Telling Your Story

Writing in progress

I’m doing what I tell so many people not to do: working on two writing projects. But my justification is that one is a paid non-fiction project, the other a novel for myself. Are they different enough to separate?

My first priority of course is the paid gig, a Russian biography, and it’s very enjoyable to work on. I’ve told myself I should concentrate on this project, stick to the timeline and deliver what I’ve promised on time. My problem is the ‘the novel’ keeps nudging me. I’ll see a scene, hear a phrase of dialogue or an action by one of the characters while I’m walking the dog or lying in bed. It’s not under my control.

Should I ignore it? By doing so, I’m worried that ‘the novel’ will slowly recede into the background and dissolve completely so that when I am ready to get back to it I won’t have anything to work on and the ideas will have moved on. That nagging feeling might disappear.

To combat this fear, I’ve resolved to work on both but try to have specific work plans for each. This means a certain amount of time devoted to each, with the paid gig getting more time. So far it seems to be working. Each morning, after my journal writing, I spend designated time (twenty to thirty minutes) on ‘the novel’, which at this stage is being handwritten. During the day, I allocate specific time to the biography (one to two hours). This gives both projects a feel of work versus play. The novel being my reward for completing the contracted work.

But. I have another problem. I love reading. Recently I read two books back-to-back, hardly coming up for breath. They were obviously good books – chosen by my book group – both by Australian women writers, one fiction, the other a memoir. As I closed each one I sighed and said to myself that my novel won’t be this good and the biography won’t either.

I lamented this in an online zoom session with my writing group and was reminded that both my current works in progress (WIPs) are at first draft and I should use these ‘good books’ as something to attain but remember they likely had several drafts to be that good. Sigh. It’s a lot of work to write good books. But I love the process. My writing buddies are right, of course. No first draft is gold and I say this to my students. ALL. THE. TIME.

My solution to the reading issue (because it was sucking hours from my days) has been to use my love of reading as a reward. I’m not allowed to start reading another book (the large to-be-read pile by the bed) until I have written the next 10,000 words of the biography. It’s harsh, I know, and the first time I have EVER limited my reading. I’ve written 1500 words since setting this limit. I’ll let you know if it works. I’m not looking for perfection, just balance.

Blaise the book chick

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