Three times, in as many days, I’ve seen posts in various groups on Facebook asking whether writers work on multiple projects simultaneously, or just one at a time. It’s an interesting question, to be sure.
Before I go any further, let me say this… There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. Writing is a creative endeavor, and as such, each creator has their own method and strategy. What works for one artist, may not work for another, and that’s perfectly fine. Any way you want to create, I support. Well, except painting or writing with blood… not a big fan of that medium.
Okay, disclaimer over… let’s talk about this for a few minutes.
My answer to this question is that I write in multiple projects simultaneously. I always have, I probably always will. At any given time, I have between three and five projects in process. Sure, they may all be in various stages of “done” but I’m working them all at the same time. I usually do a little bit on each one over a long period of time, and usually with classical music playing in the background.
One project may be in final edit, another may be in rough draft version two, another in rough draft version one, another may be in outline, world building, and character mapping, and yet another might be in synopsis development and story design. You get the idea. There are lots of spinning plates in the air at all times, which I find exhilarating. I’ve tried working on just one project at a time before. I didn’t enjoy it. Here are a few reasons why…
When I work on a single project, I find myself getting bored quickly. I have a Gemini brain. No, I’m not a Zodiac person… I don’t put much stock in that stuff, beyond the simple recognition that if we NEED labels, or tidy explanations for how we function in the world, this one fits me. I live in a continuous duality of emotion and thought. (I have one author friend who lovingly refers to me as slightly schizophrenic.) While processing through my day, my brain is nearly always going at full tilt. My imagination is constantly working on at least two different things, while my logical brain is working on strategies for my business and my home life. I find story in pretty much everything I see, feel, and experience… all the time. I don’t do singular focus effectively. I can’t imagine being forced to ignore all those other great ideas bouncing around in my brain while working a single novel. That seems tremendously stifling to me.
Writing multiple projects means that “writer’s block” (or as I call it, “writer’s laziness”) has no room in my life. If I get stymied on one project, I can simply move to another. Shift gears, and keep moving. There is no excuse for imagination shut-down in my world. I have too much I want to create to allow for any extensive “down time” while I “regroup” my thoughts. I write because, like breathing, if I don’t do it, I’ll most certainly die. I truly feel that. Nope, creative stagnation doesn’t serve me. Instead of wallowing in the frustration of not working in my project because I can’t think of the next thing… or more likely, Drake (my muse) is being stubborn, I move on to something else, and allow that other frustration to work itself out. Usually, when I return, the problem has been solved, and I’m able to move forward.
How do I do this? Well, I’m a Passionate Plotter. I keep outlines and timelines and notes of all sorts to help me remember what a particular group of characters are doing or the places they are going. Okay, the fact that I work in different genres helps tremendously. I don’t have a problem with overlapping characters or storylines because each project I’m working on is very different from the others. Think about all the television shows you watch throughout a week. Each one is different… maybe in the same genre (because humans can be creatures of habit), but each has a different storyline, with different locations and characters. Do you ever get them confused? No? My brain processes writing and books in the same way.
I’m also quite good at compartmentalization. I find it easy to tuck details from each story I’m working on into its own little box in my brain, and rarely do they mingle. I also read multiple books for pleasure, and I edit multiple projects for other authors, all while I’m working on my own novels. So, I suppose compartmentalization could be considered my “super power”, if I have one. Reading and editing help with story and character empathy, which makes me a better writer. I don’t think story creation happens in a vacuum. I believe you need exposure to other creative outlets to feed your own voice… whether that’s books, television, film, music, or art… I think it all contributes to making my work better.
There has only been one instance where I’ve noticed a comingling of my work, and that was with my romance novel, A Tryst of Fate. For those of you who are interested, the new edition will be available in early January.
So, how was this project different? Well, it was almost a deliberate process. At the time I was writing the first draft, I had an idea that I wanted to write a collection of short stories. As I finished the draft, and began editing, I realized that each of the stories had an overlapping theme, and they weren’t truly separate. Drake came up with a great idea to weave them into the larger tapestry of a single novel. So that’s exactly what I did. Sometimes, the Duck comes up with some great ideas.
So, the collection of short stories I was working on became the stories that my male lead tells my female lead, as a way to reconnect with her. Each story is a parable of the character’s history together. Then, I sewed them together with an over-arching main plot, and built in transitions specific to that story. It was a fun exercise in quilting a book.
The biggest overlap came when one of the short stories migrated into a separate book of its own. I read that particular section to the critique group I was working with at the time, and they suggested that with a little reworking, it could be a stand-alone middle-grade book. So, I did that. It's called The Griffin of Greed. I changed some of the language for a younger audience and wrote a second book, before the romance novel was published. That wasn’t in the original plan, but it worked out. Looking back, I’m happy, that I chose to link the shorts together into a full novel. They are much more vibrant as part of a bigger story, and together, they supported the main plot, as individual subplots. It was a fun writing process.
Sorry, I got sidetracked there for a moment. Gemini, remember?
Back to the original question. Yes, I think that writing multiple projects, if you can do it comfortably, is a fantastic opportunity to revolutionize your writing practice. It will keep your imagination engaged in the work, and help to eliminate the excuse of laziness by cloaking it in the term, “writer’s block”. For Drake and me, writing many stories at the same time, makes us very happy. Does it take longer to publish writing this way? Yes, definitely, yes. But it’s the method that works for us. It’s how we have the most fun. And if you’re not having fun, what, exactly, is the point?
So jump in. Try writing a couple of different stories at the same time. You may just surprise yourself with what the new forks in your creative road reveal to you, your characters, and your readers.
You'll find some interesting stuff here... some Op Eds, some Information, Book Reviews, and More. Poke around the categories and see what ruffles your feathers... in a good way!