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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » The Fickle Muse

   
Author Topic: The Fickle Muse
History
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I've noticed in some threads such as "Did you write?" the list of a Member's various writing projects, inclusive of novels and shorter works, can be quite prodigious.

At first I thought this novel. My past experience was one where I could not conceive of starting a new story before the first was complete. As had been my experience with reading novels. Only one strong voice at a time would capture my interest, and the remainder would get in line.

However, as I aged, I'd find I'd have four or five, sometimes more and sometimes less, books on my nightstand; and now I, also find myself with starts and bits and pieces of a handful of tales, each clamoring for my attention, and the cacophony is a distraction.

I blame both personal (possibly biological and age-related but possibly occupational) and cultural influences (the sensory bombardment of modern media) for my Lilliputian attention span.

My question: Is your experience similar? What remedies have you found that allow you to limit the diffusion of your creative will and get a story completed?
Or do you find having multiple projects just the normal state of affairs and wander among them as your muse directs?

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob


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TamesonYip
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I have a horrible time switching back and forth between projects. When working on a short story and my novel, I find it difficult to switch between them and often get the feel of one or the other off. I feel like my short story style is different from my novel style and so that can be a problem.
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genevive42
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I don't like to have two projects in the creation stage at the same time. But creating on one and rewriting or outlining on others is fine.

But working on multiple projects and reading multiple books is something I see as a good thing. It means your mind is nimble and can handle multiple tasks while keeping track of everything. Now if you can't focus when you sit down to work on a piece, that would be a problem. But if each thing gets your full attention while you're involved with it then it can only be a benefit.


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Tiergan
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Well until last month, I always tried to keep only one story going, and finish it. This left to many unfinished stories as I write scenes best depending on the mood I am in. When Skadder started the "writing Fool" Thread I gave up on just one story wrote what my muse called for, it has opened 4-5 stories at a time, but more importantly allowed me to finish 4 stories since the start of that thread. I find having several stories in progress allows me to avoid the dreaded now where does it go, if I have 4-5 to choose from, I almost always got a scene for the evening.
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Robert Nowall
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I like to think I keep projects on the "frontburner," when they're hot, or move them to the "backburner," where they get cold, and drop out of the picture altogether...this stove metaphor works only so far, actually. Right now I've got four or five "backburner" projects, finished drafts, that I've got to move up and work on revising before they get too cold. (Just finished the rough draft of another story).

I generally don't work much on multiple stories at the same time...back when I tried it, I found myself typing character names from one story into another---sometimes into the final draft---without noticing until it was much too late. (Also convinced me to try to differentiate my characters, so they all don't seem like they're cut from the same bolt of cloth---another metaphor.)


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pdblake
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I only ever have one writing project on the go at a time, but I may well be editing previous stuff and plotting future projects while I'm at it.

I agree with Tiergan about the 'fool' thread. I've found that a great help to hit the writing targets.

[This message has been edited by pdblake (edited November 07, 2010).]


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sojoyful
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My novel is very large and complex (it will probably end up as two books, or perhaps a short series!). I like to focus all my energy on it, but once in a while it gets a) overwhelming, b) frustrating, or c) stuck. If that happens, I take a break and slam out a flash fiction or some other fresh rough draft. I keep these fairly short and simple in concept, so that they can be open and shut pretty quickly. Then I set that draft aside and get back to the novel.

Hmm...I suppose I should dig some of those drafts out and polish them...


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MartinV
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History, I have the same problems, lately in particular. I see the writing process as looking into the world without the correct set of glasses. It makes everything blurry and unreadable but if you want to write it down you have to see it clearly. Therefore you spent more and more time and effort trying to see what't in that blurry image. It would be so easier to just get different glasses, wouldn't it? But then where does one get them?
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Owasm
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My problem isn't splitting out and writing multiple short stories, it's keeping the excitement for the novel writing.

I had a novel this summer that I intended to finish in September and by October, my interest waned to the point that I had to shelve it. At that point I decided to do NaNo so I would force myself to produce a rough draft of another.

Short stories, being short are easier (for me) to work on, set aside, and work on something else. You can get into the story easier, while a novel requires a lot more momentum.


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History
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I actually found my novel easier to write than my current handful of short stories because of the freedom the novel format provides to more fully develop one's world and characters. In addition it permits one to have a variety of characters and plot complexities/conflicts than possible within a short story. Then again, perhaps I was merely enthralled by the story of The Kabbalist, that it would not let me go until it was written.

The recent Writing Challenge had a 4000 word limit. I found this distracting, though I greatly enjoyed the experience. The story had mild success with our Member reviewers and judges, and even earned a personalized note and encouragement, if rejection, from F&SF. I attempted to create empathy for the frustration of my protagonist by adding an element of frustration for the reader. It was a stylization objected to by many readers -- no one likes to be frustrated.

I do find the short story format a greater challenge because of its restrictions. Far more care is needed. The plot need be simpler, tighter; and any attempt at layered meanings as a protagonist resolves both his or her external and personal conflicts, need be performed with great subtlety. Everyone likes to relate to the characters, but "sermons make me sleepy, Shepherd" [Mal Reynolds to Shepherd Book in Joss Whedon's movie Serenity, Universal Pictures, 2005].

I'm attempting to focus my energy on a novellette (though it may end up a novella) by not permitting myself any other creative writing. It's the equivalent of not getting dessert until I finish my vegetables. We shall see if I have the strength of will to do so. If anyone has any other recommended disciplinary methods, I would be interested in hearing from you.

I also have decided I will not permit myself to post my "first thirteen lines" for anything except a completed story. I do so appreciate and enjoy the feedback from Hatrack Members. Thus, another incentive.

Respectfully,
Dr. Bob (the Disciplinarian)

[This message has been edited by History (edited November 08, 2010).]


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walexander
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Whether a writer decides to focus all energy into one project or divide it between multiple projects really so far I feel each can be accomplished equally well. It's a matter of if it is treated like work or a hobby. In work - you have to work - deadlines you set need to see a finished product, or nothing gets done. True, if no ones paying you yet, the only person you disappoint is yourself, but no one's going to be paying you any sooner by pushing deadlines out to infinity. Great things can be done with a hobby, but you have to not care about a time frame, hobbies big payout is from straight enjoyment, many hobbies do sometimes change later and become work, but your putting most you're eggs into one basket and hoping for the best.

I work multiple stories because this works for me, by juggling them, fresh ideas tend to surface. Even if somethings get moved to a back burner I find they're always easy to go back to. That's just me though. I actually wish I had more time to dedicate to them, but unfortunately bill's have to get paid. Bill collectors wait for no one.

I'm for any direction that gets you to the end goal - getting published and getting paid. Show me the money! Maybe someday.

W.

[This message has been edited by walexander (edited November 09, 2010).]


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