Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Looking Back or Moving Forward?

Anybody who has written for a while has likely faced this predicament: Do you go back and fix up an older project, or do you move forward?

Here's my situation. I'm revising my current WIP and, although struggling a bit with the middle (what else is new, right?) I am getting close to finishing. I am also in the early stages of planning my next story, and am getting excited about it. But now I've also received feedback suggesting that my previous story might be more marketable if I increase its length by about 30 to 40 percent.

I've been focused on my current WIP for quite a while and really want to finish it. I probably need to let it sit for a little while, but not until I finish the current round of revisions. Normally, I start my next project during this resting period, and my brain has been working on it while I go about my daily business, and I'm looking forward to finding out what it has come up with.

So, do I want to go back and work on an older project again when my brain is trying to move ahead with something new? I really like the story, but do I like it enough? It's not doing anybody any good just sitting there, but now, thanks to this feedback, I no longer think of it as finished. I don't know how I could add that much, but I do know my brain is working on it back in some dusty corner where I don't know what's going on, and that eventually something will present itself to me.

I also have an even older manuscript collecting dust. Every once in a while, I read about some agent who might be interested in something like it, so I shoot off a query. But, I've moved on. I don't even think about that one anymore unless something brings it to my attention.

And, I have several more ideas for new stories percolating. I've even played around with some of them.

It comes down to that old question writers often face. When do you let go and move on?

I realize that it's kind of a good problem to have. Better to have too many ideas than to have only one that you work to death. It's a luxury to have multiple stories at tugging at me. But at the same time, it affects my focus on any one story. I can work on two things at once if I'm writing one and revising the other, but add one more and the balance is shattered.

And with a month-long vacation looming on a very near horizon, with no definite plans beyond writing, decisions must be made or I risk paralysis that could keep me from getting anything done.

I guess it beats writer's block.


Tabitha Thompson said...

Ack! I'm with you, I can do more than one story, but really only one is in the initial writing stages. The others have to feel like they are in clean-up mode.

But I write fastest when I'm excited about a project, so I say get everything down that is specific (like that one scene you can see so clearly), then make notes for the ret of it to go off of.

That can be your reward for spending more time beefing up the older one. And, in writing the new one, it might set off some ideas about *how* you could beef up the old one.

Good luck!

Scott said...

Thanks, Tabitha.

As I continue to think about this topic, I realize that writers live in warped time. A past project is still a current work until we declare it finished or give up on it. We have ideas that are many years old filling space in our folders and in our head, ready to break out more fully conceived at any time. While we are working firmly in the present, future ideas pop up and are added to our files. An experiment from decades ago, one that didn't work, might resurface in a way that might just work after all.

I guess time doesn't mean much, until we're up against a firm deadline.

Bruce Luck said...

It seems to me when the mind is engaged and excited about something, don't let those create juices dry up. Yet, "close to finished" is a strong argument the other direction. Can you do both, one hour this project, one hour that? Or one day this, one day that?

Like you said, a good problem to have.

Julie Daines said...

Scott, I'm working on three projects right now, with two more ideas begging to be written--one of which has a few chapters, in fact.

Such is the writers life.