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Project Juggling

Writers seem to split into two camps when it comes to working on projects. On one hand are those who focus on one book at a time, giving it all of their attention. Often these writers will jot down new story ideas or maybe even a scene from a different idea, but for the most part, they focus on one book.

I am not one of those writers.

My main romance blog is called "The Variety Pages" because when I first turned it into a writing-themed blog, I couldn't decide what to focus on. Such is the story of my life. I tend to get bored easily if I don't keep my brain moving. So I work on several projects at once, and while I'll be the first to admit that I'd probably finish things faster if I focused, this is how I maintain that forward motion I need to stay engaged with my work.

The first thing I do that helps me keep things straight is to have a specific schedule for when I'm going to work on which project. My normal writing time is Monday – Saturday, 10:30pm until midnight (or whenever I finish that night's work – often 1am or so). Here's how my week breaks down by project:

Monday: Tuesday's scene for romance serial (The Biker's Wench)

Tuesday: Friday's scene for romance serial (The Biker's Wench)

Wednesday: 2 scenes for the erotica serial (The Fantasy Party)

Thursday: 2 scenes for the erotica serial (The Fantasy Party)

Friday: 1 scene for romance novel (The Minister's Maid)

Saturday: 1 scene for the thriller serial (Angel Eyes)

Note that I edit better earlier in the day, so I work on the edits for Desert Heat whenever I have a few minutes at work, in the early evenings while watching my favorite TV shows and on the weekends when I have time. When I get closer to the end of the edits, I'll put a few things off for a week or so to finish editing. I get impatient when I'm close to being done with a project.

I'm not a "muse writer" – I never wait on the muse to show up to start writing. If the words won't come, I go back over what I've already written, and try to figure out why. Normally it's because I'm trying to force the story in the wrong direction. If that doesn't work, I just ask myself what the absolute worst thing is that could happen at that particular point, and I write that. Many writers won't "force" the writing...but if I have a deadline (say, a serial installment due the next day), I push forward. Most of the time it's the starting that's hard...once I get moving, the words start flowing again. I think it helps that I have a regular writing time each day – my brain is "programmed" to be in writing mode during that time. It's pretty rare that I'll just walk away if the words won't come.

I've only confused character names in a WIP once so far – while I was writing Tempest, I was also working on a now-trunked novel, and both characters were "J" names – Jake and Jeff. Upon proofreading Tempest, I found a spot where I'd interchanged the names, and had to go back and fix that. Overall though, I find that since my characters are so distinct in personality (in my head, at least), I really don't get them confused too often. Writing in different genres helps keep things separate as well.

That's really all there is to it – no real tricks, just a good schedule, discipline and some flexibility. This is what works for me – your mileage will vary.

Are you a juggler? Or do you stick with one project at a time? 

Something Needs to Happen Here...

Oh hello, neglected little writing-notes blog. How have you been? Lonely? Hmm...I'll have to do a better job of keeping you entertained, then.

Ahem. Don't mind me.

So the other night (yes, I'm leaving that "so" this time), I sat down to write a scene for The Biker's Wench, and immediately had a problem. I didn't know what "big thing" was going to happen. I write scene-by-scene, and each has to have a "twist" of some sort...something that at least some readers won't see coming, but even for those who do it will still pull them through to the next scene. Obviously knowing the twist ahead of time is ideal for setting it up.

Yet, this "not knowing" isn't a rare occurrence with me. I'll often sit down to write with no clear picture of what's going to happen next in any given scene. But I start writing anyways, and pretty soon the "big thing" just sort of pops into my head...or flows out with the rest of the writing. The thing is, I probably could have sat there all day and tried to think it out, but the very act of writing is often what frees me to see the possibilities.

Wanna know a secret? I think it's because I get bored easily - and that includes my own writing. If the story isn't going somewhere or holding my interest, my subconscious will almost always have a suggestion or three on how to make things more interesting. I just have to keep writing.

What's the last "big thing" you threw at a scene? 
Now that I've had my Kindle long enough for the shiny to have worn down a bit, I can honestly say that while I love reading on it, it's actually going to *save* me money when it comes to editing. Last week I emailed my draft of Desert Heat to the Kindle (one way to get documents of your own to it), and while my formatting is all wrong (it always is when I first export it out of yWriter), it reads just like I'm looking at a sheet of paper. To prove this to myself, I opened up the same doc on my laptop and read the first page there, then switched to read the same paragraphs on my Kindle. And immediately found a spot in the first sentence I wanted to change.

I truly have no idea why I see things differently between screen and page (or in this case, opaque screen), but I do. I don't think I could ever effectively edit myself solely on the screen. I printed Tempest out for editing - a good-sized stack of pages my printer pouted about for days after.

So, when I'm editing on the kindle, I use the arrow buttons to move the cursor in front of the word I want to leave a note by (or the end of a sentence, whatever). Then I just start "typing" (the kindle buttons are too small for that - it's more like hunt and peck with my nails, but I'm already pretty quick with it) a note to myself as if I were making a note on the hard copy. When I'm done, I hit save, and a little number appears in the ms where my note is, just like a proper footnote. You can also highlight and share these notes and such on twitter/fb...which I haven't done yet, but may experiment with eventually. Could be amusing for readers to see some of my "what was I thinking *here* notes".

You can transfer the notes to your computer, but because I normally just go through the hard copy page by page as I'm adding my changes to the laptop copy, I'll probably just do the same with the kindle - move through each note on the kindle as I type in the changes to the revision document. We'll see what my editor/proofreader says, but I think this will be just as effective as using a hard copy, simply because of the difference in appearance.

Another exciting thing Kindle has is text-to-speech...it will *read* to me! I'm a big fan of reading certain passages out loud to make sure the flow reads smoothly as I'm editing. Now I don't have to read to myself, I can turn on TTS, and listen to how it sounds. Very cool.

This morning at work, I took my Kindle up to the break room for my 15 minute break, and edited several pages during that time, no pen or paper needed. I could never really effectively work on revisions at work before, because by the time it took me to get out my pages, pen, settle in at a table, etc...it was time to pack everything back up. Not to mention the potential to draw attention to what I was doing...something I try to avoid at work.  With the kindle, I slide the power button, open the draft and go...and it just looks like I'm reading.

Needless to say, I'm utterly hooked. This is going to save me paper & ink, and allow me to do quick editing whenever I have a break or am waiting on someone/something. Fabulous for productivity.

Instructions for Maintaining Sanity

- Create a new document with "shiny new idea title" at the top
- Write down everything swirling around in head about bright shiny new idea
- Save document to "ideas" folder
- Release shiny new idea from conscious thought
- Get back to work on current projects. All three of them.

Another Day, Another Blog

I hereby declare this LJ blog "open". Because I already have an "official" blog for readers, this particular one will just be for short writing notes...the kind you'd find stuck to monitors and desktops everywhere. A glimpse into my personal process, such as it is, very short and twitter-like. :-)

Happy reading/writing! 

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jamiedebree
Jamie DeBree

Available for Purchase

Tempest
Romantic Suspense - Available in ebook & Paperback

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