Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Discipline Versus Creative Flow

I’ve always gone with creative flow. If I’m working on a long project, and another idea does more than softly whisper through my brain, but starts doing little cartwheels to demand attention, I have to give it at least some.

I’m close to finishing revisions on my novel, and I had previously promised myself to turn away new ideas and keep my brain focused on this project until completion. I’ve made these little promises before, but I’ve never lived up to them. But this time my promise was so sincere, and I’ve done really well for a few months, not even tiptoeing into another story, so I kind of wanted to see the promise through. For one thing, I wanted to know if I could.

I think I could. If I wanted to. But do I really want to right now when there’s someone so vivid in my brain that she’s got me really curious as to what’s going on with her? Ah, decisions, decisions. My friends say No, don’t stop. You’re so close ... Keep going… You’re almost there.

I already take little breaks (besides blogging time) to edit the work of others, a job I love nearly as much as writing, and I also write an occasional feature story for a wonderful magazine. These I do in honor of my electric bill, which likes to be paid whether I want to pay it or not. Besides, I have overhead lights by my computer and they don’t work without electricity.

I can’t tell you how many little stories made an appearance in my brain during the last few months, and I’ve turned them all away—but this one is standing strong. So how do I keep diligent in my efforts on the big project while sneaking a little time to another one?

I’ve decided to use the same advice I give writers when they find themselves in a slump. Write a paragraph a day. If that’s all you demand of yourself when you're having a hard time writing, it isn’t an overwhelming task. Believe it or not, a paragraph a day puts out a well focused story when you eventually have enough paragraphs. The last short story of mine accepted for publishing (comes out in May) came together in this manner.

So here’s my plan. I will write one paragraph per day on the new story, or at least a few each week, while devoting the bulk of my time to finishing my novel. I really think this is the best idea, even though it’s breaking a promise to myself. The thing is, I feel strongly that if I don’t give a few minutes to this little story, it’s going to suck my focus from the novel anyway and make me careless, because I’ll be trying to hone in on an aspect of the novel, but not with my whole heart. That isn’t going to work.

So here’s to me and yet another broken promise. But don’t feel sorrow for me on this. I am going to finish the novel. And I am going to present myself with a new short story… At least I hope it’s a short one. :-)

How do you handle these creative interruptions? Am I making a mistake?

Happy writing!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Got Any Advice for Writing a Sequel?

Though I’m still tackling revisions in the last few chapters of my current novel, ideas for a sequel are pushing and shoving in my head. So I’ll be facing the dilemma of deciding how much background might need carried over from Book I, and briefly mentioned in Book II. And just so you know, the ideas bouncing in my head will be picking up the story right from where it left off (one day later), even though the first book did come to a nice conclusion in the end. I’ve read a few that didn’t, and I hated them. (Never read the author’s work again, either.)

I can’t have an info dump, but some details will need repeated for clarity.

I want the second book to stand as a story on its own, as well as a continuation of the first story. I surely don’t want a summary of everything that happened in the first book dumped into an “I remember” scene in the second book. So it’s off to the drawing board for me. My drawing board? Good examples written by great writers. I’m wondering if any of you have some pointers or suggestions of first and second books (no vampires or undead murderers) by super good authors that I could read, ones where the story in the first book continue in the second. Even a how-to book on writing a sequel or trilogy would come in handy, if it’s actually a good one.

I don’t outline. I’m more of a panster. Sometimes I get an idea and run with it, but I do toss it over in my mind again and again when I’m not at the computer. I think ahead to possible problems, ponder solutions, and put a lot of faith in the characters leading the way for me, but I still don’t think I can get there without good examples.  

So, what do you suggest?