The time has come for me to make this announcement: I need some help. There is a decision I must make, and it got me wondering about how my fellow writers make the same decisions. I assume I am not the only one with a writing-related mission statement that includes working hard, getting an agent, an editor, a book deal, a publishing date, a successful debut, and the opportunity to work really hard on the next project. So, my mission statement is in place, but that still leaves me with a lot of grey area.
My question for you: How do you decide what project to work on next?
I would guess that I am anything but alone in having stories whispering to me while I listen to the radio, cook dinner, do the dishes, or while I’m sleeping. Which leaves me with many choices when it comes time to work on the next project. The decisions become even more unruly given my already full nursery of stories ready to become grown-up, edited, ready-to-take-on-the-world final drafts. Current tally: four first drafts, two new ideas that are coming together (one will require more research than the other), and one new idea that bubbled up on my way to taking my dogs to the groomer this morning.
What to do?
My inner writer—who loves crayons, unicorns, and the color pink—loves to write first drafts. It’s funny how my analogy about first drafts resembling baby stories (from Monday’s post) could work just as well with the different personas writers have to morph into throughout the writing process. To write a first draft, we must be dreamers, but dreamers alone don’t finish things. So, to edit, we must be analytical and able to endure frustration. And to submit our work, we must be able to do battle with doubt and the pain that comes with rejection; we must be brave and fierce to keep pushing no matter what comes at us. In other words, while the dreamer writes the story, it’s the hard-nosed warrior we become in the marketing process who is the real hero.
And I am a big supporter of tending both the dreamer and the hero, at the proper times. That has been part of my motivation for my first-draft-a-thon. The warrior within has done her work and I continue to submit queries, partials, and fulls, but the dreamer needed time to play and I gave her that. But now what?
Do I round up the most worthy of the first drafts (and that might just be another blog post in how we decide such a thing) and send them through the editing process? Allow the dreamer more glee by telling another first draft before we get to the hard work of editing one of the stories? Or bribe my inner dreamer with a promise that after the next edited work is ready to go, she can write another first draft (while twirling in a fairy-inspired, pink tutu... what can I say, the dreamer is spunky)? New stories are the motivators for me, like the “if you eat right all week, you can have ________ (insert name of most decadent and beloved food here).” Maybe that is the most effective plan, bold and unapologetic bribery to get another story ready for marketing next year.
Please, weigh in. How do you pick your next story when several are bubbling up? Do you take every project through the editing process, or do you alternate around like I do? Am I the only fickle writer out there who must always have many projects going to be able to focus? What is it that draws you to one story over another? Character? Setting? Major, already-imagined scene? I really look forward to getting to know the thinking process of fellow writers. And thanks again for your thoughts.
Quote for the Day from Peace Like a River by Leif Enger (one of the most amazing books I’ve read this year)
“My sister, Swede, who often sees to the nub, offered this: People fear miracles because they fear being changed—though ignoring them will change you also.”