Thursday, 2 February 2012

Are WIP's Like Shoes?

Do all writers have difficulty focusing on one manuscript at a time, or is it a sign I'm not serious enough about crafting 'The Novel' that my brain keeps playing around with different scenarios? This may not be so bad if I could tunnel the plotlines into the story I am working on, but they tend to cross the centuries. I come across a one line definition in a book that catches my eye and before I know it, I'm bogged down in research where I unearth loads of fascinating information, all of which is completely useless for my 17th Century story.

Never mind, files are made and stored on my hard drive for future reference and that next story - but at the same time I'm aware I have too many ideas flying around in my head and not nearly enough time to write a well rounded story out of each one.

Then there is that elusive thing called a muse, which decides to abandon me at the precise moment I reach an intricate part of the plot that needs total concentration. The more I focus, the harder it becomes to formulate a coherent sentence, let alone explain the reasons behind a character's actions in a succinct, fascinating way. My only way round that one is to put the manuscript away and come back to it later - maybe weeks later - and in the meantime, I cannot resist dipping into another half-written story and am immediately captivated by the chance of improving the narrative.

Logic tells me that although it may take considerably longer, the end result should be four or five completed novels ready to go. Not so - these manuscripts all fall into the, 'almost finished if I could work out the ending' category, to the 'I'm seventy five percent through, but not sure where the story is going'.

I also have one 'outlned' with a fully laid out story, character profiles, the political background of the era, every scene summarised with an aim, conflict and action. When I began, the passion for the story was incredibly strong - so why have I only written one chapter so far? Is it because my subconscious, neat and tidy mind says I must finish my two incomplete ones first - or will my great new idea be 'the one', so I cannot ignore it.

So how many WIPs is too many? And is having too many ideas on the go better than not being able to come up with one at all?  Is it better to have a plotted outline, or is being a pantser better as the story can evolve as it goes along?

Or are WIP's like shoes, and there is always a better pair in the next shop?


Jen Black said...

Haven't a clue, Anita, but I'd force myself to finish a first draft of one story and then leave it for a few weeks and go to work on another story. Make a note of the ideas and keep it - but limit the amount of time you spend on it when the idea hits. Jot down enough to keep the idea alive and then put it away until you've finished the current wip first draft. There - you never knew I was hiding school marm tendencies, did you?

Maggi Andersen said...

This is mostly left brain activity. You might need to put the wip aside and do something creative to get the right brain working and the creative juices flowing. I find it difficult to switch straight from researching to writing. Music helps sometimes or looking at the colour red some say. Perhaps you've just got too much on your mind?

Anita Davison said...

You could have something there, Maggi - my brain is pretty crowded right now.

Talli Roland said...

It always seems that way, doesn't it? When I'm halfway through the slog of the first draft, I usually start hearing the siren song of the next MS...

MK said...

I couldn't work on just one book at a time if I tried - seriously. I'm writing one, but always researching the others. Seems to work though. Some of us just thrive on organized chaos! :)