One project at a time

A while ago I mentioned I was going to try a new method of writing where I was to focus on one project at a time. The thinking behind it was that I was meant to be inspired to finish my current project so I could move onto a new one.

It hasn’t worked.

I’ve been stuck on the one project since January, and it is making extremely slow progress. I’ve felt massive pulls to other projects, but I rejected them because of my new philosophy. Must… finish… current… project… Ugh!

I broke my rule last week and wrote an entire short story. It just slipped out of me, from start to finish in one sitting. It felt great. And it made me realise that one project at a time just doesn’t seem to work for me.

I might revisit this idea at a time when I have a bigger abundance of time to work on my writing. At the moment I want to get the most writing-bang for my writing time buck. So if that means working on what I feel inspired to work on, then so be it. So it looks like I might start spreading myself too thin over multiple projects again…

Then again, perhaps I picked the wrong first project?


Like many people, I don’t like change that is forced upon me (as compared with change I instigate – which I relish). This can be as minor as delaying what time I go for my coffee in the morning up to the major things, like losing my job. I’m facing the latter at the moment as my workplace faces ‘significant redundancies’ –and they are not talking about the payouts with the significant bit.

I’ve pre-posted this blog, so there is a good chance that by the time you read this I will know if I’m out or not. I suspect I may take a little while to come to terms with the outcome no matter what way things turn out, so I may add a postscript to this, but I may not. Sorry.

The stupid thing is, what annoys me most about this change is the not knowing what is going to happen (or not happen). Do I have to prepare to look for work, or to take on the roles of others in my team, or manage the stress when I meet with other teams who have lost people in their team? I have no idea.

If there is one thing that getting to this age has taught me (and I believe there are actually quite a few things now) it is that going through the change is never as bad as you think it will be. It is once you know about the change that you get riled up. The anticipation of it gets under your skin. The doing, well that’s head down bum up stuff. You just get on with it and it happens.

So don’t be concerned for me, I’m not too worried, just be understanding if I’m a bit grumpy. I’m not good with change. Maybe that is my lesson to learn this year?

Tricks to get you writing

I’m doing my annual read of Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ –this book always inspires me to write more. In one part of the book King talks about how after his accident he found that none of his usual tricks worked to get him writing. He doesn’t actually detail what his tricks are, and I think that is because the tricks are things that you set up that work for you, no-one can make them up for you.

Let me give you an example; when I can’t write I play three games (no more, no less) of Freecell. It was a habit I forcefully set some years ago where I only EVER allowed myself to play Freecell before I wrote. If I played the game I had to write. This programmed me to get ready to write any time I play Freecell. It works beautifully.

But it doesn’t have to be habitual programming, I’ve heard of lots of tricks that writers use to get them writing; have a conversation with your protagonist about anything, write a back-story scene that you are never going to use, write the most exciting scene in your story even if you are not yet up to that, type whatever words come into your mind about any topic, write freehand while laying on the lounge. There are as many tricks as there are writers.

I’m into NLP, hypnotherapy and psychology, so I like the idea of programming myself to get over these humps, hence setting the Freecell habit at a time when the writing was going well. But if you are not into that, experiment to find the trick that works for you, and be prepared to think outside the box – it may be a location or type of tea that gets you writing. Just remember, if the trick you are trying takes you away from writing it is not a successful trick. There is a big difference between something inspiring you (like watching a move) and something getting you to sit down at the page and write.

World building

Following on from last week’s post, I just wanted to say a little something about world building. I attended a 5 hour workshop on this topic once which helped me to see how much more there was to world building than you might think.

Any spec fiction writer knows that the world in which you set your story can be as, if not more important than the characters you create to move the story along. For me the world is often an exploration of something in our world that has been taken to extreme, or it is there to highlight the progression of a current belief or ideal.

For that reason you need to know your world as intimately as you know any of your characters. Off the top of your head you should be able to answer the following questions, at least in a general way;

  • How do people get power (if electricity is used)?
  • How do people get food?
  • Do people live in cities, towns, alone or all of these?
  • What form of government is in place?
  • What rules apply to any magical/psychic powers that exist (there should always be rules about these things)?
  • Is there a religious belief(s)?

Now I know a lot of these questions will be completely irrelevant to your story, especially if you write flash fiction, and I’m not suggesting you put these things into your story, what I am saying is that as the owner of this world, you should know the answers to these questions.

There are some excellent workshops and books out there on how to improve your world building, and if you are going to spend a lot of time in worlds of your own creation, I think they are worth the investment. Many authors fall so in love with the worlds that they build that they set many stories in them.

As a reader I love other worlds and I enjoy reading stories set in other parts of a world that I’ve come to love. But be warned, every word you publish about a world will be read and remembered, so if you change the rules about your world, you need to include the explanation for how or why that rule was broken.