A Puddle of Muddle

Last week, I sat down to start work on a new book. My window of time was small. I was trying to be efficient and professional by working quickly and getting the project off to a solid start.

Instead, my mind was distracted by thoughts of all the other projects in front of me:

-The YA novel under consideration
-A novella set in my Nether/Mandria world
-A prequel novel set in my Nether/Mandria world
-A southern steampunk idea
-Taxes

Result? Brain overload. I felt stuck and tired before I began. I made the error of letting myself think about all these ideas and characters at once.

It’s like walking late into a party already underway. The noise level is deafening. Everyone is talking at once over the music. Your host is pulling you through the crowd, throwing out names and rapid-fire introductions.

Do you remember any names? Can you link faces to names?

Probably not.

The solution is organization and strong time management.

1) Work on one project at a time.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t work on multiple projects, just not simultaneously. Portion off segments of your day or week and assign each task its own appointment.

2) Remember that your projects aren’t parallel.

You aren’t starting three novels at page one on the same day. You will be writing a rough draft of one, editing/polishing something else, and developing a plotting plan for the third.

3) Avoid more than two writing projects at any given time.

This isn’t always possible, but it’s certainly recommended. Multi-tasking may be a fact of our modern life, but that doesn’t mean it’s efficient or desirable.

If you could give your entire attention to one writing project, would it be possible for you to complete the draft faster? And if so, could you do your best with it before starting the second project?

4) Assign a number.

Establishing a priority list among your projects and determining what you’ll work on first, then next, and so on will help you create order from chaos.

My ideas aren’t always happy about being pushed to the back burner, but I would rather give each of them my primary attention than trying to work on them in some distracted state of round robin.

Once you’ve prioritized and scheduled–and I would recommend that you book close blocks of time, such as YA novel on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings and southern steampunk story on Thursdays–then adhere to your plan faithfully.

If it’s still overwhelming and one project is distracting you from the other, then drop one and focus strictly on single-tasking until the rough draft is at least completed.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “A Puddle of Muddle

  1. LauranceS

    I use the freeware program YWriter 5.0 as my project manager. It has many of the features you advocate, organization by scene, set a goal, what is the conflict and what will be the resolution for each scene and it also has a built in story board. What is your opinion of YWriter and other novel writing software?
    P.S.
    Thanks for the recommendation of books by Bickham, Swain and Foster-Harris. Jack Bickham’s 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes has become part of my rotating computer desktop background.
    Thanks for the advice on your blog it has been a great help.
    LauranceS

    • This program sounds wonderful. I haven’t seen it, but anything that can keep you on track this way just has to make the writing job easier. As long as it’s free, I say go for it.

      Glad Bickham and the others are proving helpful to you!

      🙂 Deb

  2. LauranceS

    YWriter 5.0 was created by Simon Hayes. He is the author of the Hal Spacejock series and created YWriter because he was not satisfied with any of the commercial fiction writing programs available. This program will not help you write one line of prose but it might be very useful to a student who is trying to organize their first large writing project like a novel or a thesis. Here is the link.
    http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter5.html

    LauranceS

  3. Super! Much obliged …
    -Deb

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