Monday, July 16, 2012

Starting Projects

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

blog9I’m sure everybody has a closet that needs some attention.

I hope everybody does. I know I have at least one at all times that needs help.

The closet with the biggest issue was the one under the stairs. Large areas tend to attract the most junk. This one had various boxes in it. You know.

Since I just finished my two biggest deadlines for the year, I decided to tackle the closet.

In the closet, I found an unfinished project—not a book project. It was a box of video tapes that needed to be transferred to a modern, digital format of some kind.

I’d started this project a year ago, stalled out with it, and shoved it back into the closet along with a bunch of other stuff that I didn’t want to deal with.

I remember being very annoyed because I’d bought a VCR to DVD burning device and then found out that, after I burned the DVDs, they were in a proprietary format that meant they could only be played on a particular Panasonic device that was no longer being made. Of course.

I learned that there were services that could transfer for you if you ship them the tapes. But I didn’t get very far with my research on that because I was so frustrated and annoyed by the proprietary format and was busy with the complaint letter that I was writing.

A year passed and nothing had been accomplished on this project. So I pulled out the box of videos and made a list of all the steps I needed to do to finish this project in one sitting so that I could take on the rest of the closet.

Starting any project—a stalled one or a new one—can be the same way. We have all these great ambitions for our books, for instance, but getting the words on paper can be intimidating.

You’d think that by now I’d be done with project hesitation for my writing—but I still have it. It’s the hesitation of not really knowing what to do next. Usually I just look at the deadline on the calendar and jump right in. With a self-imposed deadline (I’m writing a book for self-pub before working on my next publisher-driven project), it feels a little different.

Starting a stalled project—listing the tasks.

So, for my video transfer project, I needed to decide if I wanted to send the online company camcorder tapes or VCR tapes. I needed to gather all the tapes together. I needed to decide which company I wanted to use. I needed to make sure if I sent all my tapes that I wouldn’t go over my budget. Then I needed to create an online account with the company, pay a deposit for the service, print out the shipping label, pack it, and then drop the box off with UPS.

For starting out my latest mystery, I needed to decide who my victim was going to be, how my sleuth was going to be involved, and who my suspects were. To really jump into it, I also wanted to know how the victim was killed. (Because this book is part of a series, I already know my main characters…a benefit of series writing.)

For your project, you might need to decide other things: what’s the inciting incident (which turns an ordinary day for your protagonist into something special)? Who is the main character? What about the incident changes them or their situation? How do they react to it?

Half the time when we don’t get started with a project, or put it aside for a while, it’s because we’re really not sure what direction we want to take or how to approach the task. Maybe we don’t feel like we have enough information to begin. Or it might be that we’re worried that the outcome might not end up as successful as it is in our imaginings.

Instead of packing the project back into the closet (or burying it in Word), we could just make a list to get ourselves going.

How do you jump back into projects….or jump into new ones quickly?