Monday, July 16, 2012

Knowing which manuscript to follow (not so easy)

I've had a lot of trouble lately staying focused on one particular story. I finished a WIP back in January and started on heavy-duty edits, the first round of which I finished up about a week ago (huzzah!). I've got a few more rounds of edits to go before it's ready to start querying, but I'm in that lull where I should be working on something new.

It's not that I'm not writing, because I am. I've been pretty consistent about writing 3-4 days a week for at least an hour, which comes out to 8,000 words a week. Not bad from consistency's sake. The problem is, I've started/stopped/started four different stories in the last six months. Stats below:

- 30K words on the first manuscript
- 15K words on the second manuscript
- 10K words on the third manuscript
- 2K words on the fourth manuscript (started this past weekend on a whim)

See, I've got the pretty decent makings of a full manuscript if all of those words were on the same story, but my brain keeps bouncing around. I don't know if I should just let myself go incrementally on each story and have several finish around the same time, or force my attention onto one until it's complete. Usually I move to a different story because I've stalled on a plot line, or I'm still trying to solve a big BUT WHY?!, or I've lost interest in the characters. In my previous experience, I've found that once I lose interest in something and keep trying to slog through the story, my readers will suffer as much as I did.

This weekend I went back to the first manuscript and read through it just for fun (because why not?), and discovered that it wasn't nearly as terrible or boring as I thought it was. In fact, by the time I reached the end of what I'd written I wanted to keep going on the story, like I'd been reading someone else's work and got jazzed up about it enough to continue the story. So maybe I'm being too hard on myself, trying to force something new and linear out of myself every day. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, and maybe (just maybe) worth the detour every once in a while.

How do you start new manuscripts? Do you stick to one story at a time or jump around? Do you ever pick up abandoned manuscripts and keep going at a later date?


Laurel Garver said...

There is no rule that says you have to work on only one piece at a time. If moving around helps you keep pounding the keys, I'd say it's a great technique. I have gotten pretty stuck with a manuscript myself and I think if I took the pressure off myself to be linear and worked on other projects, I'd probably get my mojo back, and the plot problems might be easier to fix.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

There have been times when I had more than one first draft going at the same time, but in each case, one of them won out over the other, and the loser went into the trunk.

Four seems like a lot, though. I think you should work on the one set at Teotihuacan, because as you know, I think that place is awesome! ;)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

It sounds like you just needed a little vacation.

I've got two mss going right now. The one that I'm almost finished with, and the one I'm working on the second draft. I don't work on them at the same time. I'd get dizzy if I did. When I need a break with one, I work on the other one. And I have another one waiting for me to tear it apart.

Christina Lee said...

I started three different ones this past year and now am finishing up one of them (but my mind wanders to the others, a lot). I say stick with what works for you. At least it's progress!

mshatch said...

I've found in the past the reason I lost interest was because I didn't know where I was going or how I was going to get there. Outlining helped with my my last (I'm currently letting it sit a bit before revising) and I'm trying it again to see if it really works or was just a fluke :)