Saturday, July 14, 2012

Popcorn and Camp NaNo

Last May at the Storymaker conference Kevin J. Anderson was the keynote speaker. He'd given us timeline of his writing history, stressing how many times he was working on multiple projects at the same time.

Then he introduced us to his popcorn theory. Back in the old days, before microwaves, we used to heat up a pot on the stove and put oil in it. We'd add popcorn to the bottom when it got hot enough, cover it, and slide the pot quickly back and forth over the stove.

Kevin said that writing is a lot of popping corn. It doesn't make sense to put a single kernel in the pan, pop it, and then do it again with another kernel. He said that if writers want to make a living at writing they need to have a lot of kernels in that pot, heating up and popping away.

Now, I'm a one-thing-at-a-time person. I do one thing to completion, and then I start something else.

Well, I used to be.

I used to read a book, and I wouldn't start another until I'd finished it. As you can tell to the right of this blog, I've learned to be a bit more flexible.

May, June, and the first half of July have been incredibly busy. So when I've seen people doing the June Camp NaNo, I never considered it for myself. I know what my November NaNo project is going to be, so I figured I was good.

But I've got a goal to get my R&R done and submitted by August 1st. I'm only halfway through the YA fantasy that stars my my granddaughter as the main characters. While she was visiting last month, she read what I have and offered me some great feedback. As a result, I realized there'd need to be a book after her book. The longer I've been thinking about it, the more I've wanted to write that story.

It's like that itch you can't scratch.

So, with Kevin's suggestion nagging at the back of my mind and these other projects in various stages of editing, I've decided to make the leap into lotsa popcorn.

I just signed up for Camp NaNo in August. I hope it works out okay since I've got family coming for vacation.

Eeek! I wonder how many words I'll have to come up with on the other days to make up for the days I can't write.

How about you? Do you juggle multiple projects?


  1. I used to be like you. One story at a time - that was until last year. I wrote my novel, Son of Jack within 3 months IN THE MIDDLE of one I already had on the go. For me, that's unheard of. Now, I have multiple short stories on the go, and I'm planning a series with a partner whilst still sticking to a main project. And all is working fine :)

  2. I don't think we ever did popcorn quote that way but we did have one of those big old Hamilton-Beech oil popper (as endorsed by Joe Namath!). Now it's a hot air popper.

    My own popcorn theory is that I'll work on a couple of things at once until one of them pops, and then I run with that one, at least with novels. I'll sometimes try to develop and improve a short story, but I haven't been good at working on multiple novels at the same time. It might be a good way to keep one fresh, though.

  3. Yeah it can be hard on the head at times, but I juggle away, tons of things at once.

  4. I can still only do one project at a time. (Mostly because I only have one idea at a time.) You'll enjoy Camp NaNo. I've participated in NaNo 2010 and BuNo this year and accomplished a lot with my writing both times.

  5. I've only ever made popcorn in a microwave. That pan method sounds scary. It would seem though that I inadvertently use the popcorn method for writing. I always thought it was a fault of mine that I have a number of writing projects on the go at any one time.
    Good luck with the Camp NaNo.

  6. Great post, great analogy. I used to be like you but then i thought, if i can read a novel at bedtime a magazine/newspaper in the day etc, I can juggle more than one reading/writing project. Good luck.

  7. Yikes~ camp NaNo already??? Where is this year going? I have multiple projects going at once, too. Always have a current project or two makes me more comfortable getting rejections on whatever I'm querying at the time~ I can always place my hope on the next manuscript :)

    Don't forget that the awesome online conference WriteOnCon is coming up next month, too! Add that to your list :)

    And by the way, we only make popcorn in a cast iron pot now. Once you make it that way, it's hard to go back to the microwave. Speaking of which, we're out of kernels, so this is a good reminder!

  8. yay donna! see you at camp!
    i worked my edit sched to finish one and be ready to start camp namo fresh!
    but i read 4 books at a time, so that is slow...
    good luck!

  9. I work with one novel at a time… it’s the only way I can work it. I can read several novels at a time and keep it all straight, no problem. But, with writing, I must focus on the task at hand to get the story correct.

  10. Another Nano in August? I never knew. Best of luck!

    At the minute I can't imagine working on more than one novel, but I suppose you don't know until you try. If one's not popping you can focus on the other one for a while. I can read more than one book now.

  11. The Popcorn Method sounds difficult! Once I start something, I tend to obsess over it. I am getting the hang of revising one novel while writing the next, though. :)

  12. He is right. If you want to be an author, you've got to work on multiple projects. I got a taste of that this spring when my revisions and then my line edits for one book were due to my publisher, while I really wanted to continue gung-ho on my new WIP.

    I did my best to keep up with both, but my CP pointed out that the male, contemporary protagonist in my WIP was beginning to talk like the female, historical protagonist in my soon-to-be-published work. Ooops. Clearly I need to work at that multi-tasking!

  13. Well, not only am I a one-project-at-a-time kind of girl, I'm also sticking to my Bards and Prophets story trilogy, which I've been working on for a little over two years now. I'm just sort of plugging along at my own speed.

    Good luck with camp nano!!

  14. I loved when he talked about this! It makes so much sense. I am working on being better at it. :)

    Hope you're having a great weekend!

  15. I have multiple projects going and multiple books I jump back and forth in. Although this week I've had two books totally suck me in and I concentrated solely on them.

    So excited you're doing Camp!! I hadn't intended to then things went haywire and now I'll be there. See you 'round the campfire! :)


  16. I'll be joining you and Tara at camp. It'll be my first and my cabinmates...well, not sure how much help they're going to be. Several are only 16, the others in early 20's. Had hoped for at least 1 or 2 closer to my age or at least in my genre (mystery this time around).

    Good luck! Oh, if you're on FB there is a good Camp NaNoWriMo support group there.

  17. Love the popcorn analogy. I actually remember my Dad making popcorn like that. It was yummy.

    I'm with Jeff. 'Generally I work on several until one pops', but occasionally I get lost wandering around in the woods, like say for the last 3 months.

    April was that A to Z thing that totally fried my brain.

    May was recovery month and get back on track.

    June was lost to health issues.

    And July has been another recovery and what in the heck are you doing here.

    I sure hope I'm back and poppin'. HA!

  18. That was a great Keynote, wasn't it? :)

  19. I can only be working on one book at a time, but I try to add kernels through reading, platform building, and research. That way I always have something heating up on this writing journey. Good luck with camp Nano! I would join you, but I', afraid I'm going to have this baby before August is up.

  20. We're going to be like RR buddies. I'm hoping to send mine out shortly after August 1st. :) I'm also working on another novel (currently on the second draft), and when I need a break from it, I'll start rewriting another project that was on the back burner.

  21. In my personal and professional life I used to think it was painful to juggle things.

    In the past few years I've juggled both manuscripts and reading multiple books in the same time period. I actually like switching. When I'm bored with something or need to take a break from it, I have something else I can work on.

  22. Well I guess that depends on what constitutes work. I usually like to see a project thru before starting another, but that's not very practical. Still, I can only handle one fire at a time. If something's being kept on warm or on the back burner, I can juggle.

  23. I try to juggle two or three but there is usually one project that I'm mainly working on. It would be nice to be drafting one while editing another. But during the summer that's impossible b/c I'm with my kids. :) Good luck with it!

  24. I haven't had the time/courage to try the popcorn method yet, but . . . I might. I really like the idea, but I think it works better if writing is your full-time job, like Anderson's.

    You've inspired me to sign up for Camp NaNo. My oldest starts full-day school and my middle child will start half-day 3x/week preschool next month—during the youngest's naps. Enough time to do it all? I guess we'll find out!


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