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How many "Projects" is TOO many for a writer?


#1

Morning all,

Off the back of the incredibly exciting and enjoyable Annual submission comp, I’m sure all of us are looking forward to 2016 and all that it brings with it. I am very new to writing having just released my own crowdfunded comic in October which was a fantastic experience and has made me hungrier than ever for writing but my question is…

How many writing projects is too much for a writer?? When are you spreading yourself too much “creatively”?

Ok, that’s two questions but you probably get what I mean. Before I start writing anything, whether it be a pitch document or script I like to get in the “zone” of the project and spend a minimum of an hour doing just that. I currently have four different books on the go, my on-going series, a new dark webcomic strip, a horror short story and a one shot graphic novel. As a new writer, am I trying to do too much too soon? What do you guys limit yourselves to?

I’d love to know what rules you play by to ensure what you produce is the very best you can do.

Cheers, Laighty


#2

I think it depends on when you feel you are compromising somewhere and not always putting out your best work.

If you look at pro writers they have different levels of output, Millar and Dan Slott for example say they can do a maximum of two monthly books but others run up to 6 or 7.

Advice for new writers is invariably write as much as you can and learn from doing it so I’d say unless you feel you can’t cope with it then carry on.


#3

I’m working on 3 actual novels. I like to write smaller pieces in the interim mostly because of this quote by Neil Gaiman about writers’ block:

“I always like to have another story, another introduction, another work, and I’ll just go and work on that, while somewhere in the back of my mind I’m churning over why I’m stuck and what went wrong and figuring out how to go forward”

I struggle with plot fatigue - and usually write myself into corners so having other things to write (that aren’t always fiction either) keeps me sane. I’ve probably taken longer than the average to write these novels because of this affliction but I’ve done a lot more writing than I would have I think.


#4

It’s all about finding your comfort level.

I believe Charles Soule was literally writing about a dozen books at once in addition to a full time job as a lawyer. He said that was his way of “breaking in” but he wanted to reduce the number so he could put more care and attention to what he was writing.

I think it will be simply a matter of trial and error to find your “sweet spot”. Also keep in mind that as you mature as.a writer, that sweet spot may change up or down as time goes on.

Honestly critique your work at different levels to see where you are. You may just need to hit ideas in a notebook for the moment to give yourself time to properly develop them rather than press ahead at that moment.


#5

I imagine it would depend on how many people you had to please. And how many meetings and conference calls you need to have.


#6

Probably two at a time, and that’s being generous. If it’s your full-time role, then obviously it’s a lot easier, but its going to depend on the individual. Being able to focus on one project would probably be better, but if you become stuck at some point while writing it, then having something else to work on would mean you can focus energy on that for a while, and then jump back to your first project.


#7

It’s easy to say whatever you’re comfortable with, but I think the answer is 3. Writing more than two stories at one time is pretty difficult, it’s hard to juggle that many plot points without getting mixed up. And I think it limits the work. Certainly some of the busier Marvel writers might be producing 4-5 books a month, but none of them are really raising the bar. A finely crafted book take huge amounts of work and time, it shouldn’t be possible in just a few days.

Millar writes one book at a time now, he started that process a couple of years ago and feels it’s incredibly beneficial to his work. He won’t even think about another book until he has an entire series written - all issue in the series.


#8

What the guys have said above really. Also, the actual size of the project that you’re undertaking is something to consider. Not only in the word/page length but the amount of research or plotting that is required before you’re finished with it.

A handful of projects is good ballpark to be in provided you’re able to keep on track on the route you want to go down and you don’t get bogged down too much. I think it was in a video I saw where someone was interviewing Matt Fraction about this very topic and he said writing is similar to working out at the gym.

If you don’t feel like working on a body part or certain project that day, no problem, just move to another body part or project that you feel like working on. Just be careful not to let other projects slide too much. You don’t wanna skip ‘leg day’ too often :wink:


#9

As many as one can handle until they start interfering with each other & cause lateness.


#10

Of course “It depends” is the best answer. Plus, productivity is frowned upon, but it depends if for you writing is more of an instinctual process or a more “organized” one. Brandon Sanderson output is barely unbelievable, he churns out pages at terrific pace…and they’re quite appreciated, considering the sales.
Apart from your output, which is very subjective, I’ve received an advice that I still find good: if you write, you always have to do three things at the same time. 1) research for new stories; 2) writing the current stories (goes without saying…); 3) promote what’s you already put out there.


#11

I feel like this is a different question for a pro and a for an indie person trying to start out or just tell stories outside of a day job. As a pro, its your livelihood, so you have to crank through stuff to make a living. Deadlines rule all. When you’re doing it as a side thing, getting stories finished is important, so its all about how much you can handle in your free time.

One of my biggest creative issues is staying focused on personal projects. As a professional designer I have to multi task and create priorities, but with personal projects that’s tougher. For me, time is a huge factor, so i try to work on one, maybe two thinks max at a time. If i get other ideas, I keep a notebook to jot them down and come to them later. This is a big thing for me, as its easy to get sidetracked by a crazy new idea. Its usually a character, plot, concept or “what if” scenario. This gets it out of my system so I can stay focused. Sometimes i’ll even mine my notebook for ideas, and a few of my stories have come from combining a few of those random ideas together.


#12

That is great to hear. Please feel free to share any other Millar work habits. :smiley:


#13

Currently, I am amazed at Ales Kot’s output. He’s been writing regular series for Marvel, but also put out Zero, The Surface, Material, Wolf, Change, Wild Children… it’s especially crazy given that these are all creator-owned miniseries, which means putting together not only the concept and team before the actual writing, but also negotiations and whatnot (in contrast to writing a monthly in a hired position). He’s scary good, too, for a guy in his twenties.


#14

That guy is awesomely brilliant. We’ll see his name more and more in the future.


#15

Thanks a million for all the advice. Working full time as a writer is but a pipe dream for now but I enjoy the process immensely. It is a obviously a very personal discipline with almost every writer sounding like they use different methods and structure to create.

I think patience is also a big factor. I jot all my ideas down either on paper, phone or the laptop and try to prioritise each one.

Thanks again all.


#16

6!

No… 20!

No… 6… Umm 7.

6 or 7…

No… No… 10. Yes 10.

Am i close?


#17

A good point made above. I struggle to keep one project going while keeping down a day job (which is not as a writer) and other day to day household stuff that I have to do. Maybe that’s a lack of commitment on my part, but I have to prioritise.


#18

As to priorities:

Straczinsky wrote a great article in 2006 (Newsarama, I think), and the bottom line was:

  1. pick up a moment of the day which suits you best for writing (be it before going to work, during lunch break, at home after work before going to bed, whatever) and do not fuck around with web porn, social networks and the like, and let your loved ones know you don’t have to be bothered if it’s not the end of the world
  2. write two pages a day, every day.
    Two pages is a sustainable daily amount of work, and multiply it by 365 days, it’s 730 pages.
    Which could amount to 33 (33!) standard 22-page comicbook scripts (and change), six movie scripts, one thick novel or two average-sized ones… you do the math.
    Two pages a day. If you skip a day for whatever reason, don’t try and write 4 pages. Just keep the pace steady: two pages a day. If you can churn out more, better for you, but never less than that.

(it worked for me till I just wrote in Italian… now I decided to try with the English language market, it takes me double the time with scripts and the triple with prose - and my English prose sucked horseshit through a pipe, so I let THAT attempt go… - but you know… “It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”)


#19

Thank you. I will try that.

Not a huge Straczinski fan, but I have to admit that the guy wrote an episode of television every week during when he was doing Babylon 5. He knows whereof he speaks.


#20

Give it a try, it sure works. I usually follow a good advice whoever it comes from. :wink:
And yes, I guess JM KNOWS. You know, in capital letters. :sunglasses: