I can only write one book at a time.
I’ve tried working simultaneously but inevitably I have to put one project down to pick another one up.
This can be a bit of a problem for a guy who has at least five books stuck in his head.
I’ve tried working on two different subjects at the same time. When I started Fractals: A Programmer’s Approach I was also working on revising DM. One involved a lot of research and writing programs, and the other involved revising storylines, clarifying characters and trimming a lot of fat.
But I only have so much RAM and inevitably work on one (or both) suffers.
For me writing a novel requires a knowledge of the material that is almost sub-conscious. Not to be cliché, but you have to be living and breathing it. Apparently I can only live one life at a time.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t dream.
Even as I’m nearing the halfway point on Surreality I’m already thinking about its sequel. At the moment I’m thinking about good locations around Columbus. I’m not going into much detail yet, but I’ll give you a hint: I need at least three of them.
Why does our mind cast about instead of staying focused?
Part of it I think is to keep ourselves fresh. Working on a novel, especially to the obsessive level necessary to keep everything straight, is tiring work. And it’s slow. At 800 words a day I should have Surreality finished in another two months, only to give it promptly to my Dad who could probably read it in the course of a few afternoons. Sometimes it’s nice to play everything out, to live in another world for a while.
And books nag at you.
DM in particular pops into my head from time to time. I spent a year writing it, and it’s been two since I’ve really worked on it. Atlantia wants me to pick up where I left off so I can get to its sequel (and the book after that). And new ideas pop up unannounced: What about a detective story in Youngstown, OH? What about a prequel to DM?
It’s tempting to let these books goad me into working on them, but that only keeps me from doing the real work necessary to get them read by anyone aside from a few alpha and beta readers. (BTW I should probably not have any more alpha [rough draft] readers. Rough drafts are more embarrassing than you’d think).
I can’t decide if I want to be the sort of author who always has this problem, or the kind who actually gets to finish everything he started. I have a feeling it won’t really be a choice I make either way, either ideas will stop working or I will (so to speak).
Outlines might be a solution for some of you to this problem, though I’m the sort who hates intermediate steps. I try to work everything out in my head, so that when I write I can just write. But it leaves very little in the way of notes or other materials for other authors to pick up on, or even myself to remember where my head was. Books really are living things that live in the particular moment I choose to write them.
How do you deal with distractions?