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Keep Feeding Your Muse

I’ve been writing fiction for many years and have finally come to the conclusion that to keep my creativity flowing, I have to work on several projects at one time.

And now that I’ve had the happy experience of being under contract, it’s even more imperative that I work on more than one project at a time. Right now, I’ve got one short story set in galley that has to be proofread, another going through contracted edits and another on an editor’s desk. Besides that, I have a full-length in first draft stage that came up quite a bit short in the word count, so I have to plot out and add in new scenes to make that longer, and I’m also plotting out a new full-length, post Civil War romance.

As a freelance fiction writer, you can spend years plotting out, writing, revising and editing a book, then another couple of years trying to sell it. And, as in the case of my July release, Erin’s Rebel, you sometimes have to stop submitting and revise it yet again before you can make that sale. So, is it any wonder that you can’t just work on one project at a time? Not only is there the question of how to make any money that way, but how can you establish a following if fans have to wait years between books?

In my case, I have one release this July, followed by another in September, as well as an anthology release in July as well. And this is the direct result of working on more than one project at once.

But as my mother-in-law said when I told her I was working on two books at once, “How can you do that and not get them mixed up?”

The key for me is to keep everything compartmentalized. I have a certain time of day set aside just for writing projects. No matter what else I have to do that day, I use this time for writing. My time is right after my lunch break. For the next hour and a half I work on one or more of my writing projects and nothing else. And I can split that time, depending on the number of projects that require attention. Like right now, I’m working with my editor on edits for my new vampire story, but I’m also plotting out that post Civil War novel. Since I have two weeks to edit a short story only eight chapters long, I divided the task into two chapters a day, which gets the job done in a week instead of two, so if something else important pops up, I’ll have plenty of time to work it in. This way, I still have an hour to work on the plot of the book.

I also make lists of long-term projects I want to complete. For instance, I want to finish my outline by the end of this month. Next month, I plan to put that aside and get back to the first draft I’ve already written, and plot out and write new scenes for that, then give the full a revision. And I plan to write the first draft of the newly plotted story over the summer months.

The main thing is, by switching among different projects, I never get stuck. If I come up against a wall in one project, I can just switch to another and this usually works the block out on the first. It also helps fuel my imagination.

So, if you’ve been working on only one project at a time, try adding a second, then a third and see if it works for you. How many writing projects are you currently working on?

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11 Comments

  1. I have never been able to work on just one project. Loki, my muse, would never let me.

    I have 1 full length that I’m polishing, and 3 full lengths in the works, all at various stages. My Scottish historicals, book 2 is about 1/4, Book 3 is about 1/3. Then I have an American West set one that I’ve begun writing.

    It’s good to know I’m not the only one who works on more than one project at a time.

    Renee

  2. I think a lot of writers do, Renee. It’s kind of necessary in this business. As long as you keep yourself organized so you don’t confuse yourself, I don’t see any problem.

    Good luck with all your stories!!

  3. Susan,
    I’m amazed at how many projects you’re working on at the same time. It takes discipline to finish even one book much less three or more at a time! Right now, with Seduction released on Amazon, and finishing the galleys for the anthology for release in July, I’ve been swamped. I also have a novella I need to make edits on before resubmitting to the editor. But that one has been on hold while the other things took up most of my time. I haven’t yet learned to write more than one book at a time. After reading how you do it, I’ll give it a try. 🙂 Way to go!

    Jeanmarie

  4. Good luck, Jeanmarie! It was actually when I read bios of published writers who worked on multiple books and always seemed to have new releases coming out, that made me decide I wanted to do that too. Now, it’s become second nature to juggle all those projects.

  5. Mary Ricksen says:

    I have to give your kudos for being able to write more than one book at a time.
    I’m lucky if I can remember two things I was thinking!!
    Good luck Susan, I wish you the very best!

  6. Thanks, Mary! It does take practice. When I was first trying to sell my time travel romance, I started on my historical and did have occasions when I got characters mixed up between the two stories. They’re both set during the Civil War. But now I have several more stories set in the same time period and have no problem separating.

  7. Emma Lai says:

    I have one short story in edits and three more shorts in the series going, all in various stages. This is addition to two half-finished full length books, where one of the books is the first in a trilogy. I also have five or so other stories started and I have no idea what lengths they’ll end up being. I write until the story is done…sometimes it’s a short and sometimes it’s full length.

  8. Very ambitious, Emma!!
    Good luck with all of them!

  9. Currently I have one manuscript that’s gone through final edits (hopefully – fingers crossed) before galleys that’s with my editor right now. In the meantime, I’m working on another manuscript, which is a little more than halfway there. Lately, I’ve also been thinking about a mss I started about a year ago, then put aside when “the call” came and I went into edit/publicity mode. Something is tugging at me to pick it up again, even though I haven’t finished the other one.

  10. Paisley Kirkpatrick says:

    I’m working on four stories right now. They are all so different so getting them mixed so far hasn’t been a problem. Only once did I find the heroine’s name from one story used in error in another. Three of the stories are about sisters and it was easy to do it and strange that no one ever noticed. I like the variety of being able to spend time with whomever I choose.

  11. Hi, Debra and Paisley!

    Debra, good luck with your mss and, believe me, I feel that tug all the time. I’m trying to finish up my plot outline for my post-Civil War story, but am feeling the tug to get back to the first draft of my sci-fi.

    Paisley, I’m surprised I haven’t gotten characters mixed up more. When the stories are in the same genre, no matter how different the plots are, it isn’t easy to keep all those characters straight.

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