Being fair

Too much communications ?!?!

Too much communications ?!?! (Photo credit: occhiovivo)

 

Today I’m posing a question that I’d like people’s thoughts on: Can you work on two projects at once and be fair to both of them?

I’ve always been a one-story-at-a-time kind of girl. I have never been able to devote enough attention to two different projects at once and do them both justice. One will be going fine, but the other will be neglected (and in all likelihood complain about it loudly). I’m also the sort who insists on finishing one story before starting on the next one, because otherwise I’d have a whole stable of unfinished tales out there. Now, JRR Tolkein I am not, so having a collection like that doesn’t really inspire me.

What I’ve been doing this year is working on novel #2, which has a working title of Caffeinated. (This will probably change a number of times during the writing process, but I quite like having working titles even if they do swap around every other week. It beats the situation I found myself in a few years back when I was ready to post a novel online and discovered I didn’t have a title, so I just called it the first thing that came into my head. I didn’t like what I came up with then and I like it even less now, but it seems to have caught on so I am loathe to change it.) I gave myself permission to start work on Caffeinated because novel #1 had a completed first draft. That, and I only came up with the premise just before Christmas and it was all new and exciting in my mind.

Trouble is, I’m falling into old habits. I had set aside this year to edit my first novel, the one whose first draft I completed in November. But I’ve been working on novel #2, and as such novel #1 has fallen by the wayside. I haven’t even opened it this year, let alone started editing. And while I told myself it was becuase I was waiting for a book I’d ordered about structure to arrive from the UK, it arrived last week and I still haven’t done anything about it. Yep, I’m finding myself unable to work on two different projects at once again.

I’m a little torn as to what to do about this. Should I quash my instincts and make a concerted effort to work on both at once? Or should I make a deal with myself, alternating with one story one week (or month) and the other story the next? Or should I work really hard to get a draft for novel #2 done by, say, August, and then edit novel #1 after a good nine months’ break?

What works for you?

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16 Comments

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16 responses to “Being fair

  1. When I write, I have trouble finishing what I start, so one-at-a-time seems to work best for me. That said, I remember reading about how George R.R. Martin has been pressured to speed up his Song of Ice and Fire. He’s getting old, not as healthy as he could be, and has two thousand-page books left in the series. He said he writes best working on several different projects intermittently and was not willing to change that.

    • Hey, you have to do what works best for you. I can’t write something without planning out the end first, as I need to know where I’m going in order to finish it. Otherwise, like you suggested, there might be a number of half-finished stories clogging up my hard drive. But George RR Martin I am not, and several different things doesn’t work for me. Hey, I struggle at two! I’m thinking that doing them in blocks is probably my best bet: a block of #1, and a block of #2. I guess that until I try it, I’m not going to know how well I’m doing, am I? Thanks for the comment!

  2. I doubt there can be a one-size-fits-all answer. I too prefer to focus on one project at a time, but I will allow my novel-writing to be interrupted if a short-story opportunity presents.
    Self-discipline is important. If you think you’ve had enough time away from #1, it’s time to edit it. That said, dividing time between editing #1 and writing #2 could work well, because you could consider the writing time to be a reward for editing. It’s less fattening than chocolate, too.

    • Oh, but I LIKE chocolate!!! I see your point, though – switching it up could be a good thing for me, and I like the idea of using writing time as a reward for editing. (Cheaper than chocolate, too, come to think of it.) I think I’m going to go with the majority here: do what feels right for me at the time, and don’t stress about it too much. I have a suspicion that one day I’m just going to wake up and really WANT to do that editing, in which case it will be time to pick #1 up again. In the meantime I will stick to #2 to punch as much of that out as I can. We’ll see how I go. :)

  3. I can’t just do one thing at a time, or not for very long. I get bored after the first headlong rush. What works for me is that I have a digital sticky post on my desktop where I write the two or three things I’m working on and the next two steps that have to be done in each project and in the morning I just start with the one I most feel like working on. And when my attention starts wandering, I switch over to another. It helps that they are all very different and require very different tasks. That probably sounds like a nightmare to you… :)
    I think you can definitely be fair to several things at the same time (obviously, given the above statement), but if it makes you nervous or feel like you’re not getting the taks done, it might be wrong thing for you. You could experiment. Alternate between them daily and see how it goes. Or try weekly.
    Good luck finding your rythm and let us know how it’s going!

    • Thanks! Though daily is probably a bit much of a switch for me. I was thinking weekly or monthly, which gives me time to re-immerse myself in the story so I can write it properly. And I admire you for being able to keep up with so many different projects at once. Yes it does sound like a nightmare to me, but then again we’re all different and I’m very impressed that you’re managing them so well. If only I had that capability. But fear not, I shall definitely keep you posted as to how I’m going. How else am I going to find something to blog about each week? ;)

  4. The back and forth process works for me. For instance, I started writing my current novel, Guardians and Other Angels in 2005 or 2006 and didn’t submit it for publishing until 2012. During those inbetween years, I began and managed to finish two other novels that I have submitted to my publisher. Once I near the end of a manuscript, I must give it my undivided attention, however. That feeling of accomplishment is an important motivator for me. My greatest distraction from writing is all of the busy work required in the marketing process of my books.

    • Oh, marketing. Fortunately I’m not quite there yet, though when novel #1 does come out (and I’m planning to have it ready to be beta’d, at the very least, by the end of this year) I shall be required to do that as well. Who said writing was easy? Sigh. But if it works for you, then go with it. I might try a bit of back-and-forthing this year, as in a month with one story, a month with the other, to see if that works for me. I totally see what you mean about getting to the end of a manuscript, though. Finishing a story is an amazing feeling. :)

  5. As a freelancer, I have no choice but to work on several things at once. And the fact is, you are doing that anyway because writing is not the only thing that you’re doing every day. The trick for me, is that whatever I’m working on, I’m not thinking about anything else. That way, my focus doesn’t get pulled.

    • Focus, hey? That might be a pipe dream. My writing time is either during my lunch break at work, in which I’m at my desk anyway and therefore beholden to the telephone and people passing by who might want to talk to me – or it’s at home when the kids are asleep or otherwise engaged, in which I’m scrambling to get a number of things done during the rare free hours. As such, focus is not as easy to come by as I would like it to be. I shall take your advice, though, and give it my best shot … writing by hand during my lunch break, for example, in a place other than the office, or promising myself that the next two (or so) hours are to be given to writing ONLY. Who knows? It might just work. Thanks for the comment! :)

  6. I write one thing at a time; otherwise, I become too scattered and nothing ever comes in on time (if at all). But everybody’s different (which is of no help to you re this question, is it?). I have watched people juggle multiple half-finished assignments, thinking, Oh, they are so never gonna make deadline … and, dang, then they do … kills me, Whatever gets you from Point A to B the quickest, with the least amount of neuroses, is what’s right for you. :)

    • Least amount of neuroses? Hahaha. I like that. I like to think of myself as neurosis-free, which of course means I am most likely riddled with them. But there does seem to be a theme here, doesn’t there? Do what works for you. But like you, I don’t cope well with too many storylines running through my head. They become jumbled and then nothing gets done. Sigh. Thanks for the comment, Lee! (Oh, and I plan to review your book here in the next couple of weeks …)

  7. Listen to your instincts and you’ll never go wrong. Your first book is there, waiting for you. You’ll find a reason to go back to it when you feel ready to do the work.

    • Thanks Darlene! I think that might be the way to look at it. Whatever I want to pick up is what I’ll work on. And if I’d rather read or something then that’s okay as well. After all, absorbing someone else’s creativity is always good for feeding your own.

  8. I can only write and read one book at a time but I think you have something going. You’re excited about Novel #2 so keep writing, Novel #1 can wait for edits and they’ll be even better when you’ve had some time away from them.

    Keep writing, I say, keep the excitement alive and then go back to Novel #1 and read through it to understand your growth and where you can strengthen it.

    Thanks for writing and reading,

    Sarah Butland author of Arm Farm, Sending You Sammy and Brain Tales – Volume One

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