Writing in Multiple Genres

March 24, 2008 at 11:01 am | Posted in creativity, getting organized, Jessica, writing | 2 Comments
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Back in February, I found a post written by Lauren Baratz-Logsted on Juggling Genres and the thoughts she shared have been bouncing around in my head ever since as I try to process what she said and see how it applies to my own genre juggling.

I admit, I was relieved to hear how Lauren phrased her reasons for diversifying her writing because quite honestly I had begun to think that I suffered from Writer’s A-D-D. My brain just does not want to hunker down and stay fixed in one particular genre or on one particular project at a time . . . and I have been struggling with myself in wondering if I just lacked the discipline to focus on the work at hand or if my creativity tended to function better if I gave it some license to roam from one project to the next.

After reading Lauren’s argument and after thinking through some other advice I have received over the years, I acquiesce that perhaps I land with a foot in both camps. And I have concluded that having Writer’s A-D-D is not wholly a bad thing.

The good news is that I have more than one idea when it comes to the stories I want to tell. The well is well-stocked and the voices all compete for air time. I have suffered creative draughts at times in the past, and, speaking from that experience, the schizophrenia is a much more cherished problem to have!

I have found, too, that when things start to stall on one project I can switch gears and start on another. And that change in focus somehow helps kickstart ideas and a number of solutions flow in a way that would not have happened if I forced myself to jackhammer through the block. Switching between projects tends to free my thoughts.

I like, too, that I will have different projects to discuss with different industry professionals, when and if I have the opportunity. The pendulum in the industry swings in odd ways at unexpected times, and you never know how your variety of projects may fit into the market. But for me, I write what feels authentic rather than to write what’s hot right now.

There are some dangers I can foresee in starting more than one wip at a time and in more than one genre, especially for an unpublished author —

–I know of a number of colleagues who are great at conceiving of new and interesting book ideas and getting the intro and some bones down on paper. The books start off well and have great promise, but these writers get to chapter three and decide to start something else . . . then never get back to the project left behind. The danger here is in not finishing what is started. This is where Writer’s A-D-D is potentially very destructive. Without the pressure of a contract or a drop-dead deadline, an unpublished author’s flexibility in this instance can do more harm than good.

–Some additional advice for unpublished authors wanting to write in multiple genres is to be consistent with the first few projects you sell out of the gate. The goal is to build an audience with your author brand so that readers know what kind of story they will get when they purchase one of your books. The consistency will build readership and anticipation . . . and rolling out books in more than one genre can stall loyalty and momentum.

The reasoning in Lauren’s post struck such a chord with me — we each are complex creatures with many sides to our lives and personalities, so what is more natural for a writer than to want to explore all those facets of being human? It is an excellent way to keep the writing fresh and interesting for ourselves, which is something Bria will talk about on Wednesday.

For now, I will leave you with another helpful blog post from CopyBlogger on 3 Sure-Fire Steps For Beating the Content Blues. These tips are great for people who may suffer from some attention deficit with their writing. I hope they help and I hope you keep writing — and if you’re working on more than one project in more than one genre, we’ll be rooting for you to find success with all of them!

-Jessica

Model Through It . . . otherwise known as Make It Work

March 10, 2008 at 11:16 am | Posted in career, getting organized, Jessica, writing | 2 Comments

I once worked with a woman who said, ‘I can juggle ten balls just fine but give me one more and I will drop all of them.’  Right now, I feel like I am juggling about fifteen. Some continue to stay air born, a few have bounced off the floor, but I just pick them up and push forward as best I can. It is a test of skill, patience, and mental and physical stamina to say the least. 

 

It feels a little like being back in college for me – after a while, you triage your priorities into the categories of what absolutely needs to be done NOW, what can come secondary, what is of least priority, and what it is that I either wish I could be doing or would rather be doing that will have to wait until the main priorities get addressed.

 

I have been in dire need of down time but have had to sacrifice most of my unwinding activities to address the NOWs.  Because of that, I missed the Project Runway finale (horror!) this past week and although I know who won and have seen clips of the collections online, I am still disappointed I missed the show.  Wednesday is my guilty TV night and oddly enough the catch phrases from my Wednesday night shows speak to how I am getting through this demanding rough patch. Whether it’s Tim Gunn’s, ‘Make it Work,’ or Tyra Banks’s, ‘Model Through It,’ the message is to work through the problems and get the job done.

 

Sigh.

 

So that’s where I’m at this week.  Suffering a little bit of burnout but putting the fatigue and stress aside as best I can to keep pushing to get the NOWs done.  The good news – once I get through the NOWs I have a fun writing project and a TBR stack I want to get back to!  So there’s my reward, which helps make this demanding rough patch a little more tolerable.  There is an end in sight!

 

Keep writing!

-Jessica 

Recovery – Getting Over Writing Roadblocks

February 27, 2008 at 10:16 am | Posted in Bria, getting organized, goal setting, motivation, writer's block, writing | 1 Comment

Writing is wonderful. Writing is difficult. Writing is relaxing. Writing is stressful.

And life multiplies each of those sentiments times ten.

As many of you know I’ve been jobless for 8 months due to lots of things (as you read this, I’m in training on my first day at my new job HURRAY.) During my unemployed time, I tried to make the most of my “struggling artist” phase and got a lot done on the writing front.

It was going so well. Too well apparently.

Flashback to several weeks ago when my laptop died and brought part of my hard drive with it. Now it’s back and I need to get remotivated, reorganized, and generally stop feeling bad for myself.

But how?

1. Assess
What did I lose and how can I replace it?
(ex: This week I must finish comparing paper trail to old saved hard copy)
2. Plan
Whenever taking on a large chunk of work, break it into smaller bits and schedule it. Goals can be motivators if they’re S.M.A.R.T. Goals
3. Act
Wallowing can be a huge barrier. Personally, I spent ½ the week wallowing and now it’s time to really jump into Step One.

A small writing disaster isn’t the only time we need to recover. We all have things that pull us away from our writing.

Computer issues
Family issues
Work issues
Transportation issues
Illness
Weather getting you down
Scattered Priorities

And tons of others – the key is not to let something that slows you down, stop you. I remember the days of growing up in sports and my soccer coach literally yelling “run through the pain” (I hear they don’t yell that until you’re in high school now) – but that is sometimes what you have to do:

Write Thru The Pain

Because eventually, it becomes a joy again.
Go Asses/Plan/Act – but, whatever you need to do, find your joy.
-bria


Somewhere between work and love…

January 25, 2008 at 12:54 pm | Posted in books, getting organized, Karen Foley, Meg | 2 Comments

When all is said and done, I think I’m an organized person. I color code my calendar to keep track of all my family’s appointments, my crazy work schedule (I currently have three part-time jobs) and social occasions. I have notebooks for each job and home to jot down things I can’t juggle in my head. Bills are kept in a separate file and junk mail is immediately discarded. I even maintain all the records at my main job- attendance, registrations, evaluations, etc.- all in a carefully constructed system. I can do this in most areas of my life, so why can’t I do it in my writing?I do have a notebook for all my literary pursuits. The front opens to conference issues; the back lists topics for the blog. Somewhere in the middle section, notes on writing ideas begin in a jumbled fashion depending on what I’m working on (the new YA or submitting the women’s fiction). Yet this is the extent of my organization. I wish I did more.

For example, I’ve always heard it’s best to research your genre and know what’s out there so I’ve been reading numerous YA authors. I know what I’ve liked about the books and what I didn’t like. Problem is, I haven’t been keeping track of the important aspects of the books to see if there is a general theme to them. Sort of like what our Heartlette Karen Foley did when she targeted the Blaze line.

Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing Karen share the research she did before jumping from historicals to Blaze. She read a large number of Blaze novels (maybe 60?) and kept a spreadsheet of important aspects- when the hero and heroine meet, first kiss, first sex scene, number of sex scenes, etc.- so she could learn the ‘rules’ of these typical novels before she wrote one to target the line. An impressive organized approach to writing. And I’m jealous of it.

I’m not a spreadsheet person (see Bria or Jessica for those) and the thought of designing one to monitor my YA reads gives me a headache. However, unless I start focusing on what may have made the books different enough to attract a publisher’s interest, all my reading may be a waste of time (and we know how I hate wasting time!). But the thought of dissecting each chapter and reading it as a ‘researcher’ instead of a reader makes me want to cry. I worry it will ruin the enjoyment of the book and will turn it into work instead of play.

Take my current read- Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. I’ve fallen in love with her characters. Why? I don’t know. The heroine is a flawed, unpopular, sad fish in a zoo, if that makes sense, and I desperately want her to be happy. And the hero? He’s enigmatic, hot and cold, and a bit arrogant (aren’t they all- and note, I’ve only started the book so I haven’t gotten to the why he’s like this), but I think I’m falling for him. Every time he enters the scene, I catch my breath and wait, just wait to see what he’ll say or do. Why? What is so special about Stephanie’s writing that makes me want to crawl into the book or read them out of it a la Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart?

So if anyone has any ideas on how to organize my reading so it can be both enjoyable and useful, let me know. I would love to balance both!

Meg

Organized Chaos

January 21, 2008 at 9:43 am | Posted in getting organized, Jessica, writing | Leave a comment

I’ve heard people say that a cluttered desk is the sign of a busy person, which I believe and perpetuate since I am one of them. But for me, a cluttered desk is also the sign of a cluttered mind, which is a state that I find both aids and hinders my creative process.

It aids me in that there is never an end to the thoughts, voices, and activity taking place ‘upstairs’. The hindrance comes in trying to sift through the detritus to relate what’s in my head and get it down on paper. In a logical, coherent way.

I’ve been toying with a new book idea for a while. I tend to have to let my ideas take root and nest before I am able to translate the story from mind-image to words-on-the-page. I have a different kind of love for this story and want to do a better job in telling it than I have with past manuscripts. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned a lot since working on my last book or maybe it’s because there are some more personal elements entwined with this idea. Whatever it is, I want to give this story greater justice.

This year the two areas I want to work on with my writing are plot and story structure. In my past manuscripts, my mid-sections have tended to lag, sag, and frag. When I reach that point in my writing momentum I feel like I’m behind the wheel of a muscle car where I wail on the gas and race in circles, peeling out and doing endless donuts. Not fun, at least from the writing perspective. I’ve always worked from a loose, mental outline . . . so I know one solution to the ‘writing donuts’ is to do a better job of getting my work-in-progress organized before I veer off and make some potentially bad plot decisions.

With the road map idea in mind, I’m going to try to be faithful to three organizing tools as I piece together this new book.

The first tool is one I’ve mentioned beforeHeather Laskowski’s story boarding tips. This exercise will help me better visualize my plot and distill it down to its basic pieces. I’ve already started pulling together the images and themes needed for the story boards. Fun!

The other two tools are mentioned in the Writing World article, “Your Story Outline: What It’s All About” by Rekha Ambardar.

One is the idea of a “W” folder, a low-tech method to plot your story by using the three-act structure. Bria has got me practicing with conflict squares, and assigning the squares to the different junctures in the “W” has been very helpful to me in getting some thoughts not only more organized but more concise.

The other tool I look forward to using on this book is another low-tech option: index cards! I have heard a number of authors talk about the different ways they use index cards, but my cluttered mind always dismissed the idea as just one more thing I had to keep track of . . .

While writing my past four books, I had always embarked on the process in a strict, linear way — it was the storytelling process that fell within my comfort zone. But as I mentally formulate this new book, I see the story in pieces . . . some which are linked to one another . . . but then I’ll conceive of another vivid piece that takes place at a random juncture within the larger whole. I have some of the pieces already determined, but not enough to lay the book out in my ‘traditionally’ linear way. As I puzzle through the remainder, I think this new book will have to lend itself to organization-by-index-card. Scene by random well-drawn scene – the cards can let me shuffle and organize at will. I’ve gone from not wanting to be bothered, to anxious to get started.

What do I have to lose? I can’t be any worse off than I have been in the past, and I may actually enjoy the process a bit better. What I like too, is that I’ll have a clearer road map but also have the flexibility to stray if the creative process craves a sanctioned detour.

What tools do you use to help keep these massive projects on track? We’d love to receive your tips!

Happy writing!

-Jessica

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