Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A different approach to writing books

Some time ago, I finally updated my website. I used to do this every weekend but sort of fell behind on that. Plus, I wasn’t sure if I had anything to update. I’d been struggling with some of my WIPs and was even considering ditching a few of them. But then I figured things out with my current projects and put on the site everything I have going on right now. All the books I am writing or revising.

And it was quite a list! I counted all those books and started to wonder: How the heck am I going to work on them all? Because if I didn’t work on them all, then that list would be on my site forever. And I don’t want that to happen.

In the past, I would switch between books whenever I had something new to write or if I had nothing else going on at the time and could work on revising a book I wanted to submit. But that strategy just wasn’t working for me anymore, because everything was taking too long to get done!

I knew it was time for a change. And if I wanted to work on all of those books at the same time, and not just whenever, I knew I was going to have to figure out how to do that.

After some thought and much paper-tearing over bogus ideas, I finally settled on a plan that I started using last week. And so far, this particular method is working out well for me.

At first, I divided the books between fiction, nonfiction and poetry. I also listed my daily writing things: Book-reviewing for Night Owl Reviews and the short story challenge I am currently taking part in.

Next, I decided on what days I would write certain books. Some days, I am writing fiction, and others, I’m writing nonfiction. (I can’t jump between fiction and nonfiction in the same day.) It was all spread out between Monday through Friday. (The weekends are NOT good days for me to work on books because it’s hard to get uninterrupted time to write or revise.) On Mondays and Wednesdays, I’m writing fiction. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, nonfiction AND poetry. And on Fridays, I revise two books.

I honestly thought it would be hard for me to work on several fiction projects on the same day but it’s actually not that difficult. I jump between one story and the next with ease. However, I have found that it’s helpful to read A LOT of nonfiction (books, magazine articles, Internet articles, etc.) in between these transitions.

The one thing I did not like about this method is that I’m only working on one book one day of the week. In the past, I’d work on books Monday through Friday, and some more than others. I feel guilty only one day is set aside for one book, and some authors may react to this idea with horror, but if I want to get all of those books on that list done, I need to give all of them my attention every week. Even if it’s just once a week. I might give a book an extra day as projects are either removed or finished. Also, I don't set a time limit on how much time I devote to each book. I spend as much time needed to get done what I want to do at that point.

I also don't like that I am working on books 3 times a day M-F but that's the way it has to be for this thing to work.

But the BIG thing I like about this method is that ALL of my current works-in-progress are finally getting worked on. They all have my time and attention, even if it’s just one day a week. (And as it is, I have 6 other books pending publication -- four of them are not on my website because they are self-published books I don't have a cover for yet -- so I’m not exactly in a hurry to finish the next book!) I am glad I am finally working on all of them at the same time and moving closer to getting them done.

I have said in the past that I just can’t work on ONE thing at a time. I’m the same way with reading: I can’t read just ONE book at a time. I have to have two or three projects going at once. I realize that 11 books is a bit much to have going on at once, but it is what it is. That’s the situation. It won’t always be this way and, for now, I’m using a method that works best in reaching my goal to finish them.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

How I write a short story every week

One writer’s way of getting the writing done cannot be a good system for every other writer out there. It is a series of trial and error. Lots of writers have lots of routines and methods for getting their writing done. Recently, I came across a blog post by one writer who shared a method for writing a short story every week. I thought it was a nice method, but I have come up with my own. After 6 weeks and 6 stories, it’s definitely a method that works best for me.

Fortunately, it didn’t take much trial and error for me to figure out how I was going to write a short story every week. I started using this method from the very beginning and, so far, that method is still working for me. And upon the completion of my 6th story this week, I have decided to share how I have managed to write a short story every week.

Before I even got started writing, though, I did some planning.

First, I gathered together as many ideas for short stories as I could. Believe me, there were a lot of them. In the past, there were many times I had an idea for a short story, but I rarely wrote the story. Of course I wrote some short stories – sold one and got a bunch of others published – and I did start writing them but never finished them. But there were many others I never actually got around to writing. I just wrote down as much of my idea as I could and went on to other things. Before I knew it, I had a nice collection of short story ideas, but no stories!

Until now. When I started this “short story in a week” challenge, I pulled out that list of ideas and started writing those stories. But I didn’t just jump into action on the first day of 2016. I like starting things on a Monday, so I waited until Monday, January 4th, to start writing the first short story. And I have not stopped since.

Another part of my planning was deciding just how long a week would be. Since my time to write on the weekends is VERY iffy since my kids are not at school and I do prefer “family time” on the weekends, I decided I would work on these short stories from Monday through Friday. I gave myself five days to write the story.

And, finally, I also decided that I was NOT going to stop writing to edit or revise the stories. I would not get any feedback on the stories while I was writing them, either. I would just WRITE them. When I am in the creative process, I cannot switch back and forth between writing and editing. I can’t stop to fix typos or research some thing or another. I just write. I create. I bring the story to life on paper.

I use my weekends to go over stories and fix where needed.

So, with that plan in place, I started writing the first story on that Monday. And so far, the process has gone well. I have also noticed that it is best not to limit myself to so much time to write in a short story. Just write as much of it as I can in the time I have available (which is usually in the mornings, after I have gotten my kids to school and had breakfast). So I just write as much of the story that I can then move on to other things in my day. (I am currently following a “schedule” of sorts because I am also writing books and squeezing in time for other things, and I’ll blog about that tomorrow.)

After I finish working on a short story for the day, if it’s not done yet, I’ll spend some time thinking about the story. They say a writer never stops writing, and this is very true of me. Even when I am not physically writing, I am still writing in my head. I am thinking about what I am writing. I think about what scene should happen next, the other things that need to happen in this story, and possibly the ending if I have that figured out yet. I pretty much go over the rest of the story until I am able to work on it again. That way, when I return to the desk and open the file, I know exactly what to write next.

I mentioned earlier that I usually go over the week’s story to change or edit where needed on the following weekend. I also do something else on those weekends: I plan for the next story. Here is where having my trusty list of ideas comes into play. (And since I get more short story ideas at any given time, I add to that list when possible.) Since I took on this challenge, I have discovered that the original ideas for stories did not seem all that interesting anymore. And some of them were based off of current events. So some of them just didn’t make the cut for me this time around. I either discard the idea or think about how I could change it to make it a story I think I would like to write. This has worked out well. I even managed to get a new idea based off an old idea, so it was a “surprise story” that was added to that list.

As I write each story, I keep track of them by putting “Week 1” and “Week 2” etc. over the story title. This way, I can keep track of how far I have come with this challenge.

Also, sometimes I finish writing a story before Friday. I really don’t try to push myself for a certain number of words for each story. Some stories will be long and some will be short. I just write the story that is in my head and that I feel is “enough” of a story. And when I do finish a story before Friday, I have found that I can’t really consider it to be “the end” after I have typed “the end.” I go back and add or change things. Or I’ll tweak the story here and there until I am satisfied with it.

Sometimes, I’ll end up hating the story I’m writing. A story may start off well, but sometimes I’ll think it’s getting predictable or it’s been done to death or something like that. Or maybe the ending is lousy. But even if I don’t like the story anymore, even if I think it’s stupid, I’ll keep writing it anyway. I’ll write it until I have finished it. My goal is to write a short story, not the best damn short story evah. So I keep writing the story even if I think it’s FUBAR! I’m in it for the long haul! Later on, if I still think the story sucks, and if my betas think it sucks, THEN I will fix it. But right now, all that matters is getting the story WRITTEN.

This writing challenge has definitely been interesting for me. I have enjoyed writing a variety of short fiction each week (as not all of the stories are the same genre) and it’s a great feeling to have accomplished this so far, 6 weeks into the challenge. I don’t know if I’ll be putting a selection of these stories into a book but I do know I’d like to submit some of them for publication. In fact, I have already started compiling a list of short story markets to submit to (along with a suggested story to send). I am thrilled I am able to write a short story every week because now I have proven to myself that it can be done. I CAN write a short story in a week! It’s just a matter of sitting down to write it. An idea is only an idea until somebody does something with it. And I’m very pleased that what had once been an idea for a short story is now, finally, an actual short story. It was just a matter of sitting down and writing it.

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

An update on my writing challenges

Last month, very shortly after the new year began, I decided upon two new writing challenges. I know, with most yearly writing challenges, writers usually have just one. But, for me, I ended up with two.

The first challenge – to write a page every day of the year for a novel – was something which I began on January 1st. Alas, it came to an end on January 21st. Not long after I sat down to write my page for that day did my son injure his hand and broke a bone. It was a very bad injury and he was in a lot of pain. I had to be with him! So I stopped writing to take care of him. It was not until after midnight that I got a break from caring for him and at that point, I was too worn out to do any further writing. So, the page-a-day challenge was interrupted. And even though I was at 25 pages at that point (some pages had gone over one page because of chapter endings), I decided not to proceed with that one. It was all or nothing! So I ditched it. Perhaps some other year I will try that challenge again.

The second challenge, however, is still alive and well. My second challenge was to write a short story for every week of 2016. I began this challenge on January 4th and so far I have completed a short story for every week since then. I am in the process of wrapping up this week’s short story – my 6th so far.

However, it would now seem that a new writing challenge has been thrown my way. Well, my new writing challenge for 2016 is, it would seem, to work on 11 books at the same time. That’s right: I am currently writing and revising 11 books all at once. (Writing 10 and revising 1 – a novel.) One of the books I am writing is the novel that I began writing this year. Yes, I have decided to finish writing it, because I don't want an unfinished book languishing on my hard drive. Another novel is one I am collaborating on with a friend. So, I am writing more than one novel this year, and at the same time too! (In addition to one other one!) This has been an interesting challenge for me because in the past, I NEVER worked on more than one novel at a time. I always felt it would be too difficult to be able to stay on track with more than one fictional world at one time. But miraculously, I have been able to do so. This week, I started working on my books with a new approach of writing them. So far, it is going well. And I’ll be blogging about that approach this weekend.

So now my two writing challenges for 2016 are to write a short story every week and to work on 11 books at one time. (Additionally, I am revising 1 other book, but that does not involve the creative process because it’s nonfiction so it’s not really an issue worth bringing up.)

Looks like I have a lot of writing to look forward to this year. It has been very interesting so far. I am glad that one of the original challenges is still going strong and I look forward to finding out where the other one will lead me.

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