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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Obstacles and Stories

   
Author Topic: Obstacles and Stories
C@R3Y
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I want to know other peoples views when faced with the obstacle of having several other projects going on at once. Let's say you have seven projects. The first and second drafts are finished, and maybe the third draft for a few of them, yet you still feel that none of them are really finished. Now you have all these projects choking you and trying to confuse you and they all want your attention, but you can only focus on one at a time...

I want to know how others overcome this. Should you focus on one project until it's completely finished? Or should you try to find the right back-up story to work on... out of the seven? That could be a hard decision. Because when I am working on a story sometimes, I tend to think about another story and want to work on that one.... Lol, it's kind of like having a pretty girlfriend, and then seeing some really hot girl walking past you and smiling, giving you "The look". You want to go out with her, but you are already with a girl... Although that's never..... really happened to me....... but annnnnnnyway......

Back to what I was saying....

Here are the consequences for both decisions.

Let's say I am working on a 7,000 word story. Draft 1, draft 2, draft 3, draft 4, even... I get a few critiques back and still I am not getting the effects I want. Getting slightly angry here. Getting ready to throw my damn computer.

Working on a story until completely finished can tire me out and get me angry after awhile... So I want to take a break from it.

Consequence for decision 2, now. Break time from the first story because that's all I've been working on for the last few weeks. All right. Okay, good, just come back to it later. So I want to work on one of the other stories I have, but oh crap, there are so many options to choose from and I don't want to waste my time working on a story might be a dead-end. Because jumping around from story to story can also not only get tiring, but, for me, it might take way longer to finish a story to my liking.

I would like to know how others approach this issue. How do others go about working on projects, especially if they have quite a few drafts done of many different stories?

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Owasm
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You've got to take some of those and get them finished. I've got a few hundred stories in WIP (and many deserve to stay there!) You have to learn to write and you have to learn to finish. Get it done or cast it aside.

I have four novels in various stages of undress and I'll have one finished and e-pubbed in a week and another that's getting edited for publishing next month. I have another that I planned to publish, but I just couldn't get excited about it. Now it's back in my WIP and will stay there while I get other stuff finished.

I don't think you have to work on one thing at a time, but you do have to work on something with an eye to get it done.

My two cents.

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extrinsic
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I focus on discrete craft and voice aspects I'm struggling with when writing short narratives so I can implement what I learn into long narratives. An area of focus at present is reader curiosity engagement through building reader rapport so the audience cares what will happen. One of my latest and best received short narratives had readers deeply moved by the protagonist's insuperable struggle and hating the villain, as if the protagonist and villain are real persons in a real place, time, and situation.
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shimiqua
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There's a billion stories out there. If one isn't working, shelve it, and start on something else. It's just a story. I think it's better to start a new story, then over-stress and over-edit a story that's not working.

I say walk away... get some distance, and write a different story. It will still be there ready to edit, but will the new idea still be there if you decide to focus on editing instead?

That is just what works for me. I personally go through spurts of creative energy, where I just spit out stories, and chapters like you wouldn't believe, but then I have dry periods, where I focus on editing and sending stories out. I can't be an editor and a creator at the same time. That's my split personality coming out, I think.

Anyway, good luck with it.

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LDWriter2
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I have been there and done that. I think I have had as many as six stories and/or novels going at once. Right now I'm doing five... I think. Three novels-two new, one revision- , a story I just finished the first revision of and a story for Q1 WotF that I need to finish the last revision of. Of course technically you could say I'm working on the revisions of two more novels but haven't touched them for a month or more.

But as to how I do it. Certain ones get certain times. Like the story was done at work, one novel is only worked on at work. With another novel and the revision novel I just sit for a moment and decide which one I feel like working at the moment. Sometimes I decide on which one I feel the I need to get done the most. Sometimes it depends on if there is a deadline like with the WotF contest. Sometimes when I have only a few minutes I think about which one would take the least time to do. Some scenes may need an hour while others might be finished in few minutes.

You need to decide what works best for you. I know of writers who do just one project at a time- Start to finish. Not counting letting it sit for a week or four before revising it. While it rests they work on another project and maybe not work on the resting one until the next story is done and ready to rest. But others work on two or four or??? at a time. Some pros will work on certain stories only in the morning, another one only in the afternoon and yet another only in the evening. As I said I work on some at work and they are usually just worked on at work.

So in most cases I decide which stories-novels I feel like working on or that have a contest- critique deadline. Which are the only real deadlines I have at the moment.

I came back to say that in the contest of which novel to work on with the choice between a new one and a revision-rewrite of another one. The new one usually-not always- wins. It should have been done three months ago-at least- and I want it done now since I'm back to working on it regularly.

[ December 23, 2011, 07:09 PM: Message edited by: LDWriter2 ]

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pdblake
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Simply this, pick one and finish it.

I tend to have one in first draft, one in edit and one in progress at any one time, never two of any. I write a certain amount each day (when in full swing anyway), and edit a bit.

The trick lies in never getting bogged down with the next great idea. It's all so easy for that muse in your head to jump up with a new idea as soon you've finished writing down the last one. If it really is a great idea, it'll still be a great idea if you come back to it later.

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enigmaticuser
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I find that new stories that I think are worth writing don't come around once, they circle the block and I'll see them again. So with new ideas if its solid enough (a good theme/plot seed), I'll start notes and as it circles the block again I'll write down something about a character or a twist.

I don't start writing the story for the block-circler, because I know there will be another one, so I'll never run out of stories, so I stay and finish the work on the one that's in front of me. Once a draft is finished, then I'll need a change of pace to freshen my eyes, so then I'll stop the block-circler.

So for me, I have only two WIP's at a time, plus probably one or two P-WIP's that I plan to start notating, and a few fragment PP-WIP's where they aren't worth the time...but mayb a couple more rounds...

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MartinV
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I have two WIP at the moment, both in editing mode. As much as I would like to start writing something new, I know if I do it I will never finish those WIPs. So I edit and plan new projects but don't start them.

Two WIPs are maximum for me. If I decide to have more, I will fragment my concentration too much and make my work worthless.

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Robert Nowall
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Usually when I've got one rough draft story going I'm working on, I might have one to three things where I'm working on second draft or doing nitpickety revisions to. But I learned long ago to be careful that I keep the names and faces straight...then again, maybe my characters aren't that distinguishable from each other.

Of course, when the rough draft really gets going, like this past month, the other things go into hiatus, waiting for the draft to be ended and the thrill to be gone for me to take them up again...

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KayTi
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I'd be careful of writing so many drafts trying to achieve a certain thing for a batch of readers. Call it done, let it mostly achieve something, let it somewhat do what you wanted, but let it lie. Send it out into the world (because if it's done it's done and sitting on your hard drive it's doing NOTHING for you, either epub it yourself or mail it.)

THEN, try with a *brand new* story to achieve what you were aiming for with that one that you feel like you fell short on.

Rewriting kills stories deader than anything else we writers do, trust me I know because I have the dead stories to prove it. [Wink] I'd just like to encourage you and anyone to try to limit yourself to 2, 3 passes at the most, and only try to fix the things you really think a) need to be fixed (e.g., typos, mistakes like calling a character one thing in scene 1 and something else in scene 12.) b) you know you can easily fix and require minimal rewrites (e.g., adding in some foreshadowing for an event later in the story) c) Things one of your readers brings up that you AGREE with. If you're not sure if you agree, perhaps the best recipe is to write more and more and more until when you get feedback from a reader you're pretty sure about what you want to do with it (including the proverbial "take this feedback and...")

I find that as I've got more words/butt-in-chair hours under my belt I'm getting DARN opinionated about my own stories, about what I'm trying to achieve with them, and about what they are about. When I get feedback from readers I can pretty easily tell if the feedback is something I missed (mistake) or something I agree with that's easy enough to implement (you didn't foreshadow this event well enough so it was too surprising) or stuff I just don't care about (the science behind xyz made no sense -- I don't write hard scifi I don't care -- the character's hair should be curly -- um, I really don't care, another fourteen scenes here would better lay the groundwork for this event -- um, no thanks, you should rewrite the entire opening because I didn't like the setting -- um, thanks but...yeah, no.)

And above all else, always remember to smile and say THANK YOU to anyone who has spent their time reading/commenting on your story, even if you'd like to take their feedback and... [Wink] (They really don't need to know this. I am very selective now in who I send stories out to, 99% of whom are not writers at ALL, merely people who love to read.)

It can be hard to focus when there are many popcorn kittens around (have you read that Kristine Kathryn Rusch post? very very good...) but it's best to try to stick a fork in a story or two or three and try your best on a NEW story if you find there's something about craft you're trying to achieve but haven't quite done in a particular story.

(as always the above is my opinion and should be treated as such, take what works for you, leave the rest!)

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enigmaticuser
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Well said KayTi. I've been revising for too long on my current WIP, I finally had to decide, when this pass is over for typos it's done. It doesn't matter if I could come up with a better word choice or switch this around. It's DONE. Just finishing my red ink typo check and it really will be done.

Next time, I'll have a limit before I even start revising.

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Merlion-Emrys
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I agree with KayTi for the most part. Over-revising is not good. I can also sympathize with the too many irons in the fire feeling. I tend to get a lot of story ideas, especially at certain times and they want stuff done with them. And especially early on in my writing, I would find my interest in something I was working on wane to the point where it wouldn't go anywhere at all and I'd want to move on to something else.

More recently I find myself experiencing something much akin to what enigmaticuser describes. Ideas will come around more than once, getting more fully realized each time. I also notice that lately I do a lot more "plotting" or "outlining" (often mostly in my head) before I get started and this helps avoid hitting those snags which lead to losing interest and not making progress.

I say don't force yourself too hard to work on something that isn't going anywhere, but on the other hand also try to get something or other finished so you can move on and not have this problem. It is always possible to come back to things. If you get a story idea or a plot breakthrough for something you're not currently working on, write it down and leave it until later. Also, I find that circumstances can sometimes help...for instance, if you really want to finish up a thing to send it to a particular publication, but they're temporarily closed, use that time to finish up something else, or conversely if the opening isn't far away, use that as motivation to get the thing finished so you can move on to something else.
With time and practice you'll refine your own techniques for managing the flow of ideas and tasks.

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Smaug
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Well, I like Heinlein's rules of writing, found here:http://pcwrede.com/blog/heinleins-rules-for-writing-mostly/
one of which is to finish what you start. That being said, there are times when what we are writing becomes so frustrating that we need to take a break and work on something else.

And nothing we write is really a dead end. We're always learning something every time we write something--always improving our craft and our ability to recognize what works and what doesn't.

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Lloyd Tackitt
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I try to write one thing at a time until it is finished. There are issues with that, or with me, in that I hardly ever believe something is finished - I want to keep improving it.

Right now I am on rewrite number 1 of a manuscript. After finishing the draft I did take a three week break and write some short stories for fun and therapy. Now, back to the rewrite.

I have ideas for several other projects, but am deliberately putting them on the shelf until the book is complete and published.

Otherwise I will jump from one thing to another and have a lot of unfinished works and no finished ones. I want finished major projects on the shelf before I start the next one, but sometimes I just have to write something for grins, so I write short stories here and there.

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