I don’t know about other writers, but when I’m working on one project, it’s pretty hard to set it aside to work on something else. I guess I feel like if I don’t push the current story through to completion, I’m giving up on it. Sometimes I might have several other stories clamoring to be told, but they have to wait until I get the first story out of the queue.
The longer I work on something, the more likely I have other stories backing up in the queue. I almost always have several ideas for stories floating around in my brain, but then something happens—I learn a new fact, or a new angle occurs to me—and an idea turns into a story, ready to write. My fear is always that if I don’t start writing it soon, I’ll lose it, the story will lose immediacy and fade away.
What it comes to, essentially, is that I have to write the thing that is most immediate—that is, the story that is most alive in my creative brain. If that’s not what I’m currently working on, well then, that story I’m working on is probably in trouble. But “most alive” doesn’t mean that a lot of other characters, settings, thematic ideas, and whatnot, aren’t also alive and clamoring inside to have their time on the page. I suppose it’s a little like being insane, hearing voices, begging to be released.
Oh, stop looking at me that way.
As I blogged previously, I’m trying write four new stories during October. As the month began, I had a new story I was (I thought) ready to begin writing, and at least two other ideas I hoped (still hope) I’d be able to make into stories. Unfortunately, when I started to work on the first new story, I found myself blocked because I hadn’t finished the previous current story in my queue.
So, after a couple of days, I decided I’d just better return to that previous story, even though it was begun prior to October. It’s a story that’s gotten well out of hand from what I initially thought it would be—just a quick, 4,000–5,000 word short story. Currently, it’s pushed over the 15,000 word mark, and part of the reason it’s taken me so long is that I’ve struggled all along with whether I should keep writing to its natural conclusion, knowing it will be very difficult to market, or if I should start again, focusing on the shorter word count but knowing that makes for a quite different story.
You see, writing is hard. In case I’ve never mentioned that before. But if you’re a writer, you already know this. The good news is that I believe I’m just a day or two from wrapping up this story, in first draft form, anyway. Although, depending on how I end it, I might have to revise some of the opening sections for consistency. And naturally, the whole thing requires a solid edit/revision all around. But one step at a time—a finished draft is worth celebrating.
Perhaps most important, writing this story out of my queue opens the way for the next story to take its place. In the grand scheme of the October challenge, I’m behind in my goal, but not so much that I can’t make it up. So, get the mood music turned up loud, blinders on, and down to business. Write on!
Hey, and don’t forget to leave a comment to let me know how my experience with the story queue relates to your own. I’d love to hear how other writers deal with this problem.
Follow B. K. Winstead on Twitter at @bkwins