Sunday, February 20, 2011

Breaking My Own Rules

I love rules. I love to know what's expected and how things are done. Give me structure! Give me order! *ahem* sorry.

Anyway, these are some of the rules I try to follow in my writing:

1. Don't begin a novel with the main character waking up (this time).
2. Don't begin a novel by asking a rhetorical question.
3. Lose the extra words that clog sentences: that, just, very, feel, so, well, etc
4. Keep adverb/adjective use to a minimum.
5. Finish one first draft before starting another.

Now, #5 is to keep me from getting sidetracked from my current WiP. I've been guilty of this in the past - either because of a plot problem or because, over time, I thought it wasn't good enough. Last November during NaNoWriMo, I had an idea for a YA novel that I was excited about. When I dropped out of the NaNo, I put my 1,000 word draft aside to focus back on Nitpicky with the goal of finishing it this year. I’ve had some ups and downs with this draft (Nitpicky) and right now I’m struggling with a bit of self doubt. Those nagging questions are plaguing me again: Is the conflict big enough? Are my characters too flat? Is this idea original enough?

At the same time, I’ve been getting flashes of ideas for the novel I’ve temporarily named, After. I open up my Word file and quickly type up each new idea before I lose it and then close it again. However, I’ve been tempted to just turn away from Nitpicky and let loose with After. But then I’d have to break one of my rules which is hard for me. Why? Because then I begin judging myself: If I’m a writer, shouldn’t I plough through the tough spots and keep going? Shouldn’t I finish at least one WiP? (started 4, finished 0 – not very good stats) Am I running away from my problems to the new, shiny idea instead of working through the crud?

I guess I’m trying to figure out if I want two projects going on at the same time. After will still be there when Nitipicky is finished. However, my new ideas have been inspired by music this time – a totally new experience for me. I even have the beginnings of a playlist for After which is something I haven’t used in the past. Because I love music so much, I’m fascinated and excited by the ideas that burst through a listen of these songs. I suppose either way the writing practice will be good for me and the stronger of the two novels will prevail. I can always rewrite the other later on if the desire is still there.

I’d love to know if anyone else struggles with this.
Do you work on more than one writing project at a time? Do you find it easy or hard to switch from one novel idea & set of characters to another? How do you keep them separate in your head?


  1. Creation doesn't work with rules. If your mind is running with an idea, let it.

    Flexibility, I guess. Though discipline has its place--to a point. Good luck!

  2. Good points, Donna. I don't want to stifle that creativity. However, I also don't want to wimp out just because I'm stuck in the dreaded middle. I'm considering a trial period of working on both back and forth.

  3. Ack, sorry Suzie but I can't help with this one. I always finish a wip before starting a new one.

    If Nitpicky isn't flowing, is there any harm in spending a little time with After? Give it a go, see where it takes you. You may get a second wind.

  4. I don't worry too much about rules most of the time. I tend to follow my heart and see where it takes me. I like to work on one project at a time, but there are also times when I need a break and want to let the story work around in my subconsciousness. Then I work on something else :)

  5. Donna, you amaze me with how fast you crank out your WiPs! I guess my main concern is losing my character focus. If I switch to a new WiP will I be able to return to the other and still know my characters and how they would react?

    Thanks for your advice!

  6. I like to work on one project at a time too, Jemi. Great advice about following your heart. I tend to overthink everything. I think I may try to plough this one tough upcoming scene. It may be enough to get the writing flowing again. And if it doesn't, I'll move to this new project for a while. Thanks :)

  7. I think you need to figure out what works for you. I can only focus on one thing at a time, but I know writers who work on different projects at once!

  8. Those rules are not always relevant, though. Stifling creativity is pointless. I need to let it flow to make it work... And I once wrote a short story where the character wakes up and the story starts right there. I'm not sure why this would be a problem.