Tackling Too Many Ideas

by Autumn Birt

I never thought I’d be one of those people. I didn’t think I had it in me.

You see, I’m working on three novels at the same time. I’m really surprised with myself.

It turns out it is difficult to turn off ideas. For me, they don’t sit idly by and wait their turn. I’m starting to think of my story ideas like gremlins that live under the bed and don’t let me sleep or that lurk in shadows on quiet woodland paths when I’m are off on other plans.

This is my life as a writer - illustrated by Pyon Dattebayo

This is my life as a writer – illustrated by Pyon Dattebayo

This spring, I already had ideas for two stories running around in my head (the final book in my epic fantasy series and a set of before stories to a re-write of an existing unpublished novel), all the while I’d been blogging and marketing (and selling, yeah!). I was even finding solutions to some tough spots at work (Side benefit of filling in plot holes, I guess. Juggling deadlines is nothing compared to creating a world, ending a war, and then…).

All that great motivation must have got the attention of a few more creativity demons. One morning a daydream revealed a hook. It was one of those ideas that made my knees fold unexpectedly so that I found myself sitting on the floor with my chin somewhere around my waist. Man, that was a story idea too good to pass up! It didn’t matter that I had the third book in my epic fantasy series in progress and had been toying around with short stories for the next book. I gave in and went to write the new story, bypassing my normal habit of scribbling the notes down in a journal. I opened up a black document and realized I didn’t have a clue about the world. Oops.

Not to be swayed, I started world building. This is while writing book 3 of my epic fantasy series, Spirit of Life, and pecking away at the second short story to Friends of my Enemies. Did I mention I was occasionally producing some fantasy artwork based on my current fantasy series. It’s just been one of those springs. When the world building was done…yup, started writing the story. The working title is Black Throne, Black Blood. That makes project three.

The funny thing is that I’m task oriented. I generally want to finish a project before jumping to the next. Right now, I can’t even say that I’m finishing chapters between jumping from one story to another. I’ve worked on all three in the same night and am currently at Chapter 8 in Spirit of Life, the middle of short story 2 for Friends of my Enemy, and the middle of chapter 1 for Black Throne, Black Blood.

Beite, a Kith girl in my epic fantasy series.

Beite, a Kith girl in my epic fantasy series.

Finishing the epic fantasy series with Spirit of Life definitely has top priority in terms of time and writing. I have a calendar marked with deadlines for it to keep myself on track. Apparently my writing creativity has rubbed off on problem solving at work and deadlines from work have rubbed off on my writing! But I’m worried that with two many writing projects, not staying focused on which is the most important will leave me wandering between novels and not finishing anything.

I’d once wondered how a writer could keep multiple story lines straight or the characters fresh and unique with numerous WIP. But since I’m very familiar with two of the novels (one being the third in a trilogy and the other a re-write), it hasn’t been a problem. If anything, I find similarities I might have overlooked if not for writing them concurrently.

One of the things that really appeals to me is the diverse tone of the the three books. It has made me a fan of multiple projects. Spirit of Life has a youthful and hopeful tone. Friends of my Enemy is more harsh, adult, and literary. Black Throne, Black Blood is more off-the-cuff with a heroine that likes to cross the line of appropriate behavior. Somehow the three work together for me.

And having multiple projects alleviates that sadness of ending a series. I was already having twinges of not wanting to finish Spirit of Life. I don’t want to be done with the characters or novel! Now, with two other projects vying for attention, letting go isn’t as hard.

But there are drawbacks to having too much going on. I could probably finish Spirit of Life faster if it were my only project. And I had opportunities to guest post at two blogs that I’ve left hanging. I know I’m at maximum and finding time to write some awesome posts and ship them off to someone…I know I should, but I haven’t found the focus for it. And the amount of reading I’ve been doing has plummeted. So far, the drawbacks haven’t overridden the fun of working on these three novels though.

I won’t say that the ideas developed overnight. To read more about how I got myself into this mess – err, spate of creativity, stop by my blog at www.AutumnWriting.com for that part of the story.

What about you? Have you ever worked on more than one story at a time? How did it go? What are the pitfalls and the benefits?

– Autumn is the author of the epic fantasy novel Born of Water, its Novel Companion, and, most recently, Rule of Fire, book 2 in her series of elemental magic. Along with her husband, she is the author of a compilation of adventure travel stories Danger Peligros! All are available at Amazon, Smashwords, and other retailers of e-novels. Her next novel, Spirit of Life – book 3 in the series, will be available late 2013. You can also find her online on Twitter at @weifarer or on her Facebook page and on Goodreads.

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11 comments on “Tackling Too Many Ideas

  1. I almost always work on more than one story at a time. Usually it’s a full-length novel and a short story. This gives me the satisfaction of completing a project (the short story) while I’m working my way to completing about a 100,000-word project (the novel).

    I don’t know if I could tackle three full-length novels at one time. Hats off to you and good luck. I hope you are able to keep up the momentum.

    Writing three novels or just one can keep you busy enough to not be able to write blog posts, so I wouldn’t worry about that. The writing is the most important thing.

    • I like your method, Diane! A novel mixed with short stories really sounds like the sane way to go. 🙂 I realize I may have to back off from one project to be able to balance life and writing. Heck, yesterday we found out that we have one month to move out of our yurt into the house we are building (not built! Still working on it), so everything might go on hold!

      And thanks for the suggestion about backing off on blog posts. I may indeed cut back my personal blog to one or two posts a week for the time being. I think life should be fun and don’t want to end up feeling pinched by personal deadlines! I’ve come to the conclusion you mentioned as well – writing is the important part. Not chasing reviews or marketing, but that is another blog post…. 😉

  2. I work on multiple, but I outline. I can’t start writing one until I have the previous at least drafted already. But I continue adding to the outlines until they’re so fleshed out, they’re almost a short story…When I’ve written the final word of whatever rough draft I’m working on, I move on to an outline. I have enough books outlined right now to publish a book every couple of months for a year. That’s not necessarily a good thing. For one, it’s completely overwhelming to me. I’ve got all these characters running around in my head when I’m trying to do other things, like sleep.

    • Hi, Anne! That sounds like a great method! It is very similar to what I typically do with journals to world build and jot down notes. Which is why I’m surprised to find myself working on three!

      Are you a full time writer? I’m not there yet and often find myself wishing for a sabbatical from work to try to deal with all the characters and stories in my head! Of course, putting it that way makes it sound like I could get leave based on psychological issues, lol!

  3. I always have two projects on the go–one I’m writing and one I’m editing–and then also have a third in the planning stages. I once tried to write two at the same time, but they were so different, I found it difficult to pull myself out of one and get into the other, so this way works better for me.
    Great post, Autumn. Thanks for sharing (and good luck getting into the house!)

    • Thanks for the good luck wish! We sold the yurt this week, so know getting out is getting serious…

      I can see projects with very different tones being hard to switch between. I don’t know of writing three books at once will work, but I won’t know if I don’t try. And the inspiration is certainly there. 🙂

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