Writers: Do you have multiple projects on your plate at one time? You should!

I’m one of those people with a messy desk.

I clean it a couple times a year to make it clean and pristine, but within a matter of days, it’s back to messy. It’s just the way my brain works. (For reference, I was just cleaning out my in-box and it had over 900 emails.)

Maybe you are one of those other kind of people who need everything organized and neat, and that’s fine. But if you’re a writer, I suggest having a metaphorical writing table that is plastered with various projects and ideas. Why? For me, at least, it creates a way for the synergy of creativity to rejuvenate itself through cross writing-pollination. (Don’t worry, I don’t understand that sentence either.)

Here’s an example for what works for me. I currently have a 75% finished novel that I have been working on over the last 6 months or so. Last month I started a play which I intend to produce sometime in 2016. I have to write 10 different dramatic sketches, and I’ve been brainstorming ideas, jotting down all kinds of things which may be helpful.

Lately, my focus has been on my new play. It’s moving along quite well. I’m about 5000+ words into it and I have a general idea of where its headed. But soon I’ll be putting it aside to get back to my novel, and here’s why that’s a great thing to do: pausing on a project allows your mind to subconsciously work on its content and characters. Now I have absolutely no scientific data to back this up, but I believe the mind doesn’t stop working on your ideas even if you do.

Here’s what happens: something completely unrelated will jog your memory, creating a new cognitive hook that wasn’t there before, a new relationship between words, ideas, or characters that wouldn’t have been obvious if you weren’t working on something different.

This is why I always take a break from everything that I’m writing. Even if I think a piece is finished, I let it sit while I start on something else. Invariably when I return to the first piece, my ideas change, and it’s almost always for the better.

Allow your ideas to feed into each other. You’ll be amazed at how much that will help.

Writing Season Commences

June.

The glorious month when I have my long summer break, which ushers in writing season.

It always coincides with travel season for me as well, and I have a lot of travel on the docket – Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, and the USA.  (More on all of that later.)

But as I travel, my laptop will be my company, and when a free hour or two presents itself, I’ll be deep in thought, writing the next project on my agenda. I have a long agenda.

Over the summer months, I try to carve out at least two hours a day of uninterrupted writing. Sometimes a little more, and once the days begin to stack up on each other, I have found that I can do some serious damage to the ideas at the forefront of my mind.

Here’s my summer writing plans, for now. (Always subject to change in case my mind decides to go in a different direction.)

First – “Untitled Novel” – actually it has a title but I’m not ready to give it away yet. This is my fifth novel and the first draft is already about 70% complete. I really want to take a couple weeks and knock out the first draft of this one. It’s an interesting story – a little different for me – set on a fictitious Southeast Asian island. It has bloody clashes with corrupt police, high speed chases, a griping court scene, and a beautiful temptress. It also has a bunch of religious symbolism. It’s an interesting mix and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Second – 10 dramatic sketches. I need to write an hour and half worth of sketches for my drama group – The RLT Players. Our new show will be debuting in December. It is our first Christmas show, and so I want to create a bunch of dramatic sketches to highlight our unique brand of drama – funny, poignant, original. I love writing these. They are always fun and creative. I started a mini-musical the other day called “The Last Shepherd,” which I envision being our final piece.

These two, for sure, need to be finished by August. I’m hoping it all flows quicker so I have some time to get on to some other ideas of mine. Like what?

I’d like to start my sixth novel. I have two very interesting ideas I want to explore. One a political thriller and the other a strange modern fantasy which is WAY beyond my normal genres. I can’t decide which is next!

Plus, I have a colleague who is begging me to write some additional duet and monologue scripts for their forensic competitions.

I wouldn’t mind writing another Christmas short story as well.

Oh, and I’m also in the middle of writing a full-length play for 2016 production.

Lots to do. And now I have time to do it.

Writing season, I warmly welcome you!

Letting Ideas Become Other Ideas

Ideas are not static. There’s a constant ebb and flow to them and any sort of creative artist has to take advantage of the movement of ideas in order to fully develop the original thought.

I’m learning to do this better than I did in the past. Many times I would have a writing idea, I’d write it and then move on to something else. But I’ve come to realize that I might be missing a lot of potential by not putting the necessary thinking into a topic.

Here’s a couple examples:

First, as I mentioned before on this site, my fourth, yet-to-be released novel, A Love Story for a Nation, is a story based on a short 10-minute dramatic sketch. When I started to look at the structure and underlying themes of the short piece, it became obvious to me that it needed a longer treatment and I’m actually thrilled with how the novel has turned out. One idea – two works! That’s pretty cool.

I’m currently working on a short musical about the end of the world. It’s been stalled and started several times, but it’s coming along. A while after I started it, a friend ask me to write a dramatic duet for a forensics competition. I was happy to do it, but I needed an idea. I went back through some of my unwritten ideas for some inspiration and I eventually decided to take the musical I was writing, completely change the characters and setting, but keep the underlying theme and suddenly, within two hours, I had my short sketch called “Words to Say at the End of the World.” It’s a heartfelt piece I really like and I never would have gotten there if I didn’t piggy-back off of my musical. On top of that, sing I have a mini-musical and a dramatic sketch on the same topic – the end of the world – I got to thinking that perhaps I could develop idea into a full-blown thematic play. I just might do it. It has a lot of potential.

So if you are a writer and ever get stuck with what to write next, my advice is to go back to what you already have. You might find a hidden gem of an idea that can fuel your next writing session.

Don’t Take Good Ideas for Granted. Plan ahead!

Have you ever been in such a good creative patch that you are overflowing with ideas and not enough time to accomplish them all?

Relish those days.

That’s what I keep telling myself. I am currently overflowing with ideas. I’ve started to map out my drama writing 13 months in advance because I’m producing too much work than I can actually use for the moment. What an amazing problem!

And my novel writing, I have #4 being read by some advance readers ahead of a 2015 release, and I’m 15,000 words into #5 with ideas for #6 and #7 just sitting impatiently in my brain.

I remember a few months ago over the summer that I felt my writing creativity was in a slump. I had an impending deadline for some short dramatic pieces, and I had to really slosh through, and muddle my way around until the necessary scripts came to fruition.

But more recently, when I’ve been swamped with work, I’ve been approached and asked to write a couple scripts (ASAP) for some competitions. Both times, within a day, I had produced two very solid scripts that thrilled the people who needed them. The ideas were just in the forefront of my mind and the words flowed without impediment.

Here’s a key and something that really helps. WRITE DOWN IDEAS! No matter how big or small or no matter when they come to you. Words, phrases, titles, situations, just write them down. When I need an idea, that is the first place I go to.

Example. I started writing a short musical about a month ago, but I set it aside recently. When a person approached me this week about needing a duet act, I immediately thought about the musical and wondered if I could re-work the scenario as a theatrical piece without music. I kept the overall setting, changed the characters and situation, and it worked beautifully.

One idea playing off another. If I hadn’t written down the first one, the second one would not have turned out so well.

I strongly encourage all writers to keep a running list of ideas which will serve you well in the future, and it will help avoid being completely idea-less in the future when your creativity goes through a difficult period.

 

Creative Writing: The Tried and True becomes the Tried and New

There is nothing new under the sun. No new plots to uncover. No new experiences to be told about. Creativity is in the realm of re-hashing the common and already told into a refreshing and new take. Creativity is taking that situation and putting your unique twist on it that only you could have created.

I was pondering this the other day as I began writing a short play about a billionaire who died and the family is gathered together to hear the reading of the will.

How many times have you seen that scenario displayed? Plenty.

So why would I want to tackle it anew?

Because I have never done it. I will bring my own ideas, my own characters and their quirky traits, my own specific situation, and my own purpose. The stated scenario may seem bland, but the little comedy that I wrote will be anything but.

And that’s really what I love about creativity. Finding that nugget which has yet to be unearthed in a common scenario.

I had mentioned this before on this blog of how I had been afraid to be a writer because I felt that everything had already been written – that if I could think of something then someone else had already thought of it and probably written it better than me.

Well, that was foolish thinking, really. I had a friend in college where we would pick a word or theme and then write a poem about it with the purpose of seeing how different they would end up being from each other.

Of course they were day and night. And that’s a beautiful reality for a writer.

I’ve been encouraged not to stay away from the tried and true because in the hands of a creative soul, the tried and true becomes the tried and new.

Keep creating everyone!

Retiring “Spy Blue: The Novella”

I recently decided to retire my first and only novella Spy Blue. I wrote that several years ago after I had co-written the drama “Spy Blue.” When I was in the final editing process of the play, I realized that I liked the story and it would be quite easy to turn it into a novella.

The novella itself turned into a very wooden translation of the play, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it did, however, leave a lot of the story in my imagination. It became evident that writing for drama and writing a story are two very different things. Still, it was a good story with an excellent plot-line so I decided to publish it.

I’m extremely glad I did because it was that activity which brought me to my current status as an indie author. It emboldened me to try something a little more difficult – my first novel, Beauty Rising, which I completed later that year.

Now, in 2014, I’m a very different writer in many respects than I was several years ago. I’ve completed three novels and have put myself out there in the public, trying to build a readership.

Recently, Spy Blue kept coming back to my mind that, perhaps, it isn’t yet finished. Perhaps it is story that deserves “novel” treatment, and so I decided to retire the novella – no longer making it available for purchase. That means that the story itself has worked its way back onto my writing agenda. I’ve even thought that maybe I could expand it so much as to make a trilogy out of it. That is a revolutionary thought for someone like me who writes stand-alone novels. But the Spy Blue story has so many interesting facets that it could seriously be expanded to one extremely long story divided into three parts. I’m excited about the possibilities that exist. This is what being a writer is all about. Getting an idea that excites you and moving it into the planning and writing stage. If I do write a Spy Blue trilogy, it is about three years away because of my other projects I’m working on.

But it’s fun to dream and think about what can be. I just need some more writing time!

I do hope that Spy Blue will live again, but for now, farewell, Blue.

 

There’s no way to know if you should “blow-up” your writing

You’re cruising along in your writing, following a certain idea, a certain rabbit trail that has you darting and dogging over and under a thrilling maze of obstacles until you are satisfied that you have what you want.

And then, you get another idea – an idea which will completely restructure everything you just wrote. This new idea has merit, for sure, or I wouldn’t be talking about it, but will it make the story better? Will it add anything or will it become an unnecessary distraction?

Should you throw your “idea-bomb” into your writing and blow things up and start again?

Unfortunately, there is no correct answer to this question.

I’ve come across this issue on a play I’ve been working on. The play itself has a simple setting with only two characters. Most of the play has already been fleshed out and written, and I expected to let the writing cruise on home to finish this bad-boy.

But a new idea hit me. I could suddenly add a new character about half-way into the action to completely change everything. I’m tempted by the possibility, but I am unsure if, in the long run, it would be the right thing to do.

What’s the only option? Write it both ways and compare.

If that seems like the most time-consuming thing to do, it is.

Do I have a huge amount of time to write? I don’t.

So now the decision comes.

And the decision solely rests on the writer. Would it be wrong to ignore the new idea and stick with the original? Not at all. It might even be preferable.

Would it be wrong to delay ending the project by exploring some new writing avenues? Of course not. Writing is a marathon not a sprint.

Will the writer’s decision be easier by writing a blog post about the dilemma?

Absolutely not.

I was hoping for another answer, but there you have it. Only the writer can make those decisions.

Good luck making yours.

A Momentary Lapse Into Sanity

Every once in a while my writer’s mind will surface from the deep belly underworld of my Mariana Trench-like mind to breath the normal air of my surroundings. What is it that I find when this happens?

Normal things, mostly. Like baseball, for instance. I’m not a writer when I’m a baseball fan. Everything turns off and I can focus for enjoyment on a game.

Cooking. This is another good one. I’ll become embroiled in a cinnamon roll or up to my elbows in a white sauce, far away from the twirling tributaries of my mind.

I suppose there are other activities which bring me back to sanity and let me be a normal human being, but other than these few items, I find that my writer’s mind is a constant dynamo, a steam engine sailing through the open plains, heading to Promontory Point and onward to the California Gold Rush.

I can’t watch a TV show or a movie without being a critic, either wondering why the writer of the script got this job or thinking how brilliant it was, wishing I had thought of it.

Exercising is the worst – or the best – depending on the day. Walking the hill behind my house with my ear buds blasting is a sure fire way to get my writer’s mind working into overload.

It is so easy for me to get sidetracked with a thought. I want to chase the rabbit down the hole every time. I want to take every scenario that pops in my mind and see where I can take it to.

Often times, a random phrase will pop in my mind and I’ll force myself to sit down and write a short play about it. It could be anything. “The armadillo said ‘yes’.” At this moment, this random phrase was the first thing that popped into my head. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds like an excellent start to a short play. I shall write it and let you know how it turns out.

Now I can’t get that phrase out of my head: “The armadillo said ‘yes’.”  I just stopped writing this post and morphed into a trance-like state repeating this phrase, wondering what it could mean. Then I realized that I just proved my point.

Which is what?

That every once in a while writers emerge from their thoughts and have a momentary lapse into sanity.

But for the most part, don’t try to understand us. People often ask me how I think of things to write about. I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that it is probably not the right question to ask. The question to ask is “how do you not think of things to write about”? This question is much easier to answer. I do the few things (like baseball and cooking) which bring me back to the surface and let me breath the normal air.

I won’t be up for long, so make sure to catch me when you can.

A Writer Stuck Between Writing Jobs

I’ve reached one of these rare occasions when all of my writing is finished. Very strange indeed.

I typically am in the midst of many writing jobs, which constantly are vying for position, nudging each other out of the way as if to get my attention. And then suddenly, everything is finished.

I’ve been writing a musical for months. On Saturday I finished it with my team. It’s title is “Boardwalk Melody.”

My hometown newspaper, The Butler Eagle, asked me to write a short Christmas story for them. I finished it yesterday. It’s entitled “The Angel on the Courthouse.”

Now what’s a writer to do? Time to start on something else, but what?

Here’s my options:

1) Novel #4. I wrote chapter one for it at the end of the summer (2000 or so words). I could pick up that one. However …

2) Novel #5 – or at least the idea for novel #5 has intrigued me over the last couple of months. I might just bring this one to the top of the line … However …

3) I have another idea for a mini-musical that I want to write … However …

4) the art teacher at my school asked me to write some short dramatic sketches to go with a replica of the Sistine Chapel that they are creating. I could start working on that. However …

5) there possibly might be something else to work on that I haven’t even thought of.

The point is this: creativity never ends. Isn’t that a beautiful concept? No matter how many stories and characters and scenes and ideas have been written, there is always room for one more … or a thousand more because the human mind is a beautiful instrument capable of ideas far beyond what can be thought in just one day. So as the calendar continues to turn, likewise, the ideas continue to come and the few minutes we have are not nearly enough to write everything we want.

So a writer can only do one thing. Pick one idea, and start writing.

I wonder where I will begin.

 

 

The Best Comment About My Play (and it revealed something about writing)

After the Short & Sweet Theatre performance on Friday, a young Chinese woman in her 20s approached me and asked:

“Are you the writer of ‘Almighty Might’?”

I replied that I was, and then she looked at me intently and asked:

“How did you write that? I mean, when I first saw it I was just blown-away. And I wondered how anyone could think of that. I never could have thought of that. How did you go about writing that?”

I suddenly felt like that deer in the headlights. I didn’t know how to respond. I stuttered a little, shrugged my shoulders, and replied:

“I don’t know. It just came to me. I don’t know.”

She finished out her very nice compliment and then I began to think about it. Where did the idea come from? Why did it just work? It’s not a conventional script by any means. And I realized that I answered her correctly, I have no idea where it came from. It just came.

And I’m glad that it did.

Ideas are a writer’s live-line, and luckily, for whatever reason, it’s been a very fruitful season these last few years.

I’ve learned that when the ideas do come that you don’t question them, you go with them and discover where your creativity can take them.

It’s been fun!

Here’s hoping for many fruitful years to come!