Thursday, December 17, 2009

I’ve Got a Question, and I’m Pretty Sure You Have the Answer

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.”


Brian said...

I have some ideas for some scripts to write if you can't figure anything else out....

Julie said...


Just as soon as you produce my favorite of the scripts I've written for you (which was from a fantastic idea of yours), I'll consider getting right on that... after, of course, I finish everything else. :)

And remember, my inner tutu wearing writer likes to play with her own ideas, cause she thinks they're sparkly.

Brian said...

Well they are sparkly, but how can you pass up Puppet Mayhem...

DebraLSchubert said...

You know me - one project at a time and take it to the finish line. I don't know how you do it (have many projects percolating at once), but I admire your wealth of creativity.

My two cents is this: pick the best baby and nurse it to adulthood (theoretically, of course!). Once you've got something else to market, let pink tutu girl have her whirling way. ;-)

(Love the Quote of the Day, btw. Reminds me of Rush's lyrics from Tom Sawyer: "Always hopeful yet discontent, He knows changes aren't permanent, But change is...")

Julie said...


Pink tutu girl wants to kick you in the shins, but the marketing warrior within approves. I think you're really on to something here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Kasie West said...

I think we are similar writers. I bribe myself with writing after I've done some hard editing. (And also, I bribe myself with chocolate for doing pretty much anything the list of which is not limited to: Making a trip down the stairs [because we all know how hard that is], eating healthy, going to bed on time, etc.) As far as editing, I generally go with the one I want my agent to see next, or the one that my betas have been requesting, or the one that is speaking to me that day....hmm, I have no system. Did I just come to that realization? I have no idea how I choose what to work on next.

Kasie West said...

Oh, and sometimes I'll work on several at once and then whichever one takes over eventually gets all my attention.

Jemi Fraser said...

I had the hardest time deciding on my nano project. Three of them were yelling at me. I'll be finishing off the one I chose in the next month or so, then I'll be in the quandry you're in. So, sadly, I'm no help. :)

Julie said...


You totally crack me up. And we do sound like similar writers, because I work on more than one project at a time, too. I expected one story to kick the other's behind, but that never really happened. I did temporarily let one story go to finish the other, but then I got right back in there and finished it.

And please don't forget that wiggling toes is chocolate-worthy work, as is breathing. That heartbeat thing is pretty strenuous, too. I love that bribery works for you as well. And that is what I think my decision on this conundrum will be.

"Sparkly-loving Writer Self, you edit up one of the other projects and then I'll let you write another first draft."

"But..." whine, whine. "Can I do two first drafts?" said with a hopeful glimmer.

"We'll see." (Which always meant 'no' in my family.)

Thanks for commenting, and I can't wait for your blog tomorrow. You've certainly raised the suspense level! :)

Julie said...


Even though you weren't able to help with the specific decision at hand, it is really wonderful to know that other writers deal with this problem. I mean, not because I'm glad that others struggle or anything (certainly), but it's great to know that fictional worlds aren't just flummoxing me. :)

Good luck with finishing your story!

Tamika: said...

My stories seem to pick me! It's the ones that claw theie way to the forefront of my mind and trapple over everything in their path. They stick. So I surrender to the voices and leave room for the other stories whispering in the background to wait their turn.

Tricia said...

I have three stories clammoring for my attention right now and I couldn't decided which to focus on. So I came up with a plan: write them into short stories first, have my critique group read them, then start on the favored one as my next novel.

Terresa said...

I love your words, "My inner writer—who loves crayons, unicorns, and the color pink...".

I have a few projects going right now: a YA fantasy manuscript, some poems and essays. I tend towards the shorter, easier work as I have 4 young-ish children who still need a lot of me. I don't want to get burnt out or frustrated with writing, so I'm trying it in bits and pieces, studying and reading like heck along the way.

I think, in time, things will settle for you towards one particular manuscript/draft/idea. Give it time.

Julie said...


Welcome to the blog and thanks for the comment. You gave very good advice, and I just can't tell you how much I love knowing that I'm not the only one who has stories fighting over me (it makes my typing fingers feel very powerful to be so sought after... I'm actually worried that my fingers are going to stage an insurrection and claim to more powerful than my heart :)

Julie said...


You have a great system going there. And having a good critique group must be an amazing feeling. I've thought about sharing this decision with my beta readers, but the stories aren't really ready for them and I don't want them to have to read a bunch of versions (if I can help it).

Julie said...


Patience? Why didn't I think of that? Oh, could be because I'm on the impulsive side (just a tiny bit, I promise). I will say that right now I am reading through my first drafts (on the first one right now) and I'm loving it. Of course, a lot of work is needed, but I see the glimmers of what the finished novel will be like and I have to say, I'm smitten (with the first one... oh dear, I may be editing four stories simultaneously if it continues like this). ;)

Thanks for the comment!

Frankie said...

The next story should definitely have bacon in it... everyone loves bacon.

Julie said...


Your suggestion is duly noted (which means it will be ignored... if you need the play book on this one, ask your wife to show you rule 756.a-6 from the Womens' Secret Code Book, which states that when men suggest odd things, you are to nod and ignore them on principal, all the while building up self esteem just so the fall will be harder later).

Hey, thanks for stopping by, and may I recommend Charlotte's Web as your next reading assignment. :)

Now, if you'd said "Sushi" instead of bacon, you would have won the special door prize.

sanjeet said...
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