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
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
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.