Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Serial Monogamy, Open Relationships and Speed Dating—a writer’s world.

Carol Tanzman checking in! 

The other day, a writer friend, Jennifer Bosworth, posted on Facebook that she was starting a third Work in Progress  (WIP). I responded by saying that I thought reading three books at once was a lot!

I am a serial monogamist with regards to writing. I can only work one manuscript at a time until a draft is done. I wish I could juggle a couple of them. Conventional writing wisdom, if there is conventional writing wisdom, says that having a couple of projects in the hopper at any one time is good. If you get stuck on one, you can switch to the other.  I imagine it’s like the new TV show Awake.

The main character appears to live in two realities at the same time (which is the dream world, which the real?) and is a cop in both. So he’ll use a clue from one reality to solve the crime in the other. Talk about working all the time! You’d get so much done, so much faster.

Sadly, I can’t do that. My greatest luxury in life is having more than two days at a time to write. It always takes me a couple of hours, after being away for "real life", to get back into the world of a book. I want to be open to my characters so they can whisper their secrets—which for me, means not having other characters vying for my mental attention.

And then, of course, there is the “solving the problem” problem.  Oh, how tempting it is to think that if I worked on something else, the problem in the first project would somehow be solved. I know that happens for other people. Alas, not for me. I need to work it and work it. Try this, try that… come at the problem from a different POV or a different angle. I do have a trick or two (here’s my post on the 20 Stupid Things List that does help) but it all takes time. Time in which my mind has to be focused exclusively on one manuscript.

I don’t listen to music when I write. Unlike my friend Leigh Purtill, I don’t struggle with whether or not to unplug (her post here). I learned early on to shut off the internet and twitter whenever I’m working. The world can wait. My plot cannot!

Perhaps it’s my theatre background. Whenever you go into the rehearsal room, that’s it. Shut the door, rehearse! There’s nothing but the text, actors and sometimes the playwright to interact with. Although not as lonely as sitting at your desk with only your computer for company, the idea is the same: you are in a sacred space, for a limited amount of time, in which your sole job is to create.

What’s your process? Are you a serial monogamist—staying with one project until it’s done? Or do you have an open relationship where you can see others? Perhaps you are a speed dater, trying out different ideas to see which one you really want to spend the next year of your life with.

Let me know. I really am curious as to how others do it…


Leigh Purtill said...

First of all, how can I be Jennifer Bosworth? I would love to work on 3 books at once. I'm actually serious: I think working on multiple projects might lessen the pressure of writing. When you're working on 1 book, it's easy to think your career depends on that 1 book.

But like you, I am monogamous in my writing. I *must* finish a book - I can't abandon it in the middle and start something new or else I will never get back to it. Not to mention, I have done that before: gotten distracted by the new shiny thing (NST) only to learn that the NST is just as tough as the original book.

Thanks for reminding me of my own advice. I need to unplug so I can finish this rewrite. The longer I drag it out, the more pressure I feel to get it done.

Cheers, Carol~

Wendy Corsi Staub said...

I'm a one-book-at-a-time woman too! In terms of writing, anyway--just always have other manuscripts in various stages of production. This week, for example, I'm writing the first chapter of the first book of a new trilogy while tweaking the third book of the last trilogy and proofing galleys of the first book of the last trilogy. Do I get confused? Yes. But not as confused as I would juggling a couple of husbands... ;-)

Anita Grace Howard said...

Great way to put it, Dan. And I'm totally a serial monogamist when it comes to my WIPs. But I can juggle writing a WIP and revising another. I just can't write two or more at once. ;)