Some writers work on one thing at a time. Others are multi-taskers and successfully handle many projects at once. I’m not about to tell you which way to be–only you can decide what works best for you. However, I can tell you how I operate. I’m a serial monogamist when it comes to writing. I can handle one thing at a time.
However…I can handle a couple of projects which are in different places in the writing process. In other words, I can be editing a chapter book at the same time that I’m actively completely the first draft of a tween novel. But and this is a big but, I can’t work on my WIPs (usually) on the same day. I’m one of those all or nothin’ kind of people. Also, if I’m writing, I don’t even like to do author-y things or when I’m doing author-y things, I’d don’t like to do too much writing. Hey, I’m still working on that one.
But let’s get back to the serial monogam-y thing. If I’m working on a revision of a chapter book it probably means that I have sent a chapter of my tween novel to a trusted reader for review and I’m waiting on things, so that gives me the mental space to then work on the revision of my chapter book.
Now sometimes while I’m working on the first draft of a novel or even an edit, I’ll be reading the newspaper or daydreaming and then eureka, I’ll get the idea for my next book. Oh, it’s so exciting! A new idea beats up on that old idea that I’ve been hammering away on. It’s just so much cooler and shinier–I want to hold onto it and just begin writing this great new thing!
But I know from experience that if I cheat on my current WIP, I won’t be happy. Believe me, I’m tempted. And I have succumbed to temptation in the past, but my advice is –write down your great new idea in a book of ideas and come to it later. If it’s really so awesome and wonderful then it will wait for you and won’t find a new girlfriend. What has happened to me if I jump and explore my idea right away is that I end up with the first 30-50 pages of another novel (yes, I have a drawer full of the first 30-50 pages of manuscripts). Following through in novel writing is very important, even if your first draft sucks. At least when you have the lump of something sucky, you can shape it into something less sucky.
One of the things to remember is that by not picking something it doesn’t mean you won’t get to it one day. My first book for tweens was originally a short story that I wrote 16 years ago when I was a student in a fairytale class at Hollins University where I now teach. The novel, Things Are Gonna Get Ugly was published three years ago! So remember that you will not be neglecting a project just because you are choosing another. If it’s meant to happen it will.
So here are some questions to ask yourself when considering which manuscript to tackle first.
Which project gets you the MOST excited right now?
Which one do you think about?
Which do you want to talk about with your writing friends?
I’d go with that–and stick with it!