Thursday, October 29, 2015

Keepin' It Straight While Mixin' It Up

by Kris Fletcher

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked on just one book at a time.

Those were the days.

Part of it was because I only had one story in my head. I've never been one of those writers who have more ideas than they will ever have time to write: I have to hunt my stories in the wild, following their path and luring them back to my computer with chocolate and iced lattes. Also, way back when, I was so busy learning the new world of writing - wordsmithing and characters and plotting and Facebook and agents and contests and submitting - that there was no room left for more than one book. As Winnie the Pooh said, I am a bear of little brain. Choices had to be made.

Things are different these days.  I start my day brainstorming/plotting one book, switch to pages on another, and then often need to do revisions or copy edits or whatever on a third. It's a somewhat fractured existence but it works for me. Planning ahead means that by the time I've finished the first draft on a book, the next one is in a state of readiness. Revising while I write another gives me time to put some distance between myself and the first draft, making it easier to catch problems. And planning one story while writing or revising another in the same series makes it easier to set up elements in one book that will pay off in the next - or to make sure I follow through on a story thread set up in a previous book. Not that I would ever forget. Of course not. (See the aforementioned comment re: a bear of little brain.)

Despite the benefits, there are definite challenges to working this way. With five kids, I'm accustomed to dividing my attention in many directions, but I still need to pay attention. I haven't put the wrong character in a story (yet), but some setting elements have become a bit blurred at times. (What country am I writing in now? Anyone? Bueller?)

Many writers use collages or vision boards to help them switch from one world to the next. (For some amazing examples, check out these from Jenny Crusie.) I'm not a visual person, so the closest I come to collaging is to pin something on Pinterest (such as this board for Dating a Single Dad).

No, what really helps me make the switch is time and music. I do a soundtrack for each book. It doesn't necessarily follow the action, but each song will capture a mood, an element of character emotions, something that makes me connect to those characters. These all have lyrics, so I can't use them while I write pages. But I'll finish up my brainstorming time (done in silence), then crank up the soundtrack for the book I'm drafting and sing along while answering email or throwing food in the crockpot or writing a blog post. (Here's what I'm listening to whilst writing this.) When it comes time to revise, I repeat the music & time process. It anchors me in each world and - bonus - gives me a definite time to get through all the other little items on the to-do list.

What things help you move from one task to another?

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