Writing Mode: Utter Chaos

Sometimes I swear I have ADD.

I can’t read only one book at a time. At work, it’s a chore to focus on one task until it’s completely finished. And when it comes to writing, I’ve left a trail of unedited drafts and half-finished projects in my wake.

I can, on occasion, stick with one story until I’ve finished the first draft or round of edits. But I’ve found more often than not, lately, I end up starting a new project, writing a few chapters, and then losing steam and moving on to something newer and shinier.

Part of the problem is the ideas themselves. Sometimes they’re content to simmer in the back of my mind until I have time to think about it and figure out where I might want to take it. Other times they’re incredibly demanding and start whining when I don’t put the words on the page that make them real.

And I suspect part of the problem may be my approach to writing.

I can’t outline to save my life. Just the thought of those neat and orderly little Roman numerals and lower case letters makes me shudder. So you can imagine plotting a book from start to finish would drive me insane. I mean, come on. You spend all this time thinking of event after turning point after climax and you don’t want to just jump in and do it already?

I know plotters don’t necessarily follow their outlines. It’s more of a safety net than anything else. But the thrill of throwing yourself into the story and listening to your characters tell you what to do is intoxicating. Audrey of Shadowdemon was quite loud and insistent. Lisle of

Obviously, we know which direction I’m going.

Not About Love probably more so, considering I wrote the first draft in a little over two weeks.

But it’s got its problems. It took me three months to finish Touch because the final scene, where Clea and Drew are escaping the dome, wouldn’t come. Same with the penultimate chapter of Best Served Cold; I knew Rhia needed to have a face off with the man she held responsible for the death of her parents, but when you’re fighting with words and not actions, as they would be, it was hard to imagine the chaos the room would be in within a few short minutes.

I’ve found myself in that situation again. I started a new story and felt pretty damn good about it. The first five chapters flowed like water. The next five…well, some took more time than others. The last two were slow. And when I got to chapter thirteen, I put in a thousand words and hit a wall. This is another problem, one I feel is pretty specific to contemporary romance – the need for conflict. Even though the focus is the developing relationship between the hero and the heroine, conflict, both internal and external, is necessary to drive the story forward. In this case, the internal conflict is pretty strong, but it’s also being overridden easily. The external conflict…right now it almost feels like an afterthought, and that’s not good.

So I moved on to a new idea. I have, on occasion, written a working synopsis, opening chapter, or a few scenes while I wait for an idea to actually coalesce into something I can use, and that’s what I’d intended to do here. The plan was to write this description that had been bugging me for a few days. That was it. A description of a dude who may or may not end up being a major character (I haven’t decided

Mmm, feathers. Yummy.

yet. That’s the beauty of pantsing!) I didn’t stop until I’d gotten that first chapter down, and then I moved right on to chapter two. Then I started examining the story from other angles and found I could work a couple of other (already existing) stories into the arc for a series. Now I’m wishing I could stop the world for a few months while I hammered all this out, because there’s never enough time.

Will I actually stick with this story long enough to not only knock out a first draft, but put it through its revision paces? Maybe. It’ll depend on how much the story got to me and my own determination. Hey, I managed to write, revise, revise, and revise again One Night In Buenos Aires in a little over a month. So I’m not completely hopeless. Just mostly 🙂

All I need to do is not think of the…six? Six other projects I haven’t finished. Also I shouldn’t think of the five other ideas I’ve got in pieces. Otherwise I really will go mad.

So how about you? Do you fling yourself with abandon into a new project, or do you sit down and make a plan? Do you stick with one project until you’ve hit at least a milestone (first draft done, first round of revisions done) before moving on to the next, or do you go with whatever catches your fancy? And has anyone invented an off switch for the brain? I’d like to buy it off you.

8 thoughts on “Writing Mode: Utter Chaos

  1. I don’t so much need a shut-off for my brain as a shut-off for the internet…
    You are a bubbling goddess of creativity, and I love hearing your ideas. I tend to plod along, daydreaming about a story until I can sketch out a framework, with maybe a few key lines or scenes plugged in. Then when I finish one thing, I start on another. Your organic approach is wise, because you let the characters go where they want to while I tend to move them around till they get where I want them to be. I wonder if a book like Deborah Dixon’s “Goal, Motivation and Conflict” might help you get over the hump, like, when you get stuck, if you use her technique to outline the scenes you’ve written, it might help you brainstorm where it needs to go.
    In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading whatever you come up with next 😉

    1. Oh, I think you’re going to like Blink. And then I just came up with a new approach to Touch…SEE?! Off switch needed, thank you very much!

      I should check out that book. I don’t read nearly enough craft books.

  2. First I would like to say, kudos to you for writing books and kicking out an awesome blog. I currently have three books in the works and can’t imagine finding time to keep a blog updated. Seriously, how do you do it?

    1. I have no kids, my cat is happy to sit on my legs, and the BF works evenings most days 🙂 Seriously, though, a schedule for the weekdays has kept me from going completely nuts, although I do ignore it on a regular basis.

  3. I have the same problem! I’ll spend hours, days, WEEKS playing with the plot bunny, petting it, writing things down, coming up with story arc. If I start writing immediately I’ll get maaaaaybe 10 pages in before my brain implodes and I’m off to the next SHIIIIIINY idea.

    All of which explains why I have yet to complete a book. 😦 I’m working to overcome this disastrous problem even as I fill a notebook with all of the shiny ideas that I’m struck with. 😛

    If I invent an off switch for you, will you invent a thought-to-reality machine for me? God knows I’ll be more productive on the book-front that way.

    Love the entry. 🙂

    1. Imploding brains are bad, unless they implode glitter. Then it’s not so bad.

      Don’t worry about not completing a book. It took me a year and a half to actually finish my first novel…and when it was done it was only 25,000 words, not nearly long enough to be a full length novel.

      1. This gives me hope that once I can just bite the bullet and FINISH that I can make like a marathon runner and repeat the success with less of the wheezing, straining, and snail pace which I’m accustomed to currently. 🙂

        By the way, how might I read/buy your work? I checked out the WIP page and was immediately sold on several blurbs.

        Oh, and also the imploding glitter comment immediately brought to mind Labyrinth, which brought to mind 80s hair and really tight pants, which made me smile, furthering your point that glittery brain implosions are definitely where it’s at!

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