The Joys and the Perils of Working on Multiple Projects

It’s never my intention to have multiple projects on the go, but almost since the beginning of my publishing journey, this is the way it’s worked out. Currently, I’m juggling a few things at the same time. Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is finished, but I’ve sent it out to a small list of publishers. While waiting for rejection, I’m planning my self-publishing launch of this book. A Song For Bill Robinson was sent to beta readers for the first time and I just received the first piece of feedback from a reader. I am now responding to this with a 6th edit of the book. Meanwhile, I made a decision to reduce the planned trilogy to two books by moving the main event of book three to the end of book two. This is in progress. And then there is the four-book series I promised myself I would not start until all these other things were finished! But that’s proving difficult, and I have recently succumbed to writing five chapters and indulging in some research…

I never plan on working like this, and in fact, I’m not sure it’s a good idea at all! I often experience what I would describe as a nervous stomach throughout the day. Unless there is something specific I am worried about, I have no option but to blame it on the thought of my evening writing.

Have you ever juggled more than one writing project? Or would this be your worst nightmare? Here are 5 perils of working this way, followed by 5 joys, because in my opinion, it is fraught with both.

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Perils

  1. Not Finishing – This is a genuine concern. It is the reason I rarely finished anything when I was a kid. During the inevitable slump, my mind would be drawn to a new story and off I would go. This has also happened to me as an adult writer, hence the half-written sequels to The Mess Of Me and The Tree Of Rebels.
  2. Distraction – Working on more than one writing project can be hugely distracting. If your mind is being pulled in more than one direction, it can be really tough to sit down and actually get some words out. It’s not easy to concentrate or commit to one story when you have others calling for your attention. Sometimes I start the evening working on one book, and finish the evening on another, which can feel quite frustrating as if nothing is really getting done.
  3. Panic – This is a definite peril and one I experience regularly. I get a nervous feeling in my stomach like it is constantly turning over on itself. Sometimes it feels like I cannot breathe and I take an extra big breath just to be sure. I’m not exactly sure why I’m nervous about my writing, but I always feel better once I am sat down doing it. I can only imagine that the feeling of panic comes from my struggle to do too much.
  4. Spreading Too Thin – Working on multiple projects could potentially dilute the quality of your work. Lack of concentration, distraction, panic, self-doubt can all be heightened when attempting to do too much at once. This could lead to a reduced quality of your writing, which is something I worry about a lot.
  5. Burn Out – Worst case scenario, working on too many projects can lead to burn out and exhaustion. It could spark off writers’ block. You could become utterly stuck, afraid to move on. I’ve experienced this before, and the only good thing about it is that it does finally force me to slow the hell down.

But what about the joys? Are there any good points about working on multiple projects? Can it be beneficial despite all the above? I might be crazy, but I do think so…

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Joys

  1. Excitement – Writing is exciting. It should be. I know half the reason I get such butterflies in my stomach is that I am excited to get writing. It’s exhilarating to put words to paper, to create and evolve characters, to give them lives, to shape and control their existence, to create worlds and spark drama and emotion. A new project is undeniably more exciting than an old one, which may be wearing thin. I like to stay excited and working on multiple projects keeps it going.
  2. Not Losing Ideas/Words – Now I know the rule is to never assume you will remember a good idea if you do not write it down. How many writers have made that mistake? You must write it down! It’s entirely possible to save future ideas by jotting the gist of it down somewhere safe, then getting back to the project in hand. But what if more words start to come? What if vague characters start to evolve into solid ones? What if they start to present you with conversations and dialogue? There is no way you will remember it all if you don’t write it down! And then before you know it…
  3. Keeps Things Fresh – Editing and revising a novel can go on for years. Writing the rough first draft is fairly easy compared to all that is to come. All the editing, re-reading, rewriting, revising, cutting, rewording and killing of darlings. Editing can be a challenge but it can quickly become dull, and even a torture. Here’s where starting another project can be helpful. Writing something fresh and new! It helps to be disciplined though. I only allow myself a chapter of a new book if I have edited four chapters of the current book, for example. Don’t jump ship! Stay on board and then reward yourself with a little bit of something fresh and new…
  4. Fills In Time Between Beta Readers – If you are anything like me, you will send your novel out to beta readers at different times. I usually have three rounds of beta reads, and I will work on the book in between. But when it’s out, I can’t work on it. What am I going to do? Sit around and twiddle my thumbs? It could be months! So I get my teeth into another project. As soon as the other book comes back from a beta, I down tools and get right back to it, always treating the one further along as the priority.
  5. Increases Productivity – In the indie age, productivity and brand are key. The more books you write, the more brand you create, the more trust you build with readers. Working on multiple projects increased productivity, there is no doubt about that. Simply put, more books are written.

So, over to you guys! What do you think? Do you work on multiple projects? If so, how do you stay sane? How do you stay on track and get it all done? Do you only ever work on one book at a time? Please feel free to share and comment!

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10 thoughts on “The Joys and the Perils of Working on Multiple Projects

  1. There are certainly advantages to multiple projects, as.you show. I must say I prefer one at a time, but the reality is, that unless we.are just going to put our writing in a drawer rather than publish, we will need to juggle several projects. It’s a small price to pay for publication!

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  2. I now try and stick to the one project a time. But of course there are so many aspects of projects which I might work on e.g. bringing an ebook out into paperback, for instance. Like you, I write copious notes and I have projects planned, although these may change by the time I come to write them, several years down the line! While I find new projects fresh and exciting, I actually find the first draft sometimes more hard work and less enjoyable while I am trying to stick to an outline/plot too and it’s hard to see it in the round as I’m writing it. So I find the later drafts are the more creative times, I’ve got the main story down and then I can really get down to improving, refining, enriching and cutting waste.

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    1. Thanks Kate! I think it’s great if you can stick to one thing at a time, this is always my intention! It would make life a lot easier if I did, I think. I might just have to accept it’s never going to happen though!

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  3. Great post. I can never work on multiple projects and envy your productivity. My brain just stays focused on one story until it’s complete. Once it’s done, I have ideas for the next project and start work again. Love hearing how other writers work. Thanks!

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  4. Hi Chantelle. Wow! I’m in awe that you get all that going simultaneously whether you plan to or not 😉 If I did that, I’d fall flat on my face. I can only focus on one project at a time, difficult when patience isn’t my strong point. But I’ve usually got ideas popping up, which I make notes for. One thing I sometimes do, for a change of scene/pace, is to dig out a writing prompt and write a short piece. But, at the end of the day, I finish the story I’m working on before moving on to the next one. Also means less chance for the easily confused to get easily confused! Great post, by the way 🙂

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    1. Thank you Joy! To be honest, it’s not ideal! I think I’m going to accept it is the way it is though! That’s a great way to keep things fresh though, digging out writing prompts for shorter pieces!

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  5. I am working on my first book but also have two other projects that I considered working on alongside it. I’ve decided not to do that however as I’m concerned that it would distract me from my current book. Also what if I preferred the other projects and totally gave up on my current book? If I was already a published writer I may feel comfortable doing this but at the moment I feel I need to focus on my WIP instead.

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