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Friday, February 28, 2014

Make Up Your Mind!

Why do you ask people on Twitter what to write? Shouldn't you make that decisions?

- Confused 

Forgive the generic version of the question. I've been asked this a few times in various ways so I combined them all to the bland version. 

Right now I have three projects that I consider active: a rough draft, a third draft nearing finishing, and a revision with editing notes. In other words, I have one new project, one at the half-way point, and one nearing the end of its life cycle. Keeping a rotation like this allows me to step back from a manuscript that's giving me trouble without losing a day of work.

I know authors who advocate for the One True Manuscript approach to writing. They pick one project and work on it from rough draft to publication without looking at any other story. I've tried this, and I found that I had a lot of empty days. 

Maybe I'm not as smart or as organized as other authors, but I find I need a few days a week to think. To let a scene play out in my head over and over until I know what it should look like. If I'm only working on one project, those thinking days are days without progress. Nothing is written or edited.

But if I stagger my projects I can spend a day thinking about one book and editing another. The day isn't wasted. The boring line edits get done. My emotions are tied into the book I'm thinking about, not the one I'm editing, so it's easier to kill my favorite scenes that don't actually fit. 

And when I need to sit back and figure out what to do with a piece of editing advice I can switch over to the rough draft. Writing a raw first draft allows me to get back in touch with my Voice, something I find all to often is silenced by editing. 

In my mind I picture my work on a Lazy Susan - one of those rotating trays you sometimes see in restaurants - and I spin the Lazy Susan as I need it. As one novel drops off because it's been trunked or queried I add another. When I finish a short story it comes off the turntable and a new small project goes on. 

Sometimes I spin the Lazy Susan on Twitter. I ask people what they want me to work on. But it's a magician's trick. Asking gives people a way to interact with the stories before they come to print, and it let's me know what people are excited about on any given day. It's a good sounding board for my own thoughts. If I can't picture the scene I need to write for the book everyone wants, I know I'm not ready to work on that. And the Lazy Susan spins again. 

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