Every time I update on my goals and people see how much I actually want to get done in a month, there’s at least one person who says that he/she doesn’t understand how I can work on so many projects at one time.
So I thought some of you might find it interesting if I explain.
At one stage, I used to work on only one project at a time, but even then, never quite. If I was working on one project and another idea came up, I’d postpone that idea until I finished the rough draft of my main project. In other words, I’ve pretty much worked on at least two ideas since half way through Doorways. (In case you missed it, Doorways was split into two halves for a publishing deal and I generally refer to either half by their individual titles.)
I’ve never worked on only one project from conception to final edits. I guess my brain just doesn’t work that way. Usually I’d take a few weeks off from one project before starting to edit it. In that time, about a month or so in, I’d start another project. Only rarely, though, would I work on another project while drafting another.
NaNoWriMo 2012 made me reconsider this. That year, I’d written an entire rough draft in two weeks, but it came short of 50k words. And because I hadn’t had time to think about something else to write and had only two weeks left, I had to give up.
Then in 2013, I started to think of how much writing time I actually lose because of the time I take before starting that second project. Worse still, I’m prone to writer’s block while drafting and in those times, I’d take weeks without writing anything while my mind figured out whatever was keeping me from continuing a story.
When November came, I decided to work on three projects: One main project and two others that I can skip to in case I wrote myself into a corner with one. It worked a dream. In fact, I think I almost hit 60k words in that time, and finished the rough drafts by the end of December.
Then came my five year goal, and I decided to push myself out of my comfort zone by running writing and editing projects concurrently. That, as it turned out, works even better for me.
How do I do it?
1) I always work on different genres to separate the stories in my mind. E.G. I have an epic fantasy, an urban fantasy, a contemporary romance, and a dystopian pipelined for rough drafts. For edits, I have the first two books in the same epic fantasy series as the one I’m drafting, a historical romance and a mythology retelling. Very little chance of confusion for me because everything looks and feels different from everything else.
2) Everything has a priority list. I’ll pick one rough draft, one rewrite and one edit at a time and then I don’t work on anything else unless it’s done or I get stuck.
3) In case of getting stuck, I’ll pick something else to work on until I get unstuck. It usually happens without much conscious thought from my side.
4) I never shelve anything indefinitely. If something doesn’t work and I can’t figure out why, I might move it down the priority list, but I never remove something from it. This prevents me from having a ton of unfinished projects in my wake.
5) Speaking of which, I write down any shiny new ideas I might have and add it to the priority list. And then I go right back to what I’m actually busy with.
6) I use spreadsheets to keep track of how many words I’ve written, rewritten and/or edited in a day, month and year by project. I also have a spreadsheet calendar where I outline each of the goals I set for the month, so that I can see if I’ve been neglecting anything when I shouldn’t.
7) On any given day, I pick what I want to focus on. Sometimes, it’s to edit, or to write a chapter, or to rewrite. I never move onto another project unless I’ve finished that task (or get stuck).
I wouldn’t be able to work on the projects the way that I do unless I had that priority list and a way to track my progress. Without them I probably would just end up going back to working on one or two projects at a time.
Now you know my secret.
Do you work on multiple projects? If so, how do you go about it?