Current writing projects (or total madness)

A couple of days ago, I decided to take stock of why I’m still struggling to get anything out for sale in 2013, despite writing my arse off for much of this year. When I realised just how many projects I’ve got on the go at the moment, I truly understood the depth of the problem I currently have. I’ve literally been writing myself to a standstill, ironically by jumping around from project to project like a kid with ADD on pharmaceutical-grade speed.

This has to stop. And it will from today.

The list as it stands (as projects are finished they get a line through, like this):

  1. Bone Breakers – novella (currently in final edit stage – want it to be ready for a July 1 Kindle launch)
  2. The Glasgow Grin – novel (three quarters done, needs more work)
  3. The Green Eyed Monster – short story (prequel of sorts to Bone Breakers – 2,000 words in)
  4. A Funny Thing Happened on the way to Billingham Forum – novella (first draft, badly needs a second draft)
  5. Parked Cars – short story (2,000 words in and nearly finished, just needs to be typed up and polished)
  6. Bangkok Bound – novella (2,000 words in)
  7. Laughter in the Dark – novelette/novella (3,500 words in)
  8. Cry Tomorrow – novella (6,000 words in)
  9. Last One’s The Charm – short story (250 words in)
  10. The Gods Won’t Save You (AKA Hell’s Waiting-Room) – novella (800 words)

In addition to these are several other projects without titles and without any idea of what they are and where they’re going.

As any sane person can see, there are far too many projects here to juggle at once. My creativity at coming up with ideas and starting them with a roar of concentration is a good thing. The fact that this concentration peters out when another idea pops into my head is not.

So, from today, and in numerical order, it’s one project at a time (or two, if I’m editing, but no more than that), and each project will be seen through until the draft is finished. At which point the next project on the list gets its turn.

Any new ideas get sketched down (and I do mean sketched) and added to my Evernote account, and dealt with as soon as I can reach them, not before.

This is the new way. Now let’s see if my productivity picks up.

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What’s going on at Casa Stanley

On the off chance that you’re interested in my work, and interested in how it’s coming along (if you aren’t, I won’t be offended, please click away now), here’s a rundown of what I have been doing with my days/evenings recently.

Since stopping all promotion of work that’s more than two month’s old, which is currently everything, I’ve found that I have more time for writing and reading and reviewing. I’ve finished a couple of shorts that are both based around the theme of revenge, with several others on the go, to be included in a short collection that will probably see the light of day sometime in 2014.

Standalone Stanton brothers novella Bone Breakers is out on submission, though I’m not holding out much hope for this, to be honest (It’s been over three weeks since I sent it, and I can already see sections I want to tweak); I’m making good progress on the sequel to The Hunters, The Glasgow Grin, (even though it has changed from its initial incarnation in the redraft process – first and third person narration, for a start – and has consequently got bigger); I’ve also got several Stanton shorts on the go, including one that works as a sort of prequel to Bone Breakers. There are also two other big Stanton projects that I have simmering.

Other projects include three novellas/novels that have either been started, outlined or are close to completion (Cry Tomorrow, When Word Came Down and We Bring The Darkness).

I’ve realised that I write best with multiple projects on the go. If I get bored or stalled with one project I can move on to another and so on until they are completed. I now have so many projects on the go I expect to be tied up until at least 2015 (assuming I finish them all). It’s not a method I recommend; partly because writers who tell other writers WHAT TO DO and HOW TO DO IT bore me bloody rigid, but mostly because you need to be able to thrive within a maelstrom of organised chaos.

And I like organised chaos, so there.

Since ceasing my dull existence of relentless book-plugging I’ve been much happier, much more creative, and I’ve realised there’s more to life than gnawing at my fingernails whilst I check my KDP figures for the umpteenth time that day. However, I did check my sales figures recently and it’s as I expected: during my pimping embargo (now about five weeks) I’ve sold exactly four books, all of which have been in the US. Not good, but I’m not sure the figures would have been that much better even if I did use my usual relentless pushing tactics.

However, I have a two-day sale of The Gamblers coming shortly (partly because I had two free days left before it reverts back to not being in the KDP free program), but you won’t see me plugging it on this blog. In fact, I’m not even going to bother telling you the date.

Why? Well, I figure most regulars here have either read it or have it on their Kindle (to be either read at a later date or not at all), and I hate preaching to the converted. Instead, I’ve paid an organisation about £30 to punt details of the freebie to all the major free book list websites, saving me many hours of work and getting word out to some websites that I didn’t realise existed. I’ll let you know how this experiment goes later in the month.

Kill Your Children

I know my novels tend to have a fair degree of carnage but, despite the fairly misleading title, this is not that kind of a post.

What I want to talk about is abandoning your writing, effectively killing a project or restarting it when something goes very wrong. Hopefully that now explains the title – if you, like me, think of your projects as children that you nuture until they can be released into the world, where they’ll hopefully fend for themselves without coming to you for a handout!

The second Stanton Brothers novel/novella The Glasgow Grin is now moving at a fair old clip, writing itself, so to speak, after a very tortured beginning. I’ve knocked out 7,000 words (about 6 chapters) in about the same amount of time it took me to write 1,000 of the original first chapter.

The original first chapter began in one room, with three men talking, basically explaining everything that had gone down in The Hunters. Some of the dialogue was serviceable, but it was otherwise inert. I tried to convince myself that it was necessary, that it would re-establish a connection for previous readers with the Stanton brothers and introduce them to those who haven’t met them before. Actually, what it did was bore me rigid.

Once you realise that you’re writing at the kind of speed usually reserved for blind illiterates then you should know that your book has real problems. When you realise that you actually dread opening the Word doc in order to stare at the lines you’ve had to drag out of your subconscious, kicking-and-screaming like Guantanamo Bay torture victims, then you should know that you need to kill the chapter, possibly the project.

In my usual slow-witted fashion I failed to initially realise any of the above. But once I knew the book wasn’t going anywhere in its current format I killed the project, ruminated for a week, and then started again.

The first book now begins with the Stantons following one of the characters from the previous novel to his love pad, where he is entertaining a woman who is not his wife. It’s all action. The action leads to revelation, which leads to more action, which leads to more… yeah, you get the idea. The Stantons are men of action, not  philosophers; even the older, intelligent brother uses his brain on-the-fly. Moments of reflection, pauses for the reader to draw breath, should be just that – moments, and nothing more. Now the project is moving again, I thought I’d share a few thoughts with you, just in case you’re tempted to keep a project going even though you know it’s moving down a cul-de-sac. I hope I remember them when the third and fourth Stanton installments come around (hint, I already have started them).

Never begin a crime novel with three men in a room talking unless it’s actually about three men in a room talking. And if it’s not – kill it!

If you’re 1,000 words into a chapter and you still have no idea where the hell you’re going, and the threat of yet another 1,000 words of this torture is hanging over you – kill it!

If you’re far enough into a project to know it’s not working – kill it! Or, at the very least, put it in a coma and come back after writing something else for a while.

Don’t get too emotionally attached at the beginning of your project, because sometimes emotion clouds your better judgement. If in doubt – kill it!

Hopefully, you might get something from this. The Glasgow Grin is about five weeks behind schedule because I didn’t listen to my inner voice – you know, the one that tells you you’ve fucked up even when you’re busy congratulating yourself on a job well done.

In future, I think I’ll pay him a bit more attention!

Let me know if you’ve had similar problems, and what you did to dig yourself out. I’d love to hear from you.