I mean, obviously you have to focus on getting words out there. But because you’ve got this thirty-day window to get the story down NOW NOW NOW, you spend the whole time splurging out bits and pieces of ideas at a rate of knots without ever getting the time to really flesh them out properly. Everything exists in potentia and parts that aren’t working yet can be left for much later, after further thought and research will surely have occurred.
All of this is really exhilarating – but then you get to the end of the project and realize now you have to go back and start addressing some of those flaws. Total buzzkill.
Changing genre all the time was helpful in the sense I got to stretch my brain in different ways and never got too hacked off or bored – there wasn’t time. But it also resulted in several disparate tales aimed at totally different audiences, plus a couple that probably don’t even have audiences. Which one do I focus on first? My favourite stories aren’t necessarily the best or most complete. Can I work on two simultaneously so I have two vaguely finished drafts around the same time?
I’ve always tried to be a bit of a polymath, keeping my hand in with art and photography as I tried to forge a career in freelance journalism; then continuing to write and edit journalistic pieces at the same time as penning genre fiction. I think it’s easier to be creative if you have lots of different things going on, so I’ve been juggling different projects and time commitments since I started working on the student press and doing publicity for theatrical societies whilst studying at university in 2005.
However, the grapevine tells me there is such a thing as being a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I am starting to think if I don’t pull my finger out and focus on one thing properly, said jack will be me.
In terms of genre, I think I can narrow my skills down to non-fiction (journalism, book thirteen), children’s fiction (a month of editing book five didn’t get it quite good enough to enter the Floris Books competition, but it improved significantly), and humorous prose with distinctly Scottish overtones (at least, I think it’s humorous).
But can I do them all at once, or should I be putting all my energy into one? And if it’s the latter, then which?
If I work on all three areas, I’ll have a broader range of experience to draw on that could bring more depth to my work. On the other hand, if I pick one and work really hard at it, mightn’t success come more easily? To say nothing of reducing my tendency of spreading myself too thin – bear in mind I have to temp in unrelated work as well to keep a roof over my head…
Anyhoo, I’ve been preoccupied with all of this for about a week and I’ve come up with a tentative six-month plan. Disclaimer: this is not binding just because it’s on the internet!
March to mid April: further work on children’s book (last year’s book five), plus non-fiction journalism/blogging stuff. This include scheduling posts for:
Mid-April to end of May: when I will be interrailing in Eastern Europe for a few weeks. Ideally I’d like to send a more complete version of book five to lots of people to read whilst I am away, letting it ferment in my brain during that time whilst sketching notes for book thirteen – the book of 12 books in 12 months.
June and July: draft book thirteen, move house, turn 27.
August: Have another look at book five, start thinking about a combination of books three and six and – this is just the beginnings of an idea now and I don’t know how easy or feasible it would be to do – I am going to look into doing a free show on the Fringe. This would be to test material from book thirteen in front of audiences to see which things people might be interested in reading about. I think the story of this experience might be enough to draw a crowd of three or four to the back room of some pub of a rainy Edinburgh afternoon.
All of that seems fairly straightforward now I’ve written it down. I don’t know what I was worried about…