I’m not the only writer with 18 books in progress, am I?
I love a story when it’s still in the bud and bursting with potential. I most often write picture books, which are very short and take up little file space. A few of my PBs-in-progress are first drafts, but most are mere outlines and premises, some with research notes or character sketches, all with the potential to be brilliant and charming because I haven’t quite written them yet.
I have a few easy-readers-in-progress (they started out as picture books but spilled beyond the scope), plus one almost-finished chapter book and four middle grade novels at varying stages of completion. And those are just my books-in-progress. I’m not counting the five finished books sitting in my “polish and submit” file box. Nor am I counting the other dozen sitting in editorial in-boxes across North America.
I take my writing messy, like my home improvements and quilting projects. The idea stage is so much fun, and all the other stages are so much work, it’s too hard to start and finish one thing at a time. As long as I get around to finishing them eventually, I am happy with my work.
Picture books are easy to write in stages because their worlds are small enough to fit several in my head. I can easily pick up the thread when inspiration hits for plotting, rethinking, researching, revising, polishing.
Novels are much tougher because my brain can’t hold too much information. I only flit between novels in the early stages of research and outlining. When a novel is ready to write, flitting away from it will spell its doom. I’m now two-thirds finished a novel. I won’t glance at another unfinished book until I’ve drafted that last third.
But oh, how I want to! Jotting down ideas and pacing the room working out plotlines is great fun, whereas writing is a total drag. (I don’t feel like sewing the border on my nearly-done quilt, either, and I dread hanging the doors back on the kitchen cupboards I just painted.)
Finishing anything requires hard work, there’s just no getting around it. With writing, I’ve found that outlines help. If I fully outline a novel, I have something to focus on when inspiration runs out — and it will run out. I don’t have to be inspired to write today; I just have to look at my outline and do what it says. It’s like exercising to a DVD. I just follow along.
Some days I zip through several scenes of my outline, totally engrossed in the story. Other days I drag myself through an hour of writing. What matters most is that I make progress toward completion and keep the story alive in my mind. Finishing the book then becomes inevitable.
I like to have many projects on the go, but I’ve come to trust that new ideas will always arise. I can write my books-in-progress and still have many new stories in the bud. Slowly, I’m developing a habit of finishing things. I will hang the cupboards doors this week, and I will stitch my quilt border while watching mediocre movies, and I will sit down every day and flesh out my novel outline to get that last third drafted.
Then one day soon I’ll have a gorgeous kitchen, a gorgeous quilt, and another gorgeous book!