Multiple Projects

projects

by Georgina Makalani

There are differing schools of thought as to whether it is a good idea to work on different writing projects at the same time, or focus all of your energy on one project at a time.

For some of us there will be little choice, or we have very different things on the go at once. Such as, a blog/website and our writing. But what about trying to write several books at once?

 

Here are some options for working on multiple projects:

Different types of writing

Blogging verses fiction

We all have different projects on the go, you can’t simply focus on blogging and ignore that novel or vice versa. Most of us have day jobs that involve some forms of writing. Most of my reporting at work is financial, but I am still able to sit down at lunch time and work on my fiction.

 

Writing projects at different stages

Drafting verses Editing/Proofing

I like the idea of trying to get as much out as possible. If I don’t start the next novel until the last one is going out the door it will be years between novels, many years.

 

Serious verses Play

We all have work we want to be taken seriously, or are polishing to a standard for publication. Try something experimental such as a silly short story in a different genre for your writers group or create a poem or song that might fit into your current work. Creating something fun and different takes the pressure off, and may free the mind to refocus on the serious writing.

 

I think working on multiple projects helps in preventing or combating writers block. If you get stuck with one work, you can move to the other to free the mind and keep the writing flow going. This may not work for everyone and I strongly recommend against drafting several stories or novels at the same time. I would also stress not trying to work on too many projects at one time. We don’t want to cause greater pressure on ourselves, it would not help any of the writing you do.

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Plotting verses Pantsing

To outline or not to outline?

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I’m a pantser. I don’t mind that you know it, I’ve tried not to be, fought the urges, scribbled on index cards and drawn mind maps. But it doesn’t work for me. I need to just write, start with an idea and let it flow, let the story and the characters find their own way.

I do realise that lots of people out there think that this is not the best way to write, that a story needs structure and backbone before the words hit the page. But it is an individual thing and all of us write differently.

It is not that I think outlining will kill my creativity. I don’t, really. But once I have an idea for a story I would rather start the words flowing and see where it leads. For some smaller/shorter stories I have outlined first but there was a different method here. I was struggling to find something to write about and so started playing with ideas, mapping out where they could lead to and how the story could end and then started the writing.

I let the words flow and then pull the threads together at a later point, either towards the end of the first draft, or once I have finished the first draft. Producing an outline at this later stage of the writing process means that I already know where the story is headed. Others like to know where they are going before they start.

There are different levels of outlining. Some writers produce an in depth outline, others a rough, dot point style list, and others somewhere in between.

 

Advantages of Outlining

  • Clearly defined path before you start
  • Plot twists and foreshadowing required mapped out
  • Reduced need to rewrite
  • Can take any form you like

Disadvantages of Outlining

  • takes up writing time to map before you start
  • pre-determined path may not be as good as you thought once writing

 

Advantages of Pantsing

  • Narrative forces driving the story forward
  • Discovery as the story unfolds directly from the unconscious
  • Liberating, free form of writing
  • Freedom to follow new ideas as they occur

Disadvantages of Pantsing

      • Rearranging, reworking and rewriting will be required.
      • May write yourself into a corner that you unable to find a way out of

 

I am not stating that one way is right or wrong (or left as the BFG would have it) and there will be times when I try the other side. At the moment pantsing is right for me.

What kind of writer are you, a plotter or a pantser?

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Are you heading in the right direction?

The first month of the year has slipped by already.

‘We tend to wish our lives away, wishing for something better,’ someone said at the water cooler this morning. ‘Nearly another weekend.’

‘I’m not wishing mine away,’ I thought. ‘I’m working toward something better.’

Are you wishing your life away or do you know what you want? Where you want to be?

This year marks some big decisions for me. This has meant some big changes and maybe some hard times (including squashy times as I’m living in my parents’ spare room) but I think the sacrifice is worth it to move closer to what I want.

The first step (actually made late last year) was to think about whether I was on the right track. Was I going where I wanted to go?

The answer: Not quite.

I was losing belief in ever reaching my goal, meandering toward it on a path that was becoming overgrown and hard to navigate.

Thinking about where you want to be involves asking yourself a lot of important questions. Thinking deeply and meaningfully about what is important to you and the way you spend your time, and how that impacts on those around you. (There are times I consider spending my life living in a shack on a beach somewhere scribbling away in the sun, living off the change I earn collecting flotsam – but probably not ideal for my daughter.)

It is important to note here that there is a difference between dreaming and goal setting. But I think dreaming is a great place to start, or maybe that is because I’m a day dreamer. And don’t worry about whether you have the skills for this ideal life, we will discuss that in a later post.

At a talk presented by fantasy writer Lian Tanner, last year, something she said stuck with me: She had met writers she felt were better writers than she. Yet she was published and they were not.

The reason: Lian was determined. Pure tenacity. She wanted to write and so spent the time and energy writing as best she could.

Anything you want to do will require you to work at it. Finding something meaningful will mean life will be far more enjoyable and dedication will be easier.

 

Action: Where do you want to be? What is your ideal life in five or ten years?

Spend some time thinking about…

  • Your values
  • What you enjoy
  • Where you are happy
  • What is important to you
  • Why it is important

Make a list or mind map or diagram and define your destination.

Mine?

I want to write engaging stories that pull readers into another world. And I want to do that full time, spending my days lost in the worlds I’m creating.

When you know the destination, you can map the path to get there…and that is a story for another time.

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5 Ways to Manage Your Energy

Energy management is just as important as time management. There are always 24 hours in the day, but if you don’t have the energy to use them, life can quickly become frustrating.

I recently returned to my full time day job after some time off over the Christmas period and I’m feeling it. I’m simply exhausted. And when I get home I’m too tired to think about my writing, let alone sit down and do it. I find that extremely frustrating because I know where I would rather be spending my energy.

We all have periods when our energy levels are not where we want them to be. We want to write, or blog, or paint but don’t have the energy.

 

Here are 5 tips for easy energy management:

1.     Find your rhythm

Energy ebbs and flows, depending on time of day and the activities you are involved in. It is easier to do things when you have the energy for them. By knowing your energy rhythms you are better able to plan your time.

Take the time to measure or pay attention to your energy levels during the week, or over a month, to look at what affects those levels.

 

2.     Plan time around high energy levels

Once you determine when your high energy levels are, plan to use them for the important tasks. Those things you really want to do. Or need to do to progress your writing or business.

I work best of a morning so I try to focus that morning time on writing and editing.

 

3.     Use low energy times for the simple tasks

When you still have things to do but no real energy for thinking or creating, use the time to do the low energy tasks.

  • Put the washing on,
  • get the ironing done while you catch up on movies or tv,
  • water the garden,
  • scrub the bathroom; or
  • read a book.

These things still can inspire you, particularly other art forms, even watering the garden can inspire at times. But you don’t need energy to do it.

This also ensures that these tasks can’t act as distractions or procrastination tools when energy levels are high. Then all you have to do is write.

 

4.      Increase energy levels

When energy levels are low there are ways to increase those levels. Make sure you take the time when you need it.

Rest is very important.

Are you sitting up watching the shopping channel through bleary eyes? The easiest way to replenish energy levels is ensuring you get the right amount of rest. It is not possible to go full steam 24 hours a day. There are times when you need to slow down and even stop.

Regular exercise and eating properly also helps to keep energy levels up and ensures the fitness to continue doing what you want.

Looking after yourself ensures your energy levels are where they need to be.

 

5.       Don’t beat yourself up

Life is busy enough, don’t add guilt to the mix.

Sometimes there is very little you can do other than ride out the low energy levels. Life can get hectic and different things occurring in your life can affect you differently. We all have family and work and friends and pets and well the list goes on.

Don’t add guilt to this pile of things. Adding extra pressure to yourself may lead to writer’s block or anxiety and stress.

 

When it comes to energy management…

Adding pressure to your self does not increase your ability to get things done. Breath, think about what you do have to do, need to do, want to do. Make a plan and do what you can.

Following through with the simple steps above will help you understand your energy levels and better manage your time in conjunction with energy.

 

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Writing Every Day

keyboard flat

Every writer writes differently.

Yet every writer writes.

I find that the more I write the more likely I am to write and the easier it is to enter the flow. Therefore I’m a firm believer that it is important to write every day.

Even if it is only a sentence.

Not everyone agrees with me. There are writers out there only writing weekends and achieving a lot. But I know that too long a gap between writing sessions only increases my anxieties about writing and it takes me longer to find my flow. The writing doesn’t have to be world shaking, or even good. In fact some sentences may be downright bad.

Your writing does not have to be written in a leather journal or into a top of the line writing program. It could be written in your head, or the back of an envelope or be part of the shopping list. The important part is to write.

I was recently trapped alone in a car on a long trip for my day job. Spring was ending and summer was starting and it was a sunny day. I spent the journey trying to describe the grass that grew along the side of the road. The hours of writing various descriptions in my mind while I drove achieved something: I still have the strong image of the grass now, months later, nodding heavy seeded heads as I drove past.

Despite wanting to write every day I haven’t always manage to do it. Something would prevent me doing what I love and usually that was me.

This year I have set myself a challenge: To write at least a sentence every day.

I am trying to write this sentence before I write anything else. But the only rule is that I write every day. There are a lot of other variables:

  • Sometimes the sentence is part of my current writing project,
  • Sometimes not,
  • Some are short,
  • Some expand into paragraphs,
  • Some are punched out and abandoned,
  • Others are edited at length
  • Written at the end of the day
  • Or the beginning
  • At my desk or the dining table or a cafe…

It all boils down to me writing every day and I hope by the end of the year to have 365 days of sentences.

 

I would like to set you a challenge:

Think about when you are or were most productive in your writing. Was it during a particular period, time of day, emotional space or only on a Sunday afternoon when you sit in a particular chair?

Now, what was special about that time or place? And what could you do to replicate it?

Hit reply to share your response.

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Self Organised Writing Retreats

Inspiration Bear - The perfect companion for any writing retreat
Inspiration Bear – The perfect companion for any writing retreat

Recently I was talking to some friends about writing retreats. The dedicated writing time with like minded people and a focus on a particular aspect of writing is something we could all do with. There are many opportunities out there from Bali, the Blue Mountains and even Hobart.

I attended a “Writing the Senses” retreat in Bali with Patti Miller a couple of years ago. It was fantastic but it is not something I can afford to do more than once. The cost of a writing retreat is sometimes just too much.

Last year I had the idea to plan my own retreat.

I contacted a writing buddy and she was keen to join me. The initial plan was for 2 or 3 days, and then we were both able to get some leave and stretched it out to 5 days.

We found a little house within an hour’s drive of home, just in case, that was isolated enough and started preparations. The just in case is because I have a young daughter and she was more willing to wave me off knowing I was only an hour away if she really needed me.

The house was fully equipped, in the middle of a property with lots of space and fresh air and no distractions.  It had a phone that could only be called in to and as it turned out no mobile phone reception or internet and that reduced the possible distractions further.

Most writing retreats combine classes with individual writing time. Given that I was dictating what I would be doing during the day I needed to ensure I had everything I would need to keep me writing.

Before setting off for the retreat itself, I needed to plan what I would be doing, and what to take with me. I was working on an edit of my fantasy manuscript and after thinking about the options decided that it would be the only project to work on over the time away.

I took with me:

  • Laptop, with current work in progress (WIP), and chargers
  • Print out of the last half of my current WIP – because I edit better than way
  • Notebook and journal
  • Favourite pen
  • Small whiteboard, coloured markers for mind-mapping
  • Reference books.

All of this fitted neatly into a crate in the back of the car.

We shopped on the way for meals and snacks and so once we arrived at the house we didn’t need to leave again. And the house was perfect. It had two large bedrooms with a bathroom each, comfy couches and a large dining table. The kitchen was completely set up and although my buddy brought her coffee machine, we didn’t really need anything else.

All we had to do then was write – and we did – loads of it.

We were able to move around between couches and the table, work off laptops or paper. Solid writing with very little distraction. If one of us put the kettle on, then we offered the other a drink and went back to it. We snacked as we liked, ate when we wanted and wrote/edited for 12 to 14 hours a day.

It was perfect and I achieved so much over those days, including finishing the current edit of my manuscript and completing another read through.

I came away empowered, fulfilled and keen to do more. We have already discussed the timing for next year’s retreat and we think we will stay at the same place again.

If you can’t find a week for your own retreat, try a weekend, or even an extended lunch hour once a week at a different cafe…

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