How many stories should you work on at once? That’s a question many authors have had with themselves at some point. I am working on three right now, but I don’t give equal emphasis to all of them. The question is, should you work on more than one at a time?
There are many things to consider when asking yourself this question. Do you have the discipline needed to work on more than one, and to finish them? Do you have a deadline for any one of them, or all of them? Self-published authors may have self-imposed deadlines, or no deadline at all, while authors working with a publisher just might have rigid deadlines.
Maybe the first question should be - how much time do you have to write? If you’re like me and writing is your main occupation, you may have hours a day to write. If you’re juggling a family, and possibly a full time job, you might be sneaking in writing time on a train during your commute, or in the morning before the family gets up, and so on. I can work on more than one book at a time because I can adjust my writing hours how I like, but I have friends who guard their limited writing time jealously.
Now, you decided you have time, but can you keep the stories straight? Do you have notes, or a good memory? Are your characters unique enough that you don’t mix them up? I’m more likely to have two incredibly different books on the go at once, like a Young Adult fantasy and maybe a romance novel under my other pen name. Right now I’m also working on a Young Adult adventure set in a different world than the Forest Guardians, with a different girl as my main character. I could never keep two Forest Guardians books straight if I were trying to write two at once, so I don’t do that. What works for you?
Do you want to give equal attention to more than one project, or do you have a main project and a second (or more) story that you’re writing as you have time? I’ve sometimes worked on two projects equally, and other times I focused on one book while the others got added to a little at a time. When my third Forest Guardians book was almost done, I focused on it, letting the other books become background projects for a few weeks. What works for you?
The advantage to multiple projects, if you have the time and focus, is you can work wherever you’re most inspired. Sometimes one project will feel “sticky” and maybe you don’t know what will happen next. Work more on the other one, and I find the sticky parts sort themselves out over a couple of days. I’m almost always inspired by something in at least one story, so I almost always feel productive.
How about you? Do you like working on one project at a time, or do you like to be busy with more? What works for you?
I’ve learned recently that these two terms don’t just apply to books, but can apply to series as well. In fact, you can use both methods for books or for series.
Simply explained, if you plot out your books ahead of writing them, you’re a plotter. If you start writing and figure out what happens as you go, you’re a pantser. With my books, I’m a little bit of both, plotting out the big things, but letting the individual scenes sort of appear as they will within that framework.
Recently I started working on book 5 of the Forest Guardians series. It looks like it’ll be the last book in the series, pulling together the stories from the previous books into a cohesive whole. I’m not saying it’ll be the last series in that world or with those characters, but for the series, I’m not sure there’s anywhere else it will need to go.
Now, each book was plotted out to a decent amount of detail before I started them. Many times I was surprised fairly early into the writing and there were some changes to the storyline, but generally no massive rewriting has been needed.
DId I plot out the series in advance? Heck, no. I actually figured the series would be four books, one adventure in each forest, and that’s it. Each adventure could stand alone, in my original intention. So, how did that work out for me?
Well, book four came to me as I was writing book three, pushing the original book four to become book five. Book five is fully outlined now and I’m writing it. Elements of all four earlier books will tie into this story, bringing closure to a series of points from previous books, sometimes only minor plot points at the time, and sometimes something much bigger.
Yes, I’m a pantser when it comes to series. I admit it and own it. Still, it’s working for me. Book 5 plotted itself out in about 45 minutes, and I’m working on the section where everything finally all comes together.
Now, while I pants my series, I don’t really pants my world. I thought out how things would work, how magic might work, and what is or is not possible. I have a journal with notes on characters, artifacts, places, and more. By keeping these details consistent, I’ve been able to pants my series and still have something cohesive to draw together.
Can some authors pants the whole thing, series, books, details, and all? Absolutely. Still, if you’re newer to writing, I recommend at least plotting the basics. It’ll help you keep your stories well paced and your main points consistent. Some authors plot out every detail and write the entire series before publishing. Try things, and learn what works for you. Writing a book is as much a journey as the story you tell. Sometimes the journey is straight, and sometimes your path is winding and you learn as you go. Either way, get writing!
I had a lovely vacation after releasing Scout's Honour. It's good for me, as a creative type, to make sure I have mental breaks. This doesn't necessarily mean I'm not being creative, but it means I'm being creative on my own terms.
As an author, I view my writing time seriously. I set aside my mornings five days a week just to write. I take Wednesdays and Saturdays off from the stories I write to publish, so I can keep my creative self fresh and ready to go. What do I do with that time?
All kinds of things. I love to make art. My favourites are crayons and watercolour pencils. Watercolour pencils just might be the neatest things around, and they're so versatile. I adore sewing, and am working on Aili's (and other character's) outfits already. Cooking is a lot of fun, and I've been looking at making recipes for some of the foods Aili loves in the books. Mashed roots and berries, or pan bread, anyone? I'm really into photography, especially wildlife photography. The local zoo is my playground (at least in normal times).
I also have personal stories I write, where I can explore any topic I want. Do I want to go into space? Maybe explore personal relationships? My personal stories are a great way to do this.
Even when I'm on vacation, I write every day. Maybe it's personal stories. Maybe I'm writing a journal entry for myself. Maybe I'm working on another blog I have. I can't help but write. It's what I do. By varying what I write, I keep my creativity alive.
So, what do you do to keep your creative self happy? Not everyone can organize their life around writing (or art) and some people must catch writing time whenever they can. We all have different needs, so we must find what works for us personally.
This photo was taken at the zoo. I'd never seen the big cats so active. For more photos I've done, you can visit www.deviantart.com and search for the user waverain. Now that I've learned a lot more about photo editing, it might be time to look through my collection again!
That’s right, Book 4, Scout’s Honour, is now published and available from your local Amazon site. It’s been a fun time getting this book written, as Aili got to try a new kind of adventure compared to book 3.
Getting a book out into the world takes a lot of concentration and effort. it’s worth every moment, every doubt, those early mornings or late nights. At the end, you can look back at everything you accomplished and be proud.
However, I found I do best if I take some time off after each book, and let my mind and body unwind. The last couple weeks are the most stressful and busy of all. I’m giving myself at least three days, maybe a whole week, to relax and do non-book related things. I have other hobbies I set aside the last couple weeks, and it’s time to enjoy them again. I don’t stop writing, but I give myself a break from my professional writing. I still write personal stories for my own pleasure. Writing daily is good for the brain, no matter how much or little you write.
So, have fun and keep writing. I’ll do the same, though for the next few days at least, I’m on vacation!
I love writing. It’s so freeing. I can go on adventures wherever I want with whoever I want. My characters even behave, mostly. Still, writing is not the only thing I love to do.
Recently, I’ve gotten into sewing in a big way. I’ve learned all kinds of skills, and I do have a goal with it. Cosplay! I’m also a gamer and I love the fantastic, wizard’s robes and tunics and fancy clothing from fantasy lands. Then I realized, I have my own fantasy land I can enjoy playing with, too...
I’ve written some descriptions of what my characters would wear in my books. Sometimes I’ve left it pretty open to the reader’s imagination. Other times I’ve described an item pretty well. You know, it would be fun to make some of this stuff! For instance, ornate robes from the University faculty, or the Mages Council would be fun and colourful. The dark robes of the CDF (you meet them in book 4) would be ominous and almost Assassin’s Creed like. The Healer’s wear simple robes that can be laundered, but have trim and such for identifying their skills and rank.
I’ve described Aili’s clothing and the Scout gear in more detail, and can add things, like belt pouches they’d need and gloves and more things useful in a forest. I love the flowing cloaks, though I think Aili would wear a smaller and less billowing one than I’ve made for the Wizard Cosplay I’m working on. Hers would also be darker and probably green.
Clothing doesn’t just give us more details to write about. What a character wears is going to impact how they move and behave. If Aili was in robes all day she’d never vault onto Leya so easily and go tearing through the bush. Her robes would catch in the bushes and be ripping all the time, even with magic to protect it. The Grandmaster of the University moves regally and gracefully, and can wear silky robes that seem to float, because other than some stairs (robes need to be short enough, maybe with leggings), she doesn’t have to get physical quickly.
Even when reading other writer’s books, I sometimes can imagine what the characters would wear. When reading The Shard by Jane Shand, about Nalani who sells cloth, I could picture the fine cloth in the basket, and imagine what she would be wearing. Climate also would affect it, so even a style came to mind, colours and all.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s always the robes of the Harry Potter series. Who doesn’t want to go to Hogwarts? Until then, I’ll remain a Jedi, or maybe be a teacher at the College of Winterhold in Skyrim, or become a keyblade wielder from Kingdom Hearts. With cosplay, the possibilities are endless. One thing’s for sure, I will make some clothing from my own world because I can, and I’ll have fun doing it.
Why stop at writing when there are so many ways to bring a story to life? What foods might they enjoy? I’m going to try a recipe for the pan bread they love over campfires. That could be fun!
Those pesky little things, ideas. We need them for books to happen, but where do they come from?
I'm full of ideas. I have files of ideas on my computer, books waiting to happen. I even have a few works in progress that got set aside temporarily, because other ideas formed that are more important to me right now. After all, book 4 of the Forest Guardians series is nearing completion, and book 5 is already forming and ready for a full outlining.
When I first started book 3, Healer's Strength, I had a rough idea what book 4 was going to be about. Actually, during the writing of book 3 AIli threw a new idea at me. Book 4 became book 5, and a new book 4 developed, all because she had other ideas. I'm happy with the result, but I had a plan, darn it! Actually, book 3 formed from a single scene in book 2, as I had no inkling of what book 3 was going to be when I started book 2...
My ideas come from two places, really. The first is activities I love, such as martial arts or horses or sewing or cooking or anything like that. I wonder "what would it be like if..." and my imagination takes it from there. The second place I get ideas from is characters I create. For instance, Aili has taken on a life of her own and she regularly gives me ideas. What would happen if she encountered this, or saw that, etc...Even Andvari and Kyson will have a book about their younger Scout days at some point.
Where else do I get inspired? I love writing prompts. There are some excellent prompts out there on various webpages, but the best I've found through Pinterest. Sometimes they're a quick conversation between two characters, a few sentences at most, other times they're a single phrase. Who would say that? Why? I can always have fun with writing prompts.
Where else? Sometimes from quotes online. Some of my favourites are these:
If everything around you seems dark, look again, you may be the light. - Rumi
It's okay if you fall down and lose your spark. Just make sure that when you get back up, you rise as the whole damn fire. - Colette Werden (inspired a martial arts book I'm working on)
It's easy to listen to what you are taught. But it is difficult to find what you have within yourself and master it as your own. - Gogen Yamaguchi (inspired Aili and the Forest Guardians)
She is a true fighter, you can see it in her eyes. She was not born strong, she was made strong. She was sculpted to be her own hero when the world lets her down, and she keeps picking herself back up! - unknown (inspired a romance book under another pen name I use)
Characters are often inspired by people I know, or even other characters I love, though I make them my own. Sometimes they're a mashup of a few people who had similar traits. It's not just about their traits, but also about their hopes and dreams, what makes them want what they want. Even the "bad guy" is a hero in his own mind.
What inspires you?
It’s been a crazy month, but the new covers are out. The cover for the fourth book is ready as well. Book four is coming along, not quite halfway done, but getting close.
What else am I up to? I’m rereading the books in print form. I wrote a story I’d enjoy reading, and I am having fun with my stories. I’m also finding typos that made it through multiple rounds of editing. I find them a lot easier to find in paper form and not on a screen. I might start getting proof copies and reading them before I release books now.
So, what’s up with all the typos? A big part of them at the time was the computer I was using. The keyboard was wearing out. Sometimes letters wouldn’t be added, despite the key being pushed. I’m loving the new computer. No matter what I type, it ends up on the screen. So wonderful, not having to go back and retype letters that didn’t make it. By far, that was my most common error, missing letters.
Another issue is my brain moves faster than my fingers. I’ll get all the letters out, but maybe not quite in the right order. Our brain can also read words as long as the first and last letters are correct, so sometimes those typos slip past proofing, whether I’m doing the proofing or someone else is. It’s easier for me to catch on paper, so I’ll keep that in mind in the future.
Book 1, Runaway Magic has been edited for errors and the changes are uploaded. Book 2 is almost done, and the changes will be uploaded as soon as I can. Book 3 is next after that. Will I get them all, then? Probably, but it’s possible I won’t. Typos are a common enough problem that even traditionally published books can have them. We can strive to do our best, and at least we can fix our mistakes and move on.
So, here’s to you, pervasive typos! The bane of authors everywhere. We salute your tenacity. May you be found and destroyed...
And authors, remember that typos happen to everyone. Fix your mistakes and move on. Keep writing!
Has it really been that long since I blogged last? Yikes. I’m still having fun and writing what moves me.
I’m starting to think covers for the fourth Forest Guardians book, too. The redesign for the first three books is done, though I’m not ready to release them yet. I’m also going through and catching the typos that made it through multiple editing rounds, too. It’s fun, in a frustrating “how did that make it through” kind of way. I’m not the only one who reads my work, and the occasional error still slips through us.
I actually looked into whether I wanted to be a professional editor or proofreader a while ago. Even proofreaders miss things occasionally, and many companies want an accuracy rate of 90% or better from their employees.
So, between covers, editing, and putting the fourth book into the final draft, I’ve been rather busy lately.
What have I learned since publishing four books and having three more on the go?
1. It gets easier the more you write. This is true of most skills.
2. No matter how many times you edit, occasionally something will slip through
3. There are all kinds of programs and apps to help you write. Honestly, I prefer to do it all in Microsoft Word. Why complicate things?
4. Having a notebook for each series is a must. What did that character look like again? Was that country to the North or South?
5. Writing time needs to be jealously guarded and treated with respect
March has brought unusually beautiful weather to us, for the most part. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be exceptions. We're expecting wind gusts to 70-80 km/hr this afternoon and high winds into tomorrow. Add some rain and snow and a temperature that drops below freezing and you have the makings of a spring storm.
The thing is, these storms are so unpredictable. What does all this have to do with writing, you ask? Well, as well as writing, I keep horses at home. Just my own shaggy beasts, but they're my family. We had a major wind storm a few years ago that blew over two of our three shelters. The horses were unharmed, but we still have some spots where you can see fences were mended. It scared one of the ponies badly and was terrifying to watch.
So, to keep everyone safe and comfortable, we decided to put them into the barn today, while the wind was still down. Normally I get up and write first thing, right after my morning routine. I do my best creative work before about 9:30 in the morning, and am nearly always done by noon. Nope, today I spent the peak writing hours bringing horses in and bedding them down for the storm. As I write this, I'm watching them on the cameras, a live feed from the barn, and they're happily eating or napping on their feet.
Storms really are unpredictable. Of course, now that I brought them in, there's no wind to speak of. Never fails. It's coming, though. I don't mind sitting and writing later today, knowing they're safe and warm and doing well. Just because I have a peak writing time, it doesn't mean everything I write outside that is horrible. I'm also working on the final draft, which means the story is already together. I can make it look pretty any time of day.
Normally I'd be done working on my first story by now, and I'm only just about to start. That's okay. Sometimes life throws things at us and we need to roll with it. Now, I'm going to work. Happy writing!
It’s been rather crazy around here, but crazy in a good way. Now that winter is over and the sun is coming up at a decent hour, I’ve been making real progress on my novels. By the end of the week book 4 of the Forest Guardians series will be ready for final draft form. In some ways that’s my favourite part of writing. The story is already down and I get to make it vivid and pretty.
Just as exciting for me, I’m working with a cover design artist to give the series a new and cohesive look. I’ve seen the initial concepts and I’m very happy with all three books. Book 3, Healer’s Strength, hasn’t changed much, though the first book has changed the most.
All in all, writing is still just as fun as when I started the whole thing. It’s been a year now since I decided to write a book. I started doing online writing courses last March. I started my first novel in April and it was published last August. Two novels, actually, under two pen names, both published around the same time.
I look back at this last year and it still amazes me. I wrote four books under two pen names. I rearranged my bedroom and made a writing corner by the window. I filled that corner with a desk I made myself, with some help from my ever supportive guy, out of wood that had personal meaning to me. I formed a routine, something I seldom ever do, and stuck to it. Most of all, when I was starting from scratch, I found something I love to do (writing) and I made it a priority in my life. Now I have direction and a passion, and writing has opened other doors for me. Some of those new connections were surprising, but they’ve made my life better.
So, what are these new covers like?
You’ll have to wait and see! They’re coming soon...
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.