Home » Writers' Minds » Do You Have Multiple Writing Projects?

Do You Have Multiple Writing Projects?

Recently there seems to be some kind of editing virus going around. I’ve read a lot of blog posts, tweets, and general comments about writers who are currently having trouble moving forward with their edits. Apparently it’s contagious, so  beware!

On a more serious note…

There’s a lot of advice out there about what to do when you’re stuck on one phase of the writing process. Editing, as was the above example, or writing the first draft (my eternal illness). As I do with most advice, I read it, consider it, and still do my own thing. That’s INTJ, for you. (Unless it’s some damn good advice.) But I am curious to know how others push past that “stuck” stage. More specifically, I want to know: How many of you guys work on more than one novel at a time? And if you do, why do you feel it is necessary? What motivates you to work that way? And do you finish things, even when you have multiple projects at once?

New Perspective

Image: Morguefile

To combat stagnation, I’ve found that I do best when working on multiple projects. It relieves the stress of the project that’s bothering me while allowing me to focus on something else for a while—something that interests me, something that is coming to me more naturally at that particular moment. Meanwhile the project that’s giving me trouble percolates in my head (subconsciously), and when I finally figure out how to solve the issue, the answer typically snaps into my mind (usually at an inopportune time) as if someone has flipped a switch. If I suddenly excuse myself in the middle of a conversation, please forgive me. Writer brains are unpredictable little beasts. The lights are always on.

Working on multiple writing projects doesn’t mean that I have a short attention span. Quite the opposite. I’m capable of focusing on many things simultaneously and for long periods of time without entangling them. The reason this works well for me, I think, is because I’m both an academic writer and a creative writer. The upside to this combination is that I can satiate my need for logic and objectivity when I’m contemplating my more ‘scientific’ work while the creative side of me rests and stews and energizes. And vice versa, writing creatively often inspires me to work on something more concrete. I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve had story ideas, characterizations, or resolved plot issues flare up in the middle of school-related things. Or how I’m inundated with research ideas just as I start a battle scene in my novel. The two sides are like oil and water sometimes, but they are cohesive and interconnected within the overlapping spheres of my mental writing web.

But in addition to the simultaneous barrage of both academic and creative things, I also enjoy (and need) the variation of multiple creative projects. Working with different facets of different novels helps to stimulate my creativity and tends to speed up the process of finding those “difficult” narrative answers. Sometimes I get answers to questions I haven’t even asked yet for a project totally unrelated to the one I’m working on at the given moment.

If I need to feel like I’ve completed something, I work on poetry. Sometimes a poem will take a month. Sometimes a day. But it typically has a clearly defined end in sight, which is a lot more than I can say about my novels. If I don’t feel like writing, then I edit, because that requires a different type of focus. A more concentrated method of thinking. A specific arrangement of objectivity. Simply put, I need to shake up my thought process every now and then. I need to constantly give my muse something to chew on, something to digest. I need change and challenges. If I don’t, I get bored. I get stuck. I get frustrated. I stall.

So how is it for you guys? Do you singlemindedly focus on one project. Start one, finish it, then move to the next? Or do you have a plethora of projects and choose the one that suits you at the moment? How do you decide? And how does it work for you?

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39 thoughts on “Do You Have Multiple Writing Projects?

  1. I often have multiple projects on the go at more or less the same time. Far from being confusing, I find that it actually helps me to focus: if one thing isn’t working so well, I can put it aside for a little while and work on something else. I find that that’s infinitely better than just grinding to a halt. Works for me, anyway!

    • Yes, exactly. This is precisely why I enjoy having multiple projects. It keeps me moving forward. I’m glad to read that you have a similar process! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I generally only have one writing project going on at the time, but I can write one project while editing another. It just depends on the phase of the project for me, I think.

    • That makes sense. Writing one thing while editing another is a good way to break things up. I can definitely understand preferring to work on only one thing at a time writing-wise though!

  3. Michelle – I WISH I could work on more than one novel at a time, but I’m very monogamous with my writing. I could do little things while working on my novel (weekly blog posts, a magazine article), but the THINGS, I’m single-minded. It’s just who I am….

    • There’s nothing wrong with writing just one novel at a time! If that’s what works for you, then that’s what works! I have met a few writers who are also quite particular about working on only one large writing project at a time. If I’m being honest (and this is only my opinion and certainly doesn’t speak for everyone), I think concentrating on one writing piece is probably more efficient in the long run. And probably has a greater chance of completion. As I mentioned in the post, I get hung up on first drafts all the time!

  4. I can work on fiction and non-fiction at the same time, or write one and edit another, but can’t seem to have two projects of the same type in the same stage at the same time. Guess my brain doesn’t work that way. 🙂

    • That’s because your brain has to work through all the parts of one stage for one project at a time. That makes sense to me. 🙂 That’s why you’re such an efficient writer!

    • That’s interesting. Seems the consensus within the comments veers toward one project at a time. Do you still only work on one novel at a time, though?

        • Nice. I sometimes wish that I too only did one at a time. The editing is a different form of work, so I can see why you can do both simultaneously. Thanks for sharing your process!

  5. I’m presently translating 3 stories, shifting from one to the other. It’s not intentional. I stopped work on the first after reading that my chosen publisher has a word limit that is less than my story. I started another one, but paused when I bought a beautiful old French book and immediately started translating it, leaving two unfinished stories behind. This can’t go on.

    • Ohhh. How do you decide your translation projects? I suppose having three of those types of projects could be a bit overbearing! But if there is one particular beautiful old French book that speaks to you . . . then why not? 🙂

  6. I always have lots of projects on the go – a novel, short stories, blog posts, assorted freelance work. I find that it helps keep my brain fresh by shifting between projects, and helps keep my skills sharp because there’s always something to plan, something to write and something to edit.

    • Yes, exactly this! 🙂 Though, I think freelancers have to be multitaskers to an extent anyway to maintain that important balance between professional and personal writing.

      • I definitely have a break now, goofing off in blog comments with other writers. 🙂 I’ll get back to writing later, promise! Just probably not on my short story I was working on…

            • You still have time! If you have need of another set of eyes at any point, feel free to send it my way. 🙂

                    • Yeah, I can imagine that. Short stories are a difficult medium, but when successfully done, they are fantastic reads.

                  • I sent it to Emery. I shouldn’t have. Thankfully he hasn’t read it yet, but he kept bugging me for some of my writing. So I gave him the second worst piece I have ever written which was that little story.

                    • You’re a harsh critic of your own work. I can relate. But everything has its potential. And actually, though romance isn’t my preferred genre, I am interested in the idea of what you write. 🙂 The sci-fi aspect sounds quite cool. And I remember our conversation about setting as character. So the stuff you write sounds like it has a lot going for it!

                    • Well, not the short story. Maybe my novel Phoenix does. It has an actual plot. I have yet to attempt to fix the story you’re talking about. It was the mess from last Nov Nano.

                    • Oh, the eternal messes. I have a lot of stuff I still won’t let anyone but my alpha reader read. I also have a novel titled Phoenix. Though I scrapped it. 🙂 Well, if you have any free time at all within the next few weeks, you were on a list of people I would like to ask to betaread my own short story (the one I’m putting back together). I’m looking for people to read it who haven’t read it yet. So … as I said, feel free to poke me with anything you need read. 😀

                    • Well the short story isn’t the Phoenix one. It’s a literary piece I’ve been trying to publish. So when I’ve pieced it together again, I will send it your way for a read-through. No worries about sending novels. I don’t have anything at that stage yet. 😀

                    • I PM’ed you my email via twitter just in case but then recalled you should already have my email. Um so bombs away whenever you’re ready!

                    • Thanks! And as I said, feel free to send me anything you’d like me to read for you. I’ll return the favor anytime.

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