A few weeks ago I decided to apply a different organizational plan to my fiction writing work. You can read about it here, but the simple concept is that instead of working on all kinds of different stories at once, switching from project to project according to whatever seemed interesting, I would instead focus on no more than three stories at any given time.
At the end of October I gave a follow-up, though of course not much time had passed yet. So what about now?
It’s taken some adjustment. I think the way my creative mind naturally works is to churn away on lots of different ideas in the background. From time to time, something will bubble up to the surface and I’ll want to grab a hold of it and pursue it, whether it’s a new twist for a story I haven’t even started writing yet, to a potential solution to a sticking point near the end of a story that’s almost finished. There’s no way for me to stop my mind from working that way, but what I can do is strictly allocate my time to only those few stories I’ve selected to focus on. If some other idea comes up, I note it down but don’t pursue it. I save it for later, when I’m ready to work on the story in question.
I might have thought this narrowed focus would result in my being able to rapidly bring stories to a finish and get them submitted, but that hasn’t happened yet. I’ve made good progress on the three stories I mentioned in the last update, but perhaps because of this closer focus on these ideas, I’ve actually realized all three of them needed more work than I’d thought. In other words, those three stories that I’d considered to be within close reach of finality actually are more like a few steps from the finish line.
Maybe it’s proof of my belief in this new approach that I’m actually considering narrowing the focus even more. When I finish one of the three stories I’m working on, I think I’ll refrain for a while from adding a new third story, and further narrow the focus down to only two. Maybe eventually I’ll work the way most professional writers do, and just do a single thing at any given time… really zero in on it with 100% of my energy until it’s finished. A few months ago that would have seemed inconceivable, not because I’m so scatter-brained that I can sit still on a single project, but because I tend to believe a story’s complexity accumulates gradually over time. So if this is true, and I work on only one story at a time, I’ll either rush the story out before it’s had a chance to accumulate adequate complexity, or else I’ll only finish one story every six months or something. I believe, though, that if I can gradually train myself to think differently and apply my creative energies in a more focused way, I can apply the kind of depth I need to that one story in a more reasonable length of time and using fewer revisions.