This is a dilemma that many writers face—should you try to juggle multiple projects all at once?
When you’re in the beginning “honeymoon” phase of writing your book, you’re overflowing with great ideas and exciting plot twists. But eventually that initial flush of creativity tapers off and you find yourself bored and trying to determine “what’s next?” When this happens, it can be tempting to turn your efforts to a brand-new project with its accompanying creative rush and forget about your first book.
Instead of completely dropping one book in favor of another, consider this: It is possible—and not uncommon—to manage several writing projects at the same time. Doing so can actually benefit all of your manuscripts, but only if you maintain your focus and follow these guidelines:
1. You must stay organized. Write a chapter by chapter overview for each of your books in progress. This way, when you switch from one book project to another, you can keep track of where you are in that particular story, what’s currently happening to the characters, and where the story line is headed.
Take separate, meticulous notes for each book. And if the muse suddenly strikes with an inspired story arc for Book Two while you’re busy proofreading Book One; jot your idea down in a quick note, then put it aside and finish your proofreading. You’ll continue to make progress on your first book without losing your flash of inspiration for the second.
2. Practice smart time management. To work on more than one book project at a time, you need to make a schedule and stick to it. Allot a certain number of days or weeks to each individual manuscript—and focus exclusively on that particular book during that time frame. Working on one book and then switching to another will help you return to each story with fresh eyes. If your almost-completed book is feeling stale, seeing it anew after a brief break may help you to fall in love with the narrative all over again.
As you move between several writing projects, you may notice that one drifts to the forefront. If this happens, you might want to adjust your schedule to allow yourself more time to focus on the book that has you most motivated. Just remember to keep your other projects on the calendar as well, even if only for a few hours each day or week.
What if, after taking a break and returning to one of your earlier book projects, you still feel unenthusiastic about a certain work? Then it may be time to move on and concentrate on the projects you are more excited about.
3. Don’t be too quick to abandon a project. It’s easy to be distracted by every shiny new idea, and your older writing projects might look ho-hum in comparison. Before you shelve any writing project, ask yourself: Have I fallen into the perfection trap? No manuscript is ever perfect. And some writers use “it will never be good enough” as a way of giving themselves permission to quit. Remember: “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” (Harriet Braiker) Learn more about letting go of the pressure to be perfect.
Perhaps the most insidious reason of all for abandoning a perfectly good project is self-sabotage. But it’s not easy to spot or conquer self-defeating urges. To learn more about the connection between your mood and your creative writing, check out our book The Happy Writer.
QUESTION TO READERS: What advice would you give to this author about juggling multiple writing projects?
I always have many projects going at once. Right now I’m working on editing my first novel, getting my book of short stories ready to publish on CreateSpace and Kindle, finishing the sequel to the novel, and writing short stories and flash fiction. As a member of two critique groups, one online and a local writers’ group, I’m also submitting and critiquing. Being retired and living alone helps me find the time to do this – not to mention that I hate housework.
Some thought provoking ideas. The time management advice is critical. Documents can quickly start to look messy when time management be wrong, and if you have four or 5 conceptually different projects running on the same note paper plot lines and themes can blur, particularly if numerous characters are common to various. I also liked the bit about not abandoning things. Best not to start if you don’t be able to finish.
I try to work on one exclusively so I can get to a finished first draft. Once I’ve gotten further along. I only work on something new so I can give the main one time to stew and simmer a bit.
When I’ve let a month or two (or even longer) go by, then I return to it brimming with new ideas.
I may do that several times, and then when that baby is ready to enter the world, I have another project in a good place for taking over.
I try to infuse my other projects into the current project I’m on. So,all ideas are microcosm to the entire story