Saturday, October 10, 2009

Do Not Want!

The other evening, Kate and I were talking on AIM about our current projects. No, to be honest, we were whining. Whining because the voices in our heads were being very loud and demanding, each one representing a different story or novel. I was particularly whining -- yes, I know it's hard to believe yours truly would ever whine -- because yet another novel had just dropped into my head and was yelling as loudly as those already there for my undivided attention.

So Kate and did what so many writers do when faced with too many plots demanding attention. We went to look at lolcats. Hence the picture and the topic for today's post.

Of course, since then the topic has morphed some. I was going to talk about how, as writers, most of us have several projects going at any one time, all at different phases of the writing process. In fact, I teased one of our regulars, Chris K, about just that the other morning. He'd made the mistake of posting on Baen's Bar the question of why the Grays (you know, those aliens everyone claims abducted them and did all sorts of things to them onboard their UFOs) are naked. In the course of our conversation, I told him to write the story and he started whining -- sorry, Chris, but you did -- about already having a story in progress. That's when I told him the facts of life for the writer trying to break into the business. You should have, in my opinion, a work you are researching or simply making notes on, one you are writing, possibly one you are editing and at least one out on submission. THAT is what I was going to blog about. Well, guess I already have. ;-p

Right now, I have an urban fantasy at a publisher and I'm biting my nails as I wait to hear if it's been accepted or not. I also have two short stories out. There's another novel I'm looking for an agent for. I am less than a week away from completing another novel. I have final edits to do on yet another before sending it out. Works in progress include three books at various stages, ranging from initial research to finishing the first draft. There are three short stories in progress. None of which takes into account the space opera, the fantasy, two urban fantasies and, help me, a romance that are all waiting impatiently to be written.

So, what do you think the proper writing cycle should be? How many projects are currently on your desk or hard drive? Also, as a writer, what do you do when you're attacked in the middle of the night by that screaming, maddening plot that just won't go away?


Anonymous said...

Let's see.

The agent's got three novels out collecting their fair share of rejections.

One novel is defeating all attempts to bulk out to modern novel requirements.

One novel is cooling off before a final polish.

::Ahem:: Ten first drafts.

:: Choke:: Thirteen that have progressed to the extended outline stage.

Two I'm researching.

An Urban Fantasy Idea (that won't shut up, and is turning itself into a series) the first of which is almost to first draft stage.

A story ideas folder with 23 files . . .

Now, I'm not really _that_ busy. I'm working on one of the first drafts, while doing a bit of research for two other ideas. Taking a break to jot down the Next Great Idea. When I need a break from the first draft, I'll work on the polishing or the bulking and get at least one of them out of here by the end of the year.

I can resist the Urban Fantasy. I can.

I think one or two stories at each stage, and keeping the rest _firmly_ locked in the basement is the best load.

Do as I say, not as I do!

Da Curly Wolf said...

I adore you, you know I do, but a romance?

Amanda Green said...

Matapam, LOL. Are you sure you're not my alter-ego? If I counted all the ideas in the folder, the first lines I've jotted down in a journal, not to mention the stories/novels I have started and put aside because, well, they are best left banished forever to the basement, never to be seen by human eyes, I'd go really crazy. I'll take a look later and see what my actual count is and post it. Oh, and I completely understand about the urban fantasy turning into a series. Right now I have two books doing that and they are NOT happy when I tell them the sequels have to wait to be written until after the first books sell.

Amanda Green said...

Wolfie, don't blame me. Sarah made me do it. I swear it's all her fault. She caught me at a weak moment and twisted my arm and, let me tell you, it took weeks for the arm to heal. In my defense, I have put some suspense into it so I didn't gag as I wrote it. Now, will you forgive me if I tell you it is the only one I've written and everything else is either SF, fantasy or urban fantasy?

John Lambshead said...

Afraid I can only cope with one thing at a time. I'm male. I don't do multi-tasking - ask my wife.


C Kelsey said...

Heheh, yeah I'll cop to the whining. I did start the story though. To further the whining... my randomly running imagination has somewhere around 3 more stories kicking me right now.

Amanda Green said...

John, I have a feeling you've got more pans in the fire than you're willing to admit -- at least in public. [G]

Amanda Green said...

Chris, repeat after me, "I am a writer. Voices speak to me in my head."

My recommendation, if you haven't already made a few notes on the other stories, do so. That way you don't forget those pearls of inspiration and can come back and visit them later. Also, I pass along the one rule and subset of that rule Sarah has given me: No bonfires fueled by your writing and no hiding them under your bed, in the closet or any other place meant to prevent them from being sent out. Of course, I still consider the bonfire -- fire good. Fire pretty -- and have been known to shove a story or two under the bed, but purely for the entertainment of her highness, the cat that owns me. [VBEG]

Dave Freer said...

Ach, right now I'm at my dryest for many years -- too much stress about the move and baout getting enough money for the beasts. Just the current book which I am battling with, an the non-fiction proposal. But I think Mike has some 8 or 9 so out there, and I must have partial fragments of maybe 60-80 more. Shorts, novels, kids books, fantasy, sf, historicals, romances, a book on wild sex (the sex life of invertebrates)... But when I finally focus I focus very hard on the book on hand.

Amanda Green said...

Dave, you owe me a new monitor. I just sprayed coffee all over this one when I read "a book on wild sex". My first thought was, "Wow! think about the research that must entail." Then I read the rest of the comment and realized you weren't about to give us a monkey sex manual. ;-p

Anonymous said...


Consider the move as research. You'll have this unique, hands on experience of colonizing a new world.

Dragon's Ring was excellent, and spawned my latest Cool Idea for a story. Which I can resist, now that it's written down. I can.

Dave Freer said...

heh - monkeys - even Bonobos are DULL compared to inverts. If I gave the details of barnacle sex, you'd be needing a whole new computer. (let's but it this way. They're sessile adults - the planktoic stage settles on a nice hard surface and secretes cement out of its head, and adult life is standing on their heads on one spot kicking food into their mouths. They never go anywhere again, even without cable. (Quite like a lot of people, actually) but... also quite like a lot of people barnacles practice internal fertilisation. And they don't live that close together. I will leave the concept to your sordid imagination. Maybe one day... along with the fantasy cookbook (unicorn kebab, anyone?)

Dave Freer said...

Matapam wht with research into yurts it's all of that and historical fantasy too :-). Mind you it's more like they're getting the alien.

I keep peering at Amazon to see how DR's doing or it it has a review yet.

Kate said...

Oh ye dogs...

Countless beginnings that never went anywhere (no, I'm not counting them. Some of them should probably be tossed anyway because even if I do go back it's a total rewrite).

Currently... At least four complete novels, one with a half-decent chance of getting past the gatekeepers. Two are... flawed and need reworking, and one is ConVent, which is probably going to need to be self-published because of potential legal issues.

Viable and in progress, the sequel to ConVent (on hold until ConVent finds a home, or the characters start yelling at me), a space opera, a steampunk-in-the-Australian-outback, and the epic fantasy with vampires.

Nagging, an urban fantasy with the traditional kick-ass smart-mouthed female lead, periodic "you said you were going to finish this" from the collection of non-viable starts... oh, and Vlad wants an erotic romance of when he met and married his first wife.

It's a juggling job. I focus on the loudest/most attractive of the collection until I've met whatever the goal is for it. The last week or so I've been working on getting the outline for the steampunk done. Next in line is the space opera, on the grounds that at 50k it's the closest to finished. I may end up alternating chapters with one of the other projects, depending.

When I hit tip point on a project (usually about 25k from the end, although not necessarily) I have serious issues focusing on anything else.

Oh, and the fanfic. If all else fails, I play with fanfic for a while.

Amanda Green said...

Okay, Matapam, I said I'd give a real count of what I have going right now. Let's see, I have the one novel with the publisher waiting for word. I have 5 compete novels (1 space opera, 1 fantasy, 1 urban fantasy, 1 mystery, and the romance) No, Kate and Sarah, you haven't seen any but the romance and may not see them until they are edited. Currently, I'm in various stages of writing the historical fantasy, a steampunk, and an urban fantasy. I have another urban fantasy that is within a week or two of being ready to send out. My journal with first sentences or paragraphs is currently at 21 entries and I have 4 novels that I've started and have filed away because they just didn't gel for me.

As for short stories, I have two out for consideration, another 3 I need to send out and starts on 3 more. My idea file for short stories currently has 5 entries.

And, like Kate, I won't count anything that's more than a couple of years old because they are best used for bonfire fodder.

C Kelsey said...

Lessee here...

The Raven of Doom needs to be finished, as does the short story "pants" about why the little gray aliens are naked (derned you Amanda!).

There's an epic SciFi story involving an elderly Apollo astronaut and aliens that I have outlined but need to do a TON of research on.

And then there's a SciFi Space Opera-Urban Fantasy, shape shifting story and the sequel to The Raven of Doom.

Also a Script for a starting film maker... Wheee!!!

Amanda Green said...

Chris, so finish them already! [running away now]

C Kelsey said...

LOL, I'm trying Amanda!

I almost forgot, I have that finished short story "What She Said to Me". Have no idea what to do with it since it was just an exercise.

WangZheng259 said...


I do not keep my stories stored on my desk or computer. (That is for people with poorer memories or less dysgraphia than I have.) I store them in my mind. (Again, mostly because I think up things fairly quickly, and have only managed to get notes down on some. If my waking memory was worse, I would have lost a good fraction of them forever. [I assume I've lost a good amount of stuff from dreams, even if dream logic is fairly suspect.] As it is, I remember different ones at different times.)

Earlier today, I estimated that I have twenty, fifty, a hundred settings stored up here. This is based off of a time where I counted out at least seven different independent versions of a specific character. (Like variations on Merlin or King Arthur.) I think I may have done a few more versions since, and I think I use the character in less than half of my works, so that gives the lower estimate. The upper end comes from a hundred being a big number. I've never done a really good count, and it would be prohibitively difficult to estimate the number of smaller chunks. Of course the question is, how small does an idea have to be to no longer count? Are we talking seeds, sprouts, cuttings or full on plants? I do not have any that are mature for harvest. I do have scads of various sorts of notes on my computers, some of which I can no longer access.

1. I do not know what the proper writing cycle for me would be, but I know I am not there.

2. Difficult to say, as above. Current best effort is 7-8k words out of what would take, perhaps, hundreds to tell. This is spread all over the place. The over all concept is, literally, 'ill-conceived', and the hypothetical finished work would not be publishable for various reasons. On the other hand, it is perfect for my current level of skill. I have the starts of other projects that might turn out better, once I finish learning from this one.

3. Think about it. If it is really good, I will probably retain it once I've thought enough. One time, when I woke up from a Benadryl and fever dream that, I still think, has the makings of a wonderful scifi short, I ended up crying and eventually had to make notes on the computer to avoid keeping everyone else up. Generally, stuff I think up has a low enough priority that memorization, or being able to readily recreate the creation will suffice. (Dreams are difficult, perhaps impossible, to replicate, which is why I was so concerned.) Thinking is generally along the lines of 'what can I do with this', 'and then what', 'what fits with this' and 'what does this fit with?' I will generally figure out if the idea will work with the current active project or projects, or if it would require an indenpendent setting. Depending on how it develops, and relative enthusiasm levels, I may make it an active or the active project.

Kate said...


Um. If we're talking what's still rattling inside the skull without having been nailed down somewhere (and trust me, it never finalizes until you write it. It just stays a daydream), the count is well into the "oh hell with it, just give up and call it infinite" range.

Let's keep it to something that's been written down and not go into story-daydreams - this is writing process after all, and there's not a lot of process if there's no actual writing of the words on page variety happening.

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Oh, yeah gods and monkeys...

Dave, write a proposal for the wild sex book. If agent won't shop it around I will. Make it funny and it WILL sell. Let me see proposal when you have it ready. Make it ten pages or so on "what this is about" and thirty samples. Fantasy cookbook... Colab with my #1 son?

Amanda, as you know I don't even count the ideas until they're at least halfway written. Of those there are I think fifteen. Probably forgetting one or two. Plus a non fic on murder case in CO in 19th century being researched. And the problem is my pen names have ideas of their own.

It's scary in here. Save me. There's hundreds of them and only one of me.

Amanda Green said...

WangZheng259, the problem is, what's in your mind isn't actually something you're working on. Sure, it's an idea and you might be trying out various scenarios in your head to figure out what works best. However, if you never write it down, never try to go from beginning to end on paper -- or a computer screen -- it really isn't something you are actively working on.

If we were to count all the ideas, possible ideas and tossed out ideas that rattle around in my head, it would count in the hundreds. However, the ones that actually have some chance of being finished and sent out are the ones that make it from my brain to the computer. THAT is all part of the writing process.

My recommendation is, whether you are "writing" for your own personal pleasure, writing fan fic for one of the online sites or actually trying to put together an original work for publication, you need to "write" it. That's the best way to do just to those ideas you've been developing in your head.

WangZheng259 said...

Okay then, I pretty much have nothing. I have this project, a 'complete' two or three sentence fanfic, and dribs and drabs of other things. Eventually I will get enough of the ill-conceived project done that I can figure out what is wrong with it besides the obvious.

Also, does anyone else find those nonesense verification words for posting on blooger inspirational?

Anonymous said...

Writing is a learning experience, and part of learning is, well, in this case writing things you wouldn't let your best friend read.

I've got drawers full. Worse, I've got spiral notebooks full. And some of them are useful ideas that I later completely rewrote on the computer. But you have to get over the first hump and start putting it down on paper, to make progress.

And yes, the verification words are often humorous and sometimes inspiring.

Chris McMahon said...

I have five finished novel lurking around the place, which have been hanging around for longer and re-written more times than I would care to admit.

I have endless notepads full of story ideas and snippets, but as a rule I'm with John. I can't really work on more than one thing at once.

I can't even seem to write and do send outs at the same time - which is a bit of a problem since I just keep writing!

WangZheng. I often enjoy those makeup words, and they do get me thinking what they could mean in an alternate setting. Some of them are quite cool.

Dave Freer said...

Sarah, yes you and I talked about Robert and I doing it. Poor bloke never got any choice.

Unfortunately someone else has done a book on sex in the animal kingdom - one of those ideas i had but couldn't find a taker for, and then someone else wrote it anyway. That's not to say it can't be done again and differently and better, because a lot of it is hilarious.

Amanda Green said...

Chris, send out! Don't make me sic Sarah on you. I have a hard time actually writing more than one thing at a time, but I can research or outline or edit one thing while writing another. So, I usually have three things going at once. Of course, I'm better at the research, outline and writing end of it than I am at the sending out end of it.