Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What Kind of Creature Are You?

I am a creature of habit. When I go to my favorite restaurant I usually order the same meal. If I’m daring, I might rotate between two different meals. When I vacation in a certain city, I tend to stay at the same hotel. I wake up at the same time every morning, whether I have work or not, and I essentially follow the same routine every day. Sounds a bit boring doesn’t it, but to me it’s comfortable. I like knowing what to expect, but I’ve got to be honest, sometimes it bores me too.

Sometimes I get in a rut and need to shake things up a bit, you know, live a little. So from time to time I’ll get wild and switch my brand of chocolate cupcake or order the Chalupa instead of a Chimichanga. I’m a wild and crazy guy.

I notice I get into similar ruts in my writing. The rut I noticed most recently is that I write everything in 3rd person. There’s nothing wrong with third person. I enjoy reading it and when I envision a story in my mind, I usually view it like I would watch a TV show or movie, which lends itself to 3rd person point of view. But I have to ask myself “Do I dare try something new?” My answer this week, is “yes”!

My first two completed manuscripts, including Defensive Tactics, and my current Work In Progress are all 3rd person so I decided to shake things up. This week I started another WIP in 1st person POV. I’m the last of the party animals. I have to admit, this new experiment makes me a little nervous. Can I do it? Will it suck rocks? Is it a total waste of my time? The answers are- I don’t know, I don’t know, and NO. I will never know the answer to the first two questions if I don’t try, but regardless of whether it turns into a publishable manuscript or not, my new 1st person WIP is not a waste of my time because it is forcing me to stretch and grow and experiment. So far I love it.

A couple of years ago I started writing Defensive Tactics because I was curious if I could write a novel. It was an experiment. I had never written anything before, unless you count college papers, which I don’t. I wrote my second manuscript, Crater Lake: Battle for Wizard Island because I love adventures and treasure hunts and I wondered if I could write a mid-grade fantasy that my kids would enjoy. My kids love it but the publishing jury is still out. In both cases I took a chance to try something new.

There is comfort and safety in sticking with habit and the familiar, but there can be excitement, challenge and reward in broadening horizons.

I have a couple of questions for you.

1- What kind of a creature are you?
2- What kind of ruts do you get into? Writing? Reading?
3- How do you get out of it?
4- How many WIP do you have going at the same time?

I would love to read your answers and learn from your wisdom.


Danielle Thorne said...

Great post. I'm 1) a night owl. Falling asleep has always been a problem for me but it makes for good time to work out plot issues. 2)I don't get enough time to read for pleasure because I'm also an editor. I love taking off from everything and just picking up a book I haven't heard of. 3) If I get into a rut and need time to read, I push all my other obligations aside for a couple days, and I try to enjoy myself. 4)I've tried working on more than one novel at a time, and I can't do it. I have two on the back burner but started a new one last fall. One at a time for me!

Steve Westover said...

Danielle, I've done one at a time as well. Hopefully juggling 2 will give me a little variety in my regular writing. Otherwise, I'll crash and burn.

Lynn Colt said...

1) I'm a creature of habit! I have the same thing for lunch every day :)

2) I'm on a YA novel swing right now for reading, but my book club makes me shake up my to-read list.

4) I can only handle one WIP at a time! At least, only one at the rough draft stage at a time. Split focus is not my friend.

Mary L Walling said...

1. Have you ever read "Who Stole My Cheese"? by Ilene Hochberg? Well, I'm the little creature that doesn't like change. I like things to be the same day in and day out. Change makes me nervous. However, I am learning that with change comes growth and progress. I am adapting to it more as there are alot of changes in my life right now.
2. I stay in a rut because I don't like going out. I like being home and it's the same every day. I take care of grandchildren, do church work, etc. I force myself to do something take on a new task. I am trying to read something that's different from what is the norm for me. I have set up a blog...a WIP. I am trying to stretch myself.
I am a multitasker and like it. It comes from long years as a medical secretary and owning my own business for a while. I always have several WIP, can't help it. Someday I will get everything I have in progress done. I even have a couple of short stories in progress. Nothing I am ready to have anyone see as I am not a writer by profession. I just have alot of ideas in my head and put them on paper (computer). I do think though that we have to be subject to change and willing to learn. For some of "old dogs" it's just a little harder.

Steve Westover said...

A book club is a great idea for adding variety to our reading lists. Thanks Lynn.

Steve Westover said...


I'm curious how you juggle the multiple WIP. Do you primarily work on one and then switch when you come to a stand still, or do you just write on the WIP that inspires you on a certain day?

MDYBYU said...

1. I'm a very late night owl. I almost have to be with two young kids. 2. The biggest rut is that I find excuses not to write or let less important things get in the way of my writing. 3. I make a priorities list and stick to it. On the list, I put things I can't do until I've done my writing goal for the day. 4. I usually have 3 or 4, though one is designated my primary project. I put the most time in that one and then switch to a few secondary ones in order to keep things fresh and interesting.

Steve Westover said...

Michael, shouldn't your kids be sleeping at night? You're not using your kids as an excuse are you? :>)

I like the priority list too. Without one I forget what I should be doing. I like the idea of having a 2nd list of things I can't do until list 1 is complete.

J.L. Campbell said...

Like you, I pretty much stick with the same things to eat, etc. but I'm not very structured in my approach to writing. I write everyday when I have a story that immerses me, and then every few days or not all for ages when I have nothing pressing going on.

In terms of ruts, I have times where I might not write anything new for a month or more, but during that time I might be editing or on a break that I don't know I've taken.

I usually have too many WIP's going on at once. I have four incomplete stories that I'm not working on at all and others that I should be editing.

By the sound of this, I need saving from myself. :D

JoAnn Arnold said...

l. Perhaps a creature of habit
2. Deep ruts in both reading and writing.
3. I take a break and eat dark chocolate.
4. two.

Steve Westover said...

JoAnn- I'm not a fan of dark chocolate but I'll definitely go with a chocolate bar I can dip in peanut butter.

JL- Save yourself. Join the chocolate brigade.

I'm kind of surprised we haven't seen more free spirit, go with the flow types.

Michael Knudsen said...

1)I'm far too easily distracted until I really get into a project. Then I'm so focused that I wouldn't notice a marching band going past my desk.
2) The only bad rut is not writing at all. As long as I'm working on SOMETHING, things are good.
3) Just do it.
4) Can't work on more than one. I have abandoned projects for years to focus on getting one thing done.

Tanya Parker Mills said...

1) Definitely habit...used to be a night owl, but we moved and my office is in our bedroom now, so whether I like it or not, it's lights out by 10 pm.

2) I'm also a 3rd person type person, but like you, I'm currently experimenting with 1st. Now, in reading, I'm all over the place hitting almost every genre except I read a lot of history and biography and other non-fiction.

3) Only by forcing myself or being shamed into changing. A week ago, my husband dared me to try something other than the "Braised Beef Tortelloni" at Olive I forced myself to order their new Lemon Chicken Scallopini dish AND I LOVED IT! I'm thinking I'll branch out a bit more now.

4) I am not your typical female multi-tasker, so I can't work on more than one WIP at a time. Sorry, I just can't split my brain cells.

Steve Westover said...


"Shamed into changing". Hmm, sounds intriguing.