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SHOULD YOU WORK ON MORE THAN ONE PROJECT AT A TIME?

November 18, 2021

            This subject comes up a lot on the forums and I was surprised to discover that I haven’t specifically dedicated an article to it. I’m pretty sure I’ve discussed it at some point, at least I think I have but I couldn’t find it, so here goes.

MULTITASKING

            Multitasking is a relatively new word, but it applies to a whole host of different things. In writing, it could apply to multiple projects. What does that mean exactly?

            We’re going to delve into that.

IN GENERAL

            Whenever one does a single project, there’s a certain amount of multitasking involved, or there can be, depending on the individual.

            If it’s just writing, you, as the writer, whether a pantser or a plotter, do the writing. You may do some editing, just write, stop and do a bit of research. You may keep writing and do research on the side, go back and fix something already written to tweak, then stop and rewrite something. Or, you may think of something great and research before you get to that point while still catching up to that spot, bla bla bla.

            All of this is a form of multitasking. While it isn’t working different projects, it’s in the same vein. The complexity isn’t on the same level.

            For a pantser it’s a lot different than for a plotter. Usually, I can only go by anecdotal evidence, since I’m a pantser. A plotter maps most everything out before they ever start writing. If, while in the process of writing what they carefully mapped out, they’re struck with another brilliant idea that upsets the entire process, do they stop and regroup? Do they stick with the plan? I don’t know for sure. I’ve talked with some, and the answers vary from sticking with the original idea, to scrapping everything past that point, to coming to a full stop and re-plotting past that point. The multitasking takes on a different aspect.

            Keep in mind that this is still the same single project. No other distractions are interfering.

DROPPING IN ANOTHER AND MAYBE ANOTHER PROJECT

            Some people are bursting with ideas. They can’t settle on one, or work on one at a time.

            Is this you?

            To me it seems like an easier task for a pantser.

            For a plotter, you must work multiple plots and draw energy away from each path. Then again, I suppose it isn’t any different from the pantsers deal either.

CONFUSING THE STORY LINES

            The biggest issue that comes up, which I’ve wondered about, is confusing the story lines.

            Luckily for me, I’ve never had this issue. While as a pantser myself, I usually stay focused on one major project at a time. That’s usually all I can handle in my head at a time. That’s not to say I haven’t tried multiple major projects, and successfully. It took a bit of juggling, but consider this.

TIME

            To work multiple projects takes time.

            To most of us, especially those of us that work for a living and have families, our writing time is precious. That means when we do get not only the time, but the motivation to write, that time must not be wasted or squandered. Spreading it out through multiple projects can dilute the creativity, despite our heads bursting with ideas.

DILUTING THE IDEA POOL

            While it might’ve seemed like a great idea at first, once you dive into the mechanics of it, is what you’re doing on each story all that different? Are you spreading yourself too thin?

            Maybe, maybe not.

CREATING ARTIFICIAL DEADLINES

            Once into these multiple projects, do you find yourself rushed to get one or both or all of them dun didded? Do you find yourself trying to get them overwith and rushing some or all of them just so you can say you completed something…anything?

            Does the quality of the work go down just to say you finished?

            Maybe, maybe not.

LOSING THE THREAD

            If you’re a pantser, in all the rush and initial bursts of ideas, did you somehow lose the original inspiration? Did you forget? Did the idea somehow blend in with the plot or idea from one of the others? Did you just rush (see above) and throw in the kitchen sink to make one work to get it done?

MY STORY

            I always like to end things up with my personal experiences. In 26 years, for the most part, I’ve stuck with one major project at a time. I have, in the past, tried multiple projects at a time and I ended up shelving the one to finish the other. It was just too much to concentrate on at one time. All of the above came into my head as I tried working the multiple projects and I just couldn’t let them happen. As a pantser, I had to stick with one. Then again, those others I started, at least some of them, I went back to and gave them a proper finish so in that way, I worked multiple projects and successfully completed them. I initially worked them together but ended up stopping to work one and finish the rest later. That’s what really happened so I wasn’t spreading myself too thin. That’s what happened with The Greenhouse and Lusitania Gold.

            On the other hand (a cliché phrase I use a lot in Fred’s world), that hasn’t stopped me from tossing in the occasional short story. When I do that, my main project comes to a cold stop for a few days while I whip out the short story.

            Why do I do that?

            Because it’s a short story!

            Usually, I get the idea, ponder what I want to write about, probably while I’m in the middle of writing one of my major projects, then I sit down one day or two, and whip out the story. That means taking an hour or two to write it, then on another day read it to the writer’s group, use their feedback to tweak it, then turn it in to one of the anthologies. Sometimes I just self-edit them and never turn them in.

            Then I go back to the major project.

            There are a few cases, where I’m working on a major project and have resurrected an older MS to edit at the same time. That’s not the same as writing something completely new. The older MS is already written. I just have to tweak it. That’s multitasking but not creating something out of the blue.

SUMMARY

            Working on multiple projects is, as usually taken in the context on the forums, writing two or more separate novels at the same time.

            However, multiple projects can be a lot more nuanced than that.

            I personally recommend one major project at a time for most people. It makes life simpler and the quality of the project better.

            Not everyone is built that way, but I guess most are, especially new writers.

            It’s up to you.

            Happy writing!

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