Bossy Novel

by limebirdkate

I consider myself a multi-tasker. I am a stay-at-home mother of two who also juggles about 4-5 freelance jobs on any given day. I cook, clean, take care of three pets, tend to my mother (who still refuses to get a wheelchair) and my husband, volunteer work at the school. On a daily average, I make 12 trips back and forth between various places such as my house, school, my mom’s house, sports practices and/or games, art class, hip-hop, Girl Scouts, play dates, errands.

I feel like a cross between a Jedi and an RV.

But when it comes to my writing, I cannot work on more than one serious, ongoing project at a time. Sure, I can do the 100 WC each week, and I can write blog posts, and I can spew out a mediocre poem if crisis demands. But as far as managing more than one novel at the same time? Forget it.

I have read on various blogs how some writers have multiple projects going at once, novels galore. I wish I had their knack at downshifting from one project to the next. My characters won’t let me just dump them for another cast in mid-draft. They keep popping up.

I tried a NaNo while I was working on my novel, Spark of Madness, and my Spark protag (a stripper) kept showing up in my NaNo setting, which was an elementary school. Not cool. The only way around it was to put Spark on a hiatus so that I could concentrate on my NaNo project. Luckily, that did the trick. By giving my NaNo story my full, undivided attention I was able to whip out 50,000 words in less than 30 days, actually.

Meanwhile, my stripper is stewing, trapped in a file I refused to open for the remainder of November. The downside to this was by the time I returned to her and all of her underworld problems I’d lost the edge I had with it. I was no longer in charge, nor in control. She’d changed her mind about some of her goals, started drinking, and wanted to move to Europe. Whaat? No, that is NOT how I left it with her. My train of thought now sufficiently derailed, I was forced to re-negotiate.

So, anyway, that’s the way it is with this one major novel. It’s bossing me around. I have all of these half-baked projects lying around, waiting for their turn. I had started them when I was in-between drafts, or researching exotic dancing (yes, I had to research it). But when it came time to dive back to the novel, it filled every creative nook and cranny, and kicking out any other project I might have interest in pursuing.

So. If you’re one of those writers who is a multi-tasking genius, step forward. Show yourself! And tell me how do you do it? And if there is anyone out there like me, I’d love to hear from you, too!

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43 Responses to “Bossy Novel”

  1. Great post Kate! I’m definitely a multi tasker, BUT not a finisher. I’m one of those people who will have 4 ideas on the go, dipping in and out, but I never seem to stick to one. I think it’s because my attention span is so short that I can’t seem to stick to one thing for too long without getting bored. NaNo I did complete, but only because I had set myself a challenge and I hate not meeting things like that. However since finishing, I haven’t gone back to revise. One of my problems I think is that I don’t have the confidence to back my work. So when I go back to read things, I always end up going “Oh that’s rubbish, I’ll scrap it” etc. However, I ALWAYS do this, meaning that I never seem to finish.

    I would love love love to be able to finish a book and like you said before in one of your posts, I have THE book waiting in my head, and that’s a children’s book. I just need to sit down one day and actually commit to finishing it I think. Or maybe I should try writing with someone else like Laura suggested. Who knows. I think maybe a shorter story is the way to go, I enjoy those more.

    Anyhoo, I digress. Can’t wait to read Spark of Madness 😛

    • That’s an interesting conundrum, Beth, and one you need to fix! lol Otherwise this means you won’t be gracing us with a story, and I think we all want to read something by you. I love your idea of a children’s book, and I think you’d be really good at it.

      Also, Stephen King says you’re not allowed to think poorly of your first draft, because there are bound to be flaws and holes and problems. That’s what makes it a first draft. You pull out the first draft after about 6 weeks of not looking at it (but working on another story), and get that red pen aimed.

      A writing partner is an interesting idea. I’ve never tried that.

      Thanks for chirping 🙂

  2. I think Spark should go on a date with Limebird Amber’s novel… they sound like they’d have a roaring good time!

    I’m one at a time too. I can do smaller things at the same time, but if I’m working on something big then I can’t just switch back and forth. I can hardly walk and talk at the same time, so no way I could think of two big writing projects at the same time.

    • Hi Laura,

      Haha, yeah, that would be an interesting pairing!

      I’m glad to hear you’re a one-timer. I think you’re onto something about how “big” the project is that might make the difference. That makes sense to me.

      Thanks!

  3. Kate I want to send you a cup of tea and a day off. You must use it to indulge at a spa and think of nothing more than your next blog topic. If only i could, you do deserve it.

  4. I’ve always thought of myself as a multitasker, but it’s getting harder as time goes by! Balancing home (even with no kids) and work is always a juggling act, and trying to write consistently just adds to that. My brain has to shift gears between things such as laundry, researching the history of a plantation, cleaning (yuck), evaluating an Environmental Assessment submitted to a federal agency to comply with grant terms, and then—yes—two completely different novels!

    The characters have reached a truce of sorts. But I know the Crossroads gang is seething at taking second place behind this “upstart,” Death Out of Time. Once comments come back on Crossroads, I know they’re going to bombard me with new ideas and threaten to take their stories in another direction.

    From this side of the fence, there are definitely days when I think it would be easier if I could focus on ONE work until it was submitted for querying. But I have to ride the horse I was given. So while I’m working mainly on Death right now, if Catherine and her cohort decide to bombard me with rewrite ideas or scenes from the next book, I’d have to get them down.

    Now, of course, I’ve just given them a brilliant idea…. When I’m scanning artifacts for illustrations later this morning, I can just imagine what they’ll be up to!

    • Hey JM,

      ooh, yeah, you’ve got a lot of stuff going on too, don’t you.

      I love how you talk about your characters like I talk about my characters–as though they’re actually sitting at my dining room table with me! Sounds like you’ve run into some of the same issues with character “jealousy”.

      It’s true–when the story writes itself in your head, you have to do what you can to keep up with it, or it all gets lost.

      Ha, yes, never a good idea to let them know your weak spots. They’ll prey relentlessly!

      Thanks for commenting and making me feel a little less out of sorts 🙂

  5. Kate, I completely empathise with your plight. I, too, can properly prioritize while I’m at work or doing household/family things, but when it comes to writing, I have to sit down and concentrate on one big project at a time. Since the current big project is a (first) (real) novel, I find that it’s difficult for me to even *read* something long and new. (Old, familiar texts are fine. They’re rather like security blankets, in fact.)

    Your novel – even the new tangents – sound very interesting, though! 😀 And I personally think it would be a neat twist to have a stripper show up at an elementary school. (“Study hard, kiddos, ’cause this is real life!”) Nonetheless, I look forward to reading it in whatever permutation Spark decides to finally take. 🙂

    • Hi Mayumi,

      Oh good, another writer who understands me. This is wonderful! 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement regarding the new direction my protag wants to take. She’s usually not so unruly, actually, which is why I was so baffled by her change of heart. Haha, yes, I got it, a stripper coming in on Career Day at their kid’s elementary school! Perfect!

      Ah, thanks, I’m looking forward to getting my novel published and in someone else’s hair for a change 😉

  6. I multitask but only a little. My stories are short and the characters are not well evolved, so it’s not too hard to switch gears and work on another story at lunch on work if I forgot to bring my notes on the one I had already started. The original still holds that siren call, and it’s hard to get out of that mindset, but I can force myself to do it.

    I do find that the old one will have changed when I come back to it though, better or worse I’m not sure, but… different. Once in a great while I’ll just dump the whole thing and start over but that’s even harder to do, so it has to be pretty bad before I’ll go that far.

    I can’t wait to read all of these novels you Limebirds have in the works!

    • You forgetting you’re a Limebird too Neeks? 😉

    • Hi Neeks,

      You make a really good point. When the characters aren’t fully evolved then I bet it would be easier to skip from one story to the next. Interesting that your original story changes when you’re gone for a bit, and that sounds like my experience. Isn’t it strange how they continue to breathe even when we’re not attending them.

      Actually, they breathe and plot vengeance when we’re not attending them 😉

  7. I’m like you. I hear about people writing three novels at once and I just don’t get it. I admit I’ve never tried it, but my instinct is that I would have your experience–characters wouldn’t stay put and I wouldn’t be able to give my full attention to them. I think all three novels would lose out.

    • Hi True,
      Yes, right, three novels at once is CRAZY! Managing one wipes me out at day’s end; I can’t imagine what three would do to me. And I think, really, that if we want to put our best into writing, then splitting our attention among more than one major novel is not the way to do it.

      Thanks so much for commenting.

  8. Phew you’re a busy lady 🙂 I tend to focus on one story at a time too but I’ll often think of ideas for new ones and jot them down so I don’t forget!

    • Hi Victoria,

      Yes, that’s what I do, too–I’m constantly writing down little nuggets of ideas for other stories so they don’t vanish on me. Of course, that means I have to have a notebook in about every place possible so I don’t have to be running around for that, too!

      Thanks for commenting.

  9. Kate, I had to give up the idea that I was in charge except at the sufferance of my characters when a MC decided to junk half my outline. Tavis was right, of course, but still, I’m only the boss if I do what they want.

    I’ll admit, however much my project list might make it look like I multitask with writing, I don’t, not when I write draft. Everything else goes on hold when I start a draft. I need to just wrap myself in the story while I do that, to live close to the characters and their world. Any ideas or stories that occur to me during that process get noted down then ignored as I dive back into my draft. I honestly wouldn’t attempt NaNo while I had another novel in the draft-writing stage. I know I couldn’t do it. Editing, notes and outline are fine for multitasking, but I can’t do that while I’m writing. I’m okay with that though. It’s just what I have to do.

    • Hi Julie,

      A long project list is enviable, too. I require at least two hours of uninterrupted writing time to work on any story (big or small), because when I hit the story I’m not productive right away. I’m a slow starter. I have to re-read what I wrote last, think about my next step, go through a couple of false starts, etc. And because I don’t get huge blocks of time in one sitting, I don’t get to spread out my projects across the day.

      Sounds like you know exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are, that’s wonderful. More power to you, Julie 🙂

      • Thanks, but I have to admit, many dead novel attempts went into that knowledge. Oh well, we all make mistakes, but we don’t all learn from them, right? It’s progress of a sort. 🙂 Now if I could just learn to be a bit nicer to myself over my work, but then that voice in the back of my head points out that only by demanding my best of myself will I ever get it. There’s no winning this one.

        I tend to require some time to wind into it too, partly for the kind of rereading your talking about, and partly because I do detailed notes for each chapter as prep work just before I get ready to write them. I spend almost as much time doing that as I do actually writing.

      • Oh, I bet you had a lot of trial and error to get to the point you’re at. Yes, you must be nice to yourself because I’ve had the pleasure of reading a snippet of your work (7×7) and I love what you have going on!

  10. Kate, I loved your line: “I feel like a cross between a Jedi and an RV.” Sums up your multi-tasking challenges perfectly.

    I wish my book was a bit more bossy. My main character (me) is not the bossy type, so she sits patiently waiting for me to pick up where I left off. In the meantime, I spend way too much time blogging. 😉

    • Hi Lorna,

      Thanks!

      Haha, oh my goodness, that’s funny. I never thought about what it would be like for those writing memoirs. You’re right, you are at the mercy of yourself. Blogging, agh, that’s another problem entirely isn’t it? 🙂

      Thanks for commenting.

  11. While I have several novels cued (six), that isn’t to say I work all at once. Most exist on paper and need conversion to digital. While I’m working the fourth edit of my first novel, I took three months to enter 40% of the second, just to give myself a different perspective when returning to the editing.

    We are all different, but for me, I like my thoughts to focus on one work, unless I need separation for perspective.

    Twelve trips a day… wow. 🙂

    • Hi Nelle,

      Gosh, six is amazing. Even if you aren’t working on all at once the mere fact you have written six novels is worthy of congratulations 🙂 I think that’s an interesting strategy, to edit one and convert another–two totally different processes which wouldn’t interfere with each other. I can see how that would work successfully.

      Yes. 12 trips a day. Mobil and I have a close relationship 🙂

  12. That’s funny you ask! I was just on JMcdowells and asking her how many WIP she had going. I just counted and I have 8 novels going. One is ready to publish, 2 are in last stages of revising/editing. And the others are in various stages along the way. To get a story out, I have to dedicate all time to one, but once the basic plotline has been unearthed from my mind (which usually happens pretty fast), then I like to have a lot to choose from to edit and refine (because at times, I’m bored editing one story and not another).

    • Hey Char,

      Gosh! 8! You have the record, so far. Beth, what has Char won today?! ;

      You sound like you’re very efficient, and I envy that. I like how you seem to have it all on a conveyor belt so to speak, going through different machines: the editing machine, writing machine, etc.

      Oh yes, editing the same story for too long brings on editing migraine, curable only by a lovely glass of wine and a good movie!

      Thanks for commenting.

      • It’s the only way I can keep doing it. When I tried to focus only on one story all the way to the end, I got bored and would find other things to do. That was my solution to keep me always writing ‘something.’ Some days I just play and have fun with characters…other days I revise, revise, revise (depending on my mood–although I’ve been forcing myself to edit everyday lately to get my first story out the door. I think I’m finally done. Yippee!)

      • Um.. A huge over the top Limebird cheer…

        HUZZAH! Kudos to you Char! 🙂

        B

      • Congrats on being done, Char. That’s wonderful!

  13. I’m not sure that I could write two novels simultaneously, but I definitely have more than one project on the go at once.

    I have a novel that has just reached the end of its second draft, and so that has been put to one side for the moment and I will go back to it fresh.

    My current main project is my genre collection. For that I am re-drafting some of the stories (along lines received from various magazine editors etc.) plus, every now and then I will write something new if inspiration hits me (either story, poem of flash fiction).

    Once the current draft of the collection is done of have draft 2 of a YA modern fantasy novella to complete.

    When that is done, I will complete my novel and send it to the publisher I have chosen, and, when that is in the post, I will complete my collection (and self publish) and, when that is done, I will do a complete re-write of last year’s unfinished NaNoWriMo (only managed 25K due to work/travel plus the idea wasn’t really novel length) that will be my second YA novella.

    Then… Then… Then…

    Basically I have a whole range of different projects that I pick up, take to the next stage and then leave to mature/percolate before coming back to them.

    • Oh my gracious, you do have a lot going on. I still think managing multiple writing projects requires skill and organization. So kudos to you! And more power to you.

  14. I’ve only scanned through the other comments, so I’m not sure if someone has already mentioned this, but what are you like when it comes to reading novels? I can only read one novel at a time, but my partner often has two or even three novels on the go at once – he might have one that he keeps by the loo to read when he’s…well, you know, and one by the bed, and another one in the living room and he can just swap about between them depending on which room he’s in. I just don’t know how he does that, I often have enough trouble remembering who all the characters are in one book, let alone two or three! I’m the same as you, I can multi task lots of things, but couldn’t be writing two novels at once, so I’m just wondering whether the same type of people who can only write one novel at once can only read one novel at once! Multi-tasking of tasks that require less full use of brain capacity is different really isn’t it.

    • Hi Vanessa,

      Yeah, I can’t read more than one novel at the same time either. I think you’re probably right, and now that I think about it I like to absorb myself in all areas of my life. I hate being interrupted when I’m doing chores, even, haha. So, perhaps it is a matter of my personality more than my novel. Yeesh, am I to blame after all?!?

      Thanks for commenting and getting me to re-think this!

  15. Cross between a “Jedi and an RV” is priceless. Perfect description of motherhood. Oh, and my novel is bossy too.

  16. I just nominated you for two awards: Versatile Blogger and Beautiful Blogger! You don’t have to post them, I just wanted to share. http://wp.me/s2b2NZ-awards is the link to the post

  17. I used ti be able to tackle multiple projects but I’m not so lucky any more. If I don’t give a novel or a short story the whole of my brain, it very soon rebels against me 😦

    • Hi Ileandra, I like the way you put that: “the whole of my brain’. I now wonder if it’s because we dote on that project too much in its infancy, and in its later stages it has become greedy! 🙂 Thanks for commenting.

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