Saturday, June 13, 2009

Two Projects at Once

I admire those who can work on multiple fiction projects at the same time. I’ve discovered, once again, that it’s virtually impossible for me. I’d been rolling pretty well on the novel, Razored Land, and then, while reading some great Louis L’Amour western short stories, a sweet idea occurred to me for a western short. I thought: well, do both at once. I thought I’d work on Razored Land in my home office during the afternoon and early evening, then in late evening work on the laptop in the living room on the western, which is currently entitled Showdown at Wild Briar. The first day went well, 3 pages on Razored and almost 4 on Showdown. For day 2, I managed 1 and a half pages on Razored and 4 on Showdown. Day 3 (today), about 2 pages on Showdown and maybe 3 sentences on Razored.

It’s not the writing time that’s the problem. It’s the thinking time. The first couple of days weren’t bad because I’d already done quite a bit of thinking ahead on Razored Land and was working from that material. But as soon as the western idea occurred to me I began spending almost all my thinking time fiddling with it. The result, as soon as I dipped out the water (thoughts) already present for Razored Land, that project came to a screeching halt. I’ve decided my best bet now is to spend the next two days smashing the western home to a finish, then getting back fully into Razored Land and not letting myself be distracted further.

Guess I’m a one-project kind of guy.

In other news, did any of you watch a TV series when it was on called Invasion? It’s about a hurricane hitting Florida, followed by what appears to be an invasion of the body snatchers type of story. I never heard of it before but they were running “Invasion Week” this week, with back to back episodes every night, and I actually got hooked on it. Unfortunately, only one season was filmed and it ended with a big cliffhanger. I would have liked to see more. Anyone see this thing?


the walking man said...

Not much of a multi tasking writer either Charles. I can do a couple pieces of poetry while involved in a longer effort but not two longer pieces at the same time. Damn those schizophrenia drugs!

David Cranmer said...

Same here. I can begin two stories but at some point, early on, one takes over and I zero in on the voice cryin' the loudest. Btw I'm very interested in seeing the western you've spoke of.

G. B. Miller said...

You think you got issues with doing two?

Try doing three (with two more on deck).

Still having computer problems but before it died, I was workig on three at the same time. A piece of flash (lost in the computer), one story that I was re-writing and another that I was writing by hand.

I'm determined this weekend to work on all three.

Funny thing about me, I actually emjoy writing multiple stories at the same time.

ivan said...

Reminds me of the time I run out of liquor and get into the Listerine. You can actually sense you brain tossing and turning while you're trying to figury out pi. Makes perfect sense to you, this focusing on externals, while anyone can see that the Listerine is causing brain damage and tempoaty memory loss. Sort of like old hippies and their LSD. Or trying compulsively to produce a STAR WARS, and failing over and over again, and have the sudden revelation that imitation is suicide...heh. Before you you do?
IShould take Stephen King's advice, I suppose and switch from Lesterine to Scope...that's what he did before sales got him back on Scotch, I suppose.
...Said the Scope had a nice mint taste.
Ah, rubbadubba dub.
There's the rub.
Stephen King high on Scope.
Well, I suppose it gives you scope.
Look what happened.
Hell, if i worked for King...
Most of us would not only drink Scope, but sell our grandmother for a bestseller.
Migod, I got kissing- sweet breath!
But no bestseller.
There's the rub.

Anonymous said...

I can see where some of the stories might start intertwining, LOL. I have not seen the "Invasion" thing but it does sound pretty interesting.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Nor me. One usually turns out to be an excuse not to pursue the other.

MarmiteToasty said...

Tiz a known fact that blokes cant multi-task :)


BernardL said...

Writing on multiple projects actually helps me. It always feels like I'm never blocked with multiple plot lines buzzing in my head. I did see Invasion. Some aspects grabbed my attention, but I realized through the web it was not going to make it and I didn't want to get left hanging.

Scott D. Parker said...

Re: Invasion - My wife and I both enjoyed it the year it was broadcast on TV. We were both irritated that it was canceled with the big cliffhanger. I thought it was an interesting take on the alien invasion thing, especially seeing as how it involved kids and custody. I like the brother, the conspiracy theory one. Very funny. Too bad some basic cable channel doesn't take series like Invasion and produce a one-off movie that resolves unresolved cliffhangers from canceled TV shows.

Re: Multi-writing - Up to now, I write the same way as you: one project at a time. This summer, however, I'm going to try an experiment: write different projects at the same time. It's going to be something I have to force myself to do. Right now, almost all my thoughts are going towards my steampunk story. However, two Calvin Carter stories are percolating in my head, too. I'm making a concerted effort to work on both mainly because of one simple fact. I probably won't be Stephen King where I can write one book a year and the publishers will give me $100,000/book. I'm going to have to be the author that cranks out books in order to maintain my desired career goal. Thus, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to be able to write on multiple projects. Might as well make sure I can do that now, when I'm not being paid, as opposed to later, when I'll be under contract. How's that for a positive, forward-thinking idea?

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, I've been able to do a little bit of nonfiction with fiction but I have to separate them out by doing one at work and the other at home.

David, it's coming along pretty nicely. I'm trying to work in some twists and turns.

G., I wish I did. I just really seem unable to keep it up at a sustained level.

Ivan, I remember reading about King and his Scope. Geeze, that's going some for a buzz. That stuff is foul.

Wil, I thought the acting in Invasion was quite good. You'd probaly like the women!

pattinase, I think I've done that excuse thing but I don't believe that's the issue this time.

MarmiteToasty, it's certainly a fact for me.

BernardL, I can do fiction and nonfiction together, but two fiction projects of any length just don't work for me. As for Invasion, well I get left hanging.

Scott Parker, yes, and I liked in Invasion how the "aliens" weren't all of the same mind. That's the first time I remember really seeing that kind of subtlety.

Good luck on the multi-tasking this summer. I hope it works. You're right. Publishers want more than one book a year from authors these days.

Cloudia said...

No, haven;t seen that show but am
anxiously awaiting TrueBlood...
Charles, your piece today speaks of the unseen "backstory" of being a writer; the "thinking" that happens (one hopes!) before pen or cursor begins...
My Riding with Dad tribute is being run in the Honolulu Star Bulletin on thursday as a guest column....Happy Birthday to Me (tues) and best of luck with your own interesting-sounding projects!

Travis Erwin said...

Great point. It is the thinking time that makes it hard. I've done it and I am currently doing it, but one project is revision so thinking time is not quite as crucial.

Steve Malley said...

With my various jobs, I don't get a lot of choice about multi-tasking. My key: focus.

My writing time is ONLY for writing. My drawing time is only for drawing. No half measures.

Mostly I only write novels. Last year I wrote a short story. I did it by extending my writing time half an hour and using the short as a reward for hitting my daily goal with the novel...

Steve Malley said...

Jeez, did that last comment just sound as asshatted as I'm afraid it did? Sorry...

Travis Cody said...

I did see the first few episodes of that Invasion series, but I lost interest pretty quickly.

I'm not really able to multi-task on writing projects either. I'm ok in the idea phase, but when it's time to put some meat on the bones I have to focus on one project.

Mary Witzl said...

I'm currently working on a for-adults novel and an MG/YA/crossover hopeful, but neither of these has found favor with an agent yet, so I'm not going to say I can multi-task until one of them sells.

I LOVE westerns, though!

Sidney said...

I've tried early on one project and late on another. I find it difficult to juggle two, also, though I have some work going on a short story now plus the novel/thesis I have to write. It's a difficult juggling act, but I kind of want to write more short stories so I'm trying to work out the balance -- gain a little ground on each one each day.

It just doesn't seem to come naturally.

Barbara Martin said...

The only time I can juggle two projects at once in writing is with fiction and non-fiction. There are times when I'm working on my second manuscript that I get an idea for the third which I make note of.

I will need to juggle my writing projects now that I have landed a freelance writing position to churn out history articles.

Anne Vis said...

Interesting observation. They say it is a typical guy thing to be focused on one thing at a time, but I have it too ... :-)

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, that's very cool about your column. Wonderful!

Travis Erwin, yes, if I were strictly doing revision I can see that might make it easier. Hadn't particularly thought of that.

Steve Malley, focus is a lesson I keep having to relearn. You'd think I'd understand it by now.

Travis, a fiction story just consumes my mind and it's hard to switch gears.

Mary Witzl, me too on the westerns. they've always beeen a steady piece of my reading diet.

Sidney, yes, I find it a much harder struggle than it seems like it would be.

Barbara Martin, I'm OK at juggling a fiction and a nonfiction project usually. Different mindset for the two. congrats on your freelance position.

jodi said...

Charles-although I can multitask with the best of 'em, when I read, I prefer one book at a time. I am much more able to get into all the nuances and focus. Besides I am a bubblehead! Write on!

Charles Gramlich said...

Anne, indeed, I know plenty of women who are like that as well.

Jodi, not in reading I am a multi-tasker. I always read about three books at a time, although I do usually have one primary book I'm reading.

Lana Gramlich said...

I learned that the CN (TV channel,) almost picked up the Invasion series to continue with it, but decided that production costs were too high.

Randy Johnson said...

I've always admired writrs that could work on more than one project simultaneously. Don't see how they do it though. I remember reading about one writers years ago, the name slips me after so long, who used different typewriters in different areas(pre-computer days) yo keep it organized(sort of like your intent).
Yes, I remember Invasion. It was one of those that put me off cliff hanger endings. I hate to be left hanging.

Scott said...


Sometimes it's good to go back and forth with more than one project...when you hit a wall on one, you can go to the other for a bit. I'm working on two books now, but mostly writing one and doing the outline for the other.

Missed you at CP this year...wasn't the same without ya...but I still managed to give my liver a workout.

laughingwolf said...

i'm with you on the one-at-a-time thing, charles...

i saw the tv show from the beginning, initially, then for some reason next i looked, it was canceled

same thing happened with another, where 'the devil' was mayor, or something... same creator, i believe

Greg said...

i saw a few episodes of "Invasion" when it was on... looked like a cool premise but i could never get into it for some reason. maybe it was on at a bad time. i remember it not being on very long.

Rick Moore said...

Hi Charles. Every time I work on multiple projects my brain goes Clockwork Orange!

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, yes, that was one thing. They didn't skimp on production costs it looked like.

Randy Johnson, I remember that story about a pulp writer who kept two typewriters going all the time. all I can say is "wow."

Scott, I can work it with fiction and nonfiction, or even with a couple of different nonfiction pieces, but fiction doesn't seem to work that way for me. yeah, sorry to miss CP this year. I thought about you guys. Would have liked to have been there but I'll be back next year for sure.

laughingwolf, I thought Invasion was well done. Being able to see back to back episodes really helped me get hooked, though. I might not have if I'd had to watch it a week at a time.

Greg Schwartz, it's hard for me to watch a show each week, but having this on back to back, and they showed it early and then late, helped.

Rick Moore, mine just seems to freeze up.

laughingwolf said...

i think it was a shaun cassidy production... one was, for sure

laughingwolf said...

the other was 'american gothic', also well done...

another good one: the agency, about the cia... likely canceled cuz there was so much truth therein....

Heff said...

Don't get me started. If I ever begin more than one project at a time, NONE of them get completed.

j said...

My life is one big act of multi tasking but because I am touched with a bit of ADD. Even when I clean my house I bounce from room to room without finishing anything.

Now if I were trying to write two books? Ha! I don't have the brain power for one much less two at a time. I admire you for attempting to tackle it.

Have a great week Charles!

X. Dell said...

I guess that makes you a serial monogamist when it comes to writing fiction, huh?

L.A. Mitchell said...

I SO wish I could multi-task, too. Part of me always feels like I'm robbing one story to give brain synapses to the other.

Erik Donald France said...

Makes sense on the multi-projects. Sound strategy to finish both.

I do remember Invasion but never saw the actual show. Sounds cool, though.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Whenever I multi-task I end up with a muddled mess. Sometimes that mess becomes one story all onto itself. Writing has never been easy for me, even if I'm focused on one project.

Vesper said...

I can't write on two stories at once because I usually fully immerse myself in the story.

Is "Invasion" the one where they could tell the aliens by the way they held their little fingers? :-)

Merisi said...

Mind twister.

Good luck with the single track! :)

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, oh I really liked American Gothic. Was very sorry to see it go.

Heff,not an unfamiliar experience for me as well.

jennifer, at work it seems I'm always multi-tasking because of constant interruptions. It's very frustrating.

X. Dell, yeah, I'm a one manuscript man. I tell 'em all, you're the book for me, baby.

L.A. Mitchell, I think for me it is kind of robbing one for the other. I have to really focus on the twists and turns to do a story justice.

Erik Donald France, I thought the acting was really good in Invasion, despite that I hadn't seen a lot of those actors before.

JR, no, I don't find it easy either, and for me, trying to multi-story means inadequate work on either.

Vesper, no, I don't think they did that on Invasion. The aliens could all tell each other but the nonaliens didn't know who was who all the time.

Charles Gramlich said...

Merisi, thanks.

AvDB said...

I with you on the multiple projects. I've tried and tried, but I, too, get bogged down by the thinking. Thinking turns into over-thinking, which leads to stasis. I have enough issues with that on a single-project level. Trying to do multiples just throws me in a tailspin.

I watched Invasion when it was first on. I liked it. Apparently no one else did. I liked the sheriff. He was appropriately bas**rdly.

Charles Gramlich said...

Avery, yes, the sheriff was one of the most interesting characters. He turned out to be quite complex.

Kerby Jackson said...

You can do more than one. The key is that you know EXACTLY where you're going. In otherwords, it means that outlining your work (even if it's loose) is an absolute requirement if you plan to write on more than one project.

Without some sort of written plan, it's very easy to forget what you intended to do and before you know it, you're stuck on everything you're working on.

That said, a writer should really have sort of written plan anyway, opposed to just winging it.

With my first Western, there was no plan and it's still sitting around here unfinished. Needless to say, I made sure that the next one had an outline. That one finished fast and made it all seem easy after that.

sarah said...

Yes me and hubby watched it, also hooked and disappointed when it stopped, the film, just didn't capture any of it but that's a problem of space I guess.

I find I tend to write all over the place but I don't know if that's a dyslexic thing or not.
So I end up with a load of jigsaw pieces and suddenly I see the story, then have to go find all the pieces. Lots of ahh where was that bit I wrote!... I just sort them into different books then. At some point one will come through as the nearest one finished so I focus on that.
In some ways it makes it easier as it takes the pressure off the initial writing. I'm always just playing around.

Thanks for the thoughts,

happy weekend,