Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Two Projects, One Writer - pros and cons

Imagine, for a second, that you could work on two novels at the same time. Imagine doubling your productivity. When shiny new ideas come flitting into your mind, imagine being able to switch to the new project at once, while it's still sparkly fresh.

Imagine finishing a novel. Where your folder of twenty half-started novels resides, imagine having a project you could show people. Imagine sending your first novel out on submission.

Both sound nice, don't they?

Part of being a writer is learning your process and developing strategies that work for you. Some people juggle multiple projects at once. Some people stick to one novel at a time.

I think I've complained enough on this blog about how long I've been writing
MIRRORPASS. I started in May. Two years ago. Shudders. So I can tell you how tempting its been for me to start another project.

Here's a couple reasons why...

- Working on one novel all the time can be hard. Two novels would allow me to switch back and forth whenever I get blocked, or I need a break from the plot.

- Better time management - my schedule forces me to write in small bursts during weekdays, which can be rough when I have a large issue to work through. Having two projects could allow me to keep working until the weekend, when I could handle larger issues.

- I could try out new ideas as they come. I've had tons of story ideas while writing MIRRORPASS, some of them with whole beginnings ready for the writing, but I had to set them aside and hope they'd still interest me later. This works. Sometimes. It would be a huge upside to tackle projects when I wanted.

- Being less dependent on one project. There's always the risk of spending a ton of time on a novel only to have irresolvable issues, or not being able to sell it.

- Having multiple projects on the burner. In the event of something going wrong with one project, realizing one first the market better, or being asked for alternative samples of work--well, I'll have that alternative.

- More freedom. Plain and simple, working on multiple projects would my writing process much more flexible.

But by the same token, multiple projects would also...

- Split my time. Despite being able to switch between projects at will, I'd never actually be able to type into both Word documents at the same time. I'm not cool like that. So one hour of writing time would, in essence, actually mean only a half hour for either of the two novels I was working on.

- Take away my focus. Trying to juggle two or more novels at the same time would mean juggling multiple plots, multiple characters, multiple issues. I would have to invest extra time just trying to switch my focus from one project to the next.

- Diminish my brainstorming power. This goes hand-in-hand with loss of focus. Brainstorming often comes when I'm not actually writing, filling the nooks and cracks of "lost time" like when I'm driving, exercising, or doing chores. The thing about brainstorming is that it builds upon itself. Trying to brainstorm on multiple projects would severely diminish the creative snowball effect.

- Tend toward procrastination. Let's be honest. If I had the option of switching away from a writing project when it got hard, of course I would. And I would probably end up avoiding it until my alternative projects got hard as well. Then I'd be stuck with a bunch of projects on the rocks and my powers of problem-solving split between them.

- Allow projects to go stale. Even greater than the risk of having unwritten ideas go stale is, I think, having partially-written projects go stale, especially when I've left them on the rocks. Unwritten ideas have an appeal that half-written ideas don't maintain. All that work could be wasted.

- Risk of not finishing. This is the biggest risk beside procrastination, I think. People with too many projects simply might not finish them all--or any of them. This results in not having a finished project to put on submissions or bring to a writing conference.

I've struggled on and off with these pros and cons, and sometimes I've tried to write two novels at once, but I always end up going back to one. My writing process doesn't fit the requirements for multiple projects.

But what about you? If you usually stick to one project, I bet you’ve envied those who have oodles of WIPs. If you write multiple stories at the same time, you’ve probably considered trying to set them aside and finish at least one. How do you determine whether it's a viable option, or just a tempting concept?

Next week, I'll discuss some important factors of success for each process in Part II: Is it for you?

Until then!

Truly and always,
-Creative A


April said...

I can't write two novels at the same time. I actually just kinda blogged about this today. I usually write the first draft of one, run through my first revision, set it aside, and then either query or write another while the one I just wrote is in the incubater. I can't concentrate on writing two at the same time. I can't be inside both stories. I am amazed at those who can do that, but I'm flabbergasted as to how exactly they manage!

ralfast said...

I don't write to novels at the same time, but I am juggling two story serials (blog based) and a novel. Not easy, but it keeps me writing.

Creative A said...

April -- I like that method. Sounds similar to mine. I usually start picking away at a new story while wrapping up revisions on another, but unfortunately, they still get in the way of each other at times.

Ralfast -- that sounds interesting; how do you balance it? Is it a schedule thing or more of a "I feel like writing this today" thing?


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