Writing Tip Tuesday: Follow Your Bliss

November 3, 2009 · 5 comments

Are you one of those writers who have been writing for years, and you have a zillion novel starts but nothing finished? That was me to a tee.

When I would bemoan this to my writers group, I was often told that I just needed to sit myself down in a chair and write. Get through it, no matter what it takes—bribes, threats, whatever.

I suppose there is some wisdom to this. The problem is, when I force myself to write, my writing comes out sounding, well, forced. Stilted. Unwieldy.

In the past few years, however, I’ve discovered that I work better, longer and more enthusiastically when I follow my bliss. I generally have two or three projects going at a time. When I get tired or stuck on one, I move to another one. I “go where the energy flows.”

What I’ve found is that I’m writing more and better—and I’m finishing things.

What works best for you?

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{ 5 comments }

Stephen November 3, 2009 at 8:10 am

Wow…thanks for mentioning that it may be a good practice to have multiple projects going at once. I've been gritting my teeth to push through this first novel, and it's not working well for me. I feel like multitasking projects (just 2, maybe 3) would allow me to give my narrowly focused creativity a chance to stretch out a bit, and I feel like that would help me finish the first project (with the added benefit of being able to start a second one). I think I'm going to try that.

Of course, that's a slippery slope–before you know it, you can end up riding in the "million projects that aren't anywhere near being finished" boat. So "following your bliss" should probably be tempered by some pretty strong discipline as well.

Stephanie Black November 3, 2009 at 9:26 am

I'm a one-project-at-a-time girl (okay, there's that old story that I've been known to take out and write a little on just for fun and someday I would like to write the whole book, but it's not an "active" project at the moment). There's a little project crossover when a manuscript is at the publisher's while I'm drafting a new manuscript–when the first manuscript comes back to me for edits, etc., then I'll set aside the new one to work on the old one. But other than that, I finish one book before starting another.

I admire authors who have so many ideas that they can keep multiple projects running. I tend to finish a project and go, okay . . . what next? And the brainstorming starts.

Angie November 3, 2009 at 10:43 am

I work on one project at a time, and it has to be something I'm excited about. When I cease to feel excited about the current project, then I usually have to sit and daydream and brainstorm about it until I find the idea that brings it back to life for me.

Josi November 3, 2009 at 11:15 am

My BLISS is to move between projects. When I hit a wall on one, I can move to the next one. Doing it that way helps me not get stressed with a story, or just plain tired of my book because I can give ideas time to gel. That said, I can't do that these days. I have short timelines for my projects so I'm trying to train myself different.

Zach November 3, 2009 at 1:32 pm

I don't have a lot of experience, but I also tend to be a one-project-at-a-time kind of person. What kept me going on my first book was having a very clear idea of what the climax of the book was going to look like, and driving the book there bit by bit. If I can see where it's going, if I can picture clearly in my head what the end payoff will look like, and if there's an emotional hook, that's beautiful. Having said that, I find that I have more than one of those in the current project I'm working on, and none of them seem to be the end of the book – I need to sit down soon and do some more planning on it – I'd like my plot threads to move cohesively toward an ending, not jumbled all together like a plate of spaghetti – but in the meantime I have those clear waypoints pulling me forward.

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