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The 3 F’s for Writers
Focus, forecast, finish
Readers sometimes ask me if I work on several novels simultaneously, and I always say emphatically, “No.”
I have written 25 novels in 13 years, but I did not begin a new one until I had finished the “old” one. I don’t know how any writer can work on two or more novels at the same time. Writers must have tunnel vision if they want to be successful, focusing on one work at a time, using an effective outline to forecast where the novel will end, and finishing one novel before beginning the next.
If I didn’t focus, forecast, and finish one novel at a time, I’d feel like a two-timing boyfriend … Oh yes, my pretty novel, I know that we have been together for a few months, but I want to see other novels. I’ve been spending time with another novel that is a little shorter than you are, quite petite with a tight little body, actually, but she has more promise in today’s market, you know? She just might make me rich, okay? It’s not you—it’s me. You and I may get back together again, we may not, but such is life, yes? We may never pass this way again. There will always be a special place in my document files just for you ...
If I didn’t focus, forecast, and finish one novel at a time, I’d feel like the builder of an unfinished house … Okay, I have your blueprints, and they look good. Let's start building you. Your first floor looks okay. Oh, you need backstory. I had better work on your basement for a spell. Okay, I’m back to the first floor, but I want to add a few bedrooms upstairs. Readers seem to like those scenes. Oops, I forgot your kitchen, the heart of your house. Do you need an attic full of lofty thoughts? Man, I forgot to put a roof on you, and what I've built is completely unprotected from the elements. I know—I’ll just build an addition on the side … Oh, this new addition is nice. If I put wheels on it, it could become a mobile home and really roll. Hey, now. This new addition could be your sequel. Wow, your sequel is going to rock! I had better save this. Now where was I? I'm walking your unfinished hallways and rooms on which your awesome sequel is based. Who writes the sequel first? Evidently I do. Hmm. Maybe I should have framed you first. Maybe I should just tear you down and go with the sequel. Yeah, I’ll start with the sequel and do a prequel. That could work …
If I didn’t focus, forecast, and finish one novel at a time, I’d feel as if I had abandoned a child … I know I gave birth to you. You’re my baby. I’ve been feeding you, changing this and that, and letting you sleep. Maybe I’ve let you sleep too much, I don’t know. Man, I really like showing you off to people, even if you aren’t completely dressed or clean. All your literary aunts and uncles in New York have seen what I've made of you so far, but they're not interested in seeing all of you yet. I wish you wouldn’t stink sometimes. You need changing so often. And I hate it when you sit there doing nothing. I know I need to interact with you to help you grow. I’ve been there for you, haven’t I? I helped you walk and talk, right? Hey, where are you going? Come back to this pen. Geez, this kid is a lot of work. All right, I know I’ve screwed you up for life, and I’m sure you wish you had a different parent. Maybe I should abandon you and start over with another child. I promise to raise this one right …
I can’t even work on more than one poem at a time! Do I sometimes think of the next novel? Sure. Do I sometimes jot some ideas down for the next novel? Of course. Do I work on or spend time with a new novel while I'm 100,000 words in to the old one? Of course not. Are there times my writing goes nowhere? Yes. Do I ever get writer’s block? Occasionally. One reason for writer's block may be the result of too many other ideas blocking a writer. Because I have already framed, roofed, and outlined that novel to death, I don't let those other ideas block me so I can stay focused to the end.
Focus. Forecast. Finish. Make it your mantra, and get the novel done.