers. I hope to release a Song For Bill Robinson in 2019 and finish the sequel too.
  3. Kickstart My New Company Into Action – A year ago, I was feeling very nervous indeed. My writing business, Chasing Driftwood Writing Group had just become a Community Interest Company. I was full of fear about this! I have to admit, I still am. But 2018 did see some progress. I secured three separate grants for the company, and I kickstarted my community writing project, with so far, three free kids workshops, and two school visits. It doesn’t feel like enough. I have felt constantly torn between excitement and passion, and total regret for ever doing this. I have achieved the goal though. I’ve started the community project and applied for funding for the school project. I’ve not been successful yet but I keep trying. I also have a new idea in the planning stages for a long-term project. As scary as it is, I will keep going in 2019.
  4. Apply For Funding For a School Project – see above! I have done this several times and I’m waiting for the result of my most recent bid. I do have two lots of funding for the community project and a small amount in place for the school, so we have made progress and I have learned a lot !
  5. Apply For More Funding For Community Writing Project – Yes, I’ve achieved this, and fingers crossed, there will be a partnership happening in 2019 which will enable me to access more money, advertising and reputation. If this comes off, it will really make the project a success which I feel will have major positive outcomes for my CIC in the long-run.
  6. Get Wheels In Motion For Two More Projects – One, yes, which involves writing, children and nature. I have started planning this and looking at possible funding available. The other project, no. It’s something I’d like to do but will be kept on the back burner for now.
  7. Push Forward With Pop-Up Book Shop Idea – I’ve had this idea for ages, but alas, this did not gain any traction in 2018 and I’m not sure I will have time for it in 2019. I might look into it again and it’s certainly something I want to pursue.

All in all, then, I didn’t do too badly! Mind you, I only set myself 7 and most were related to my CIC! One thing that wasn’t on there was revising and re-releasing The Boy With The Thorn in His Side as a six book series, but somehow I managed to fit that into 2018 despite it not being on the goals list! It just sort of happened and has taken over quite a large chunk of 2018! More about that on next week’s blog, My Writing Goals For 2019!!

How about you? Did you set yourself any goals for 2018, and if so, how did you do? Please feel free to comment and share!

The Return of the Voices (and the Nervous Stomach)

Back in April, I blogged about the strange feeling of dread and nerves I was experiencing when I thought about writing, in When Writing is the Cause of and the Solution to Anxiety It took me a while to work out that the reason my stomach kept taking a nose dive was my writing. There was, however, a huge sense of relief when I finished the first draft of what will be The Boy With The Thorn In His Side- Part 3. I discussed this in First Draft Relief as The Voices Fall Silent. After that first draft, everything calmed down. The voices from this particular story shut up and while that did allow the next lot of characters to pipe up, I felt a lot better. My nervous stomach went away and I almost forgot about it.

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About a week ago, something very annoying happened. I got an idea for a new book. I really, really didn’t want this to happen. It actually makes me feel physically sick to even think about it!

And this is why;

  • at the moment I am trying to decide whether or not to release Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature as it is, probably in September. Although, as I talked about in my last blog post, How Do You Know When It’s Time To Quit?, I am also considering another edit and possible rewrite. I change my mind about this on a daily basis. I am listening to all the advice I’ve received in feedback from publishers and from beta readers and anyone else who has commented, but I do still feel that the story is the way I intended it to be…so as you can tell, this book which has been two years in progress, is still plaguing my thoughts…
  • I have A Song For Bill Robinson and Emily’s Baby both written. Both need further edits and both need feedback from beta readers to move forward. But at the moment, both books are just sat there doing nothing, while I feel the constant gnaw of guilt and unease about the fact nothing is happening…
  • Currently, I am working on The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. As explained in older posts, the original book and its sequel This Is The Day have been reworked into a series of four books which will be left open for the option of a fifth. Parts 1 and 2 just needed tweaking, while part 3 is entirely new, and part 4 is a reworked version of This Is The Day to tie in with the events of part 3…Tired yet? I am! Parts 1 and 2 are finished and awaiting frot covers and formatting for ebook and paperback. I have just finished the 4th draft of Part 3 on my Kindle and will soon dive into the 5th draft before I ask my beta readers to read it. I am working on Part 4 right now, and don’t think it will take more than a week or so, as only a few bits need changing. There is some relief with this series, but already a few ideas have crept in for a potential book 5…
  • The Day The Earth Turned, a 4 book YA series has been waiting for its turn for a good year or so now. I’ve plotted it, devised characters, and written short stories to keep it at bay. I’ve even dived into writing it and got as far as chapter 7. Once I have finished messing around with The Boy series, this series will be the next new, fresh thing I work on. That could be as soon as a few weeks time!! Exciting!! But those voices are getting louder and louder…
  • There are also sequels half written and neglected for The Mess Of Me and The Tree Of Rebels, but these will have to wait even longer now thanks to this bolshy new idea marching into my head last week!
  • I’m not going to tell you too much about the book so far, only tease you by admitting it’s been somewhat inspired by watching Breaking bad and Supernatural! Weird, I know, but the writer’s mind works in very strange ways. I didn’t want a new book idea. You can see how much I have going on, plus if you check out my upcoming books page, there are other books in the pipeline I’ve not even mentioned in this blog post. They will just get pushed back too as this new idea is a very insistent one.

So, with the new and unwanted book idea came new voices, names, characters, lives, homes, friends, lovers, backstories and shit loads of dialogue. They just don’t shut up! They are living and breathing and growing and evolving each and every day. Everything I do, everywhere I go, they are there too, demanding to be born, urging to be moulded and shaped into something real and living. I already know far more about these new characters than I wanted to. I’ve tried to ignore them and it’s not worked at all. They are just there!! They are just so alive.

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And obviously, the nose diving stomach is back. In a bad way. Like I’ve said before, it’s a lot like the feeling you get before an exam. My stomach lurches and twists and tightens. Sometimes out of the blue, for no reason. Other times, it’s because something to do with one of the books has popped into my head.

So I now know for sure that this anxious feeling is connected to book ideas…

So what to do about it? Other than try not to panic? And try not to die before I get all these books written and out of me?

I’ve done two things that have helped already, and one is something I’ve done before with other novels in waiting. I wrote a short story which I will include in a future newsletter for those of you subscribed to get a very, very early glimpse of this new book idea of mine. That eased things a bit.

And I’ve done something new. I’ve started a diary here on my blog, which will remain unpublished for now. It’s a diary of a novel from the first (in my case, unwanted) seed of an idea, to the finished product available to buy. I thought this would be really interesting to look back on once it’s all done!

So I write an entry when something has moved on with the novel idea. The first few entries contain notes about the original idea and the last few I wrote include possible names for the characters and more details on their lives and conflicts…

I hope this will be an interesting and cathartic process for me, plus I will have all the notes safe and sound in one place for when I start writing it!

Just one more thing to mention! This new idea? It is somewhat connected to The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series, in that some of the characters will appear in the others’ books…!!

The Joys and the Perils of Working on Multiple Projects

It’s never my intention to have multiple projects on the go, but almost since the beginning of my publishing journey, this is the way it’s worked out. Currently, I’m juggling a few things at the same time. Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is finished, but I’ve sent it out to a small list of publishers. While waiting for rejection, I’m planning my self-publishing launch of this book. A Song For Bill Robinson was sent to beta readers for the first time and I just received the first piece of feedback from a reader. I am now responding to this with a 6th edit of the book. Meanwhile, I made a decision to reduce the planned trilogy to two books by moving the main event of book three to the end of book two. This is in progress. And then there is the four-book series I promised myself I would not start until all these other things were finished! But that’s proving difficult, and I have recently succumbed to writing five chapters and indulging in some research…

I never plan on working like this, and in fact, I’m not sure it’s a good idea at all! I often experience what I would describe as a nervous stomach throughout the day. Unless there is something specific I am worried about, I have no option but to blame it on the thought of my evening writing.

Have you ever juggled more than one writing project? Or would this be your worst nightmare? Here are 5 perils of working this way, followed by 5 joys, because in my opinion, it is fraught with both.

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Perils

  1. Not Finishing – This is a genuine concern. It is the reason I rarely finished anything when I was a kid. During the inevitable slump, my mind would be drawn to a new story and off I would go. This has also happened to me as an adult writer, hence the half-written sequels to The Mess Of Me and The Tree Of Rebels.
  2. Distraction – Working on more than one writing project can be hugely distracting. If your mind is being pulled in more than one direction, it can be really tough to sit down and actually get some words out. It’s not easy to concentrate or commit to one story when you have others calling for your attention. Sometimes I start the evening working on one book, and finish the evening on another, which can feel quite frustrating as if nothing is really getting done.
  3. Panic – This is a definite peril and one I experience regularly. I get a nervous feeling in my stomach like it is constantly turning over on itself. Sometimes it feels like I cannot breathe and I take an extra big breath just to be sure. I’m not exactly sure why I’m nervous about my writing, but I always feel better once I am sat down doing it. I can only imagine that the feeling of panic comes from my struggle to do too much.
  4. Spreading Too Thin – Working on multiple projects could potentially dilute the quality of your work. Lack of concentration, distraction, panic, self-doubt can all be heightened when attempting to do too much at once. This could lead to a reduced quality of your writing, which is something I worry about a lot.
  5. Burn Out – Worst case scenario, working on too many projects can lead to burn out and exhaustion. It could spark off writers’ block. You could become utterly stuck, afraid to move on. I’ve experienced this before, and the only good thing about it is that it does finally force me to slow the hell down.

But what about the joys? Are there any good points about working on multiple projects? Can it be beneficial despite all the above? I might be crazy, but I do think so…

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Joys

  1. Excitement – Writing is exciting. It should be. I know half the reason I get such butterflies in my stomach is that I am excited to get writing. It’s exhilarating to put words to paper, to create and evolve characters, to give them lives, to shape and control their existence, to create worlds and spark drama and emotion. A new project is undeniably more exciting than an old one, which may be wearing thin. I like to stay excited and working on multiple projects keeps it going.
  2. Not Losing Ideas/Words – Now I know the rule is to never assume you will remember a good idea if you do not write it down. How many writers have made that mistake? You must write it down! It’s entirely possible to save future ideas by jotting the gist of it down somewhere safe, then getting back to the project in hand. But what if more words start to come? What if vague characters start to evolve into solid ones? What if they start to present you with conversations and dialogue? There is no way you will remember it all if you don’t write it down! And then before you know it…
  3. Keeps Things Fresh – Editing and revising a novel can go on for years. Writing the rough first draft is fairly easy compared to all that is to come. All the editing, re-reading, rewriting, revising, cutting, rewording and killing of darlings. Editing can be a challenge but it can quickly become dull, and even a torture. Here’s where starting another project can be helpful. Writing something fresh and new! It helps to be disciplined though. I only allow myself a chapter of a new book if I have edited four chapters of the current book, for example. Don’t jump ship! Stay on board and then reward yourself with a little bit of something fresh and new…
  4. Fills In Time Between Beta Readers – If you are anything like me, you will send your novel out to beta readers at different times. I usually have three rounds of beta reads, and I will work on the book in between. But when it’s out, I can’t work on it. What am I going to do? Sit around and twiddle my thumbs? It could be months! So I get my teeth into another project. As soon as the other book comes back from a beta, I down tools and get right back to it, always treating the one further along as the priority.
  5. Increases Productivity – In the indie age, productivity and brand are key. The more books you write, the more brand you create, the more trust you build with readers. Working on multiple projects increased productivity, there is no doubt about that. Simply put, more books are written.

So, over to you guys! What do you think? Do you work on multiple projects? If so, how do you stay sane? How do you stay on track and get it all done? Do you only ever work on one book at a time? Please feel free to share and comment!