Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Focus

Rachel Vincent brought up an interesting topic over on her blog today that I thought I would chime in on.

“Several people have asked me lately what I think the key is to staying focused long enough to finish an entire book, rather than flitting from one idea to the next, none of which ever get completed.”

This was actually a problem for me for a long time. Up until about five years ago, I was constantly flitting from story to story, overflowing with energy for the first 50 to 100 pages, and then a new story idea would catch my eye and I would be off and running on the new story idea without ever finishing my previous story. This was a constant problem since I also didn’t stick to any one genre. I have massive piles of unfinished stories in traditional fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction, action/adventure, contemporary romance, historical romance, and stuff I don’t even know what to call it…

Is this a bad thing? Yes and no. If you never finish a story, then you will never have a story to be published if that’s your goal. However, all these fragments were great practice for me. They honed my writing skills, strengthened my character development, added new depth to my plotting, and just helped me become a more twisted individual.

But it has to stop sometime, right? And it did for me. Why? Because I met Mira and Danaus. Those two characters from Nightwalker became a driving force for me. I loved them so much that I had to tell their story. And I knew once I started building their world that I couldn’t limit it to just one book. Their world was too big, their adventures and lives too grand to limit to just one puny book. They needed to meet the world, which meant I had to finish the book!

So, what can you do to stay focused on an entire book?

1. I totally agree with Rachel on this one – you have to love what you’re writing. You have to truly be passionate about it, because there are going to be days where you don’t want to write at all. This love affair with your book will help you get through those days.
2. Outline. Outline. Outline. I know this comes down to the plotter vs. pantzer debate, but I believe in outlining (and this is coming from someone who didn’t outline a single book until Nightwalker). If you’re not a plotter, keep it as a bare-bones outline of just main items. I’m still a pantzer when it comes to my subplots. The outline will keep you on target and on task.
3. Don’t start new projects until the book is done. If you have a great idea, make some notes. Draw up an outline. Don’t start writing scenes! You’ll have distracted yourself and it will be that much harder to get back to the “old” idea.
4. Set a deadline. I think this helped me the most in finishing the second book. I had an official deadline from my editor that I had to meet. Give yourself a deadline, whether by chapter or for the whole book. If you’ve got a blog, also look into putting up a progress meter – it’ll keep you honest and it also give you a sense of accomplishment.

These are just a few suggestions of stuff that has helped me. That doesn’t mean the temptation isn’t still there. I’ve got a side project that I am positively itching to get back to that doesn’t have to do with vampires, werewolves, or naturi. But until I finish the edits on book 2 and finish writing book 3, the side project stays packed away.

8 comments:

Ana said...

Dear Jocelynn

My name is Ana Grilo and I co- run the Book Smugglers review blog, along with my colleague Thea James. I was sent an ARC of Nightwalker by Harper Collins and I am in awe at the story and the world that you have created. I feel that this series has a huge potential . I am going to publish my review on the 28th and I was wondering if you would be interested in a quick Q&A with us to go along with the review so that our readers can get to know you and learn about the book and the series? We have a series of interviews which we call A Chat with an Author and we have done these with Linnea Sinclair, Lisa Shearin, Maria Snyder, Meljean Brook, etc. You can check some of our Q&As here:

http://thebooksmugglers.blogspot.com/search/label/Chat%20with%20an%20author

I would love to hear from you - perhaps you could email me at thebooksmugglers@hotmail.com if you are interested in the Q&A?

In any case, I wish you all the luck with the release!

Cheers,
Ana

Chris said...

As I mentioned on Rachel's blog, it wasn't until I allowed my first draft to be less than perfect that I finished an entire first draft (in recent years).

I agree with all your points. Outlining is the one I've resisted the longest. I've always done some outlining in my head (and as I write). But after reading Rachel's post on outlines, and hearing your recommendation, I want to try and formalize it more than I have been (without squashing my pantzer spirit).

Thanks for the tips. :)

Chandra Rooney said...

Oh goodness, yes, deadlines are key.

You know, I tried balancing two projects either this year and it worked well for me... but it was because one project was contracted and needed to be completed and getting to set it aside and work on the other thing was motivation.

Which still comes back to loving something so much that you can't not finish it.

Driftsmoke said...

Rachel pointed me this way. :) I agree with you about outlining. I didn't finish a novel until I learned to outline. I don't document every sideshow and historical marker on the outline, but I do draw out a basic roadmap. It really makes a difference in terms of finishing something. Anyway, I said all that to say this: Your words were good, and you made some great points.

Also, I can't wait to read Nightwalker. The world you created looks really compelling from what I read in the chapter you have available.

Freedom Star said...

Thanks for the in depth post! It's always really nice on getting tips on how to focus, because I have that problem myself. I either lose interest, or get another idea that I want to run with. I myself don't use an outline when I write because my plots are so prone to change, but I guess one reason why I don't finish as many projects as I'd like is because I don't have something set to tell me where to go. I guess it's something new to try.

Also, I'm so excited because I just placed a copy of Nightwalker on hold at the bookstore yesterday! *party* They're going to give me a call when it's in. Woo-hoo!

Bethany said...

Hi Jocelynn

Got your site through Rachel Vincent's. I interviewed her for my series and really think she's great.

I'm so happy to hear of your success with your debut and wish you the best. Please contact me, as I'd love to discuss a possible author interview/book review.

Bethany

Danne Cole said...

Really a great post! :)

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