Friday, May 28, 2010

A Writer’s Focus

When you write do you focus on only one project at a time? Or are you constantly thinking of new ideas and stories?

There is a belief that to focus on only one story at a time is the best way to go. A writer can concentrate on all aspects of their project – the characters, the plot, the atmosphere, the style. This would mean they don’t water it down with intrusions of other ideas that don’t belong.

I asked this question via twitter. Everyone who responded said that they don’t go by this rule. They all pursued multiple ideas and projects. And they all indicated a little guilt over the fact as if it were a bad thing.

When I’m writing a powerful scene that’s charged with emotion or drama I do find I must focus on that scene only to be able to capture the full essence of the scene. I write my best when I’m focussed. But, I’m also one of those people who read more than one book at a time and I have multiple short stories and articles in the works, a hundred blog ideas floating around my mind and a number of book ideas calling for attention. None of this is a bad thing. It’s natural for a writer to be abuzz with ideas to explore.

How then can I focus on one project with all that jumbled in my head?

I make a list of priorities, I follow a schedule and I have an internal switch to control the chaos.

When a deadline draws near, that’s my priority. Because of this, I try to write all my blog posts ahead of time and preschedule them to post. I try to be a week ahead. I then schedule my novel and non-fiction book writing time and try to stick to it. On the weekends I give myself the freedom to explore short story ideas.

It’s a handful, I know, but when I’m not writing, I’m thinking. I have notepads throughout the house so I can jot thoughts down when something triggers an idea. I cut out newspaper articles and put them in a pile to think about later.

I don’t spend a lot of time on a new idea. I’ll make a note and move back to the highest priority in my schedule.

Do you work on one project at a time? How do you manage your time and focus your thoughts?


  1. Wow Lynda you are good :) I always have a lot of stuff going on in my head as well. I have a lot of small note pads with different ideas jotted down in them for devotionals and poems. Then I have a whole list of ideas for bookmarks and cards etc that I want to work on, but again my focus is bad and I feel as though many days I accomplish nothing.

    Anyway thanks for your advice. I will just keep writing.


  2. I don't know about being good...I know the theory and the practice but I still struggle when I let the doubts and fears creep in.

  3. I'm not quite as organized as you, but I do keep lists and mark things off as I get them done. I often use a timer too. I work on one thing at a time.

    Straight From Hel

  4. Oh, a timer is a good idea too :)

  5. I keep a tray for each project, and collect all notes and materials in the trays

  6. Ee Leen Lee, That's a great idea - I'm not so organised as that. It would certainly keep my notes in one place. I have separate notebooks for project type eg fiction or non-fiction, but they often get mixed up.


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