Should a writer have more than one work in progress?

Is it worth it to juggle more than one work in progress???

Is it worth it to juggle more than one work in progress???

It’s a really interesting question, and one that I think will have different answers for different people: should a writer have multiple works in progress in development at the same time? Not five or six, but maybe two? Is it a bad idea to write two things at once?

I realized this morning, as I was editing my proof copy of “The King’s Sons,” that I had gone from feeling kind of burned out where the novel was concerned to feeling really excited about it, almost to the point of not wanting to put it down when the time came to move on to other things (namely, my freelance projects).

Part of the reason, sure, is my newly released release date of May 31, and my excitement to put my blog posts together in an ebook–along with extra information not included here–as soon as I have my novel ready for release. That’s all given me a second wind. But part of my excitement had nothing to do with that.

I feel refreshed to edit “The King’s Sons” one more blasted time because I took a break from it. I took a break to do a read-through of my first draft of a fourth Herezoth novel, “The Esclavan Abductions,” that I wrote last year for NaNoWriMo. I took a break after writing that first draft in 2012 to…. you guessed it…. edit “The King’s Sons” again. And again. And hey, why not one more time?


Having two WIPs is really working for me right now. I was able to let the first draft of the second sit, so I could approach it with fresh, unbiased eyes later for a read-through, while I edited the first novel. And I was able to do that read-through while I waited for the proof copy of “The King’s Sons” to arrive in the mail.

No wasted time. And the change of pace–the act of reading an entirely different novel that I’d written while I waited for the postman–gave me some distance from “The King’s Sons” so that I didn’t want to lose my mind when I had to go through it for that time when…. well, that time when you don’t know what the number is because you’ve lost count but you know it’s one time too many where your sanity’s concerned.

Now I have all kinds of notes for “The Esclavan Abductions” to go back and use to do a first edit at some point. Score!


So, having two WIPs definitely has its advantages. But it can also have its disadvantages. So let’s examine some of those:

  • GOOD: It allows you to distance yourself from a WIP when you need to or when it’s giving you trouble, without having anything to do that’s writing related.
  • BAD: The second WIP can prove a temptation to just procrastinate on one when it might be better to dig in and do the grunt work and get progress made.
  • GOOD: If you keep the WIPs separate–so that you don’t go back and forth between them in the middle of a stage of the writing process, but wait until AFTER you finish the first draft of one, or a read-through, or an edit, before taking up the other one–you can stay organized. I recommend, for sure, not going back and forth between one and the other on a daily basis.
  • UGLY: Even being organized, you can still feel overwhelmed. Let’s be honest: just ONE WIP is enough to make me feel overwhelmed sometimes and super frustrated. And feeling overwhelmed is always one of the emotional states the least conducive to confidence, success, and timely progress.

I’d think it’s really a matter of preference and personality, whether you benefit from having more than one book on the burner. I’ve tended to overlap novels in pairs, starting with books 1 and 2 of my trilogy–editing book 1 while I wrote 2 book–and then books 2 and 3, when I was getting book 2 ready for publication.


41 responses to “Should a writer have more than one work in progress?

  1. I heard an author (I can’t remember who) saying once tat she always had three projects on the go at once. One she was writing, one she was editing and one she was planning. I know I couldn’t do this as my organisation skills suck but more often then not I have two projects on the go at once. I’ve just finished editing a project but at the same time I was working on first draft material for another project.
    Sometimes this works for me, other times it dosent.

  2. I think having two WIPs going is a great idea. It encourages you to completely forget about one while you’re working on the other, which can clear the mind.

    As you say, it’s a matter of preference. Each person and each project is different, but it’s definitely worth a try.

    • I’ve never really done it thinking “I want two projects.” It just kind of fell that way and it works for me. sometimes I only have one, and like you said, most times I’m completely forgetting about one when I have two.

  3. I used to work on several WIPs at the same time, then when I realised I wasn’t getting anything finished (I had like 10 WIPs together), I knew it was time to stop. I’m a monogamist now, haha.

    • wow, i can definitely understand consolidating down from 10! πŸ™‚ Glad you’ve found what works for you!!! I think I’d definitely drive myself nuts with more than two. and even with two, I more or less forget one of them because I’m concentrating for weeks at a time on the other

  4. I usually have one work that I’m REALLY focusing on, plus one I’ll turn to if I get totally stuck with the primary one, plus two or three others I’m “cooking” mentally but won’t actually work on until I’ve cleared the decks of the primary and secondary. I feel that having lots of things going on at once seeds me creatively; it’s an inspiration, not a distraction.

    • I agree about inspiration versus distraction!!! I guess I don’t consider stuff I’m only cooking mentally to be a WIP yet. But I definitely have a third novel I’m trying to mentally think about and prepare while I’m working on my other two WIPs. Fantastic point. Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Catherine Johnson

    Super advice! Can you imagine the pull to other projects when you write much shorter works, it’s so flitting!

  6. I write like I read – multiple books or WIPs going simlutaneously to fit my mood, schedule, etc. A lot of things end up dead in the water that way, but sometimes I retrieve something from a short story or poem that works in my novel. It feels a little unprofessional and haphazard working this way, but even my “process” is a WIP!

    • I think everyone’s process is a WIP. if it’s working for you then it’s working, that’s my approach πŸ™‚ I too have taken snippets of poetry and such and added them to a novel when it made sense to do so. πŸ™‚

  7. I am working on a first draft for the last book in a series and am near the end. I decided to write a short story for my blog last night and now I can’t get those characters to shut up so I can go back to my first WIP. I definitely have a one-track mind when it comes to my writing. Maybe when I finish the first one, the short story characters will tell me more and I can develop that story but if I start that one now, I may never finish the first one.

    I’ve been enjoying your blog. Keep up the good work!

  8. angel7090695001

    I currently have three WIPs. I write on one when I feel in the mood for it and switch when I feel like it. This means I can get my best writing on whatever project I work on. It also means I get maximum writing time.

    • nice strategy!!!! I wish hopping around like that would work as well for me. but I get too anxious and am too neurotic to make that function well, haha!

      • angel7090695001

        To each there own.

        You develop you’re own writing style and method that’s unique to you. I would never recommend copying another writer.

  9. If they’re part of the same series then writing more than one at a time can be a great help; world building, foreshadowing, that sort of thing.

  10. I think multiple works in progress is a great thing. It does provide a way to procrastinate on one project but for me, more often than not, it provides inspiration to go back to the first project. Although besides my two works in progress I paint and it is the painting that provides the inspiration as it distracts me from over thinking the writing.

    • I hadn’t thought about the “over-thinking” aspect, but you’re so right! I tend to do that when I’m really focused in on one WIP. Thanks for the insight!!! It’s important to try to keep some balance and not get so drawn into your WIP that every little thing bugs you about it because it’s not what you’d like it to be.

  11. Pingback: This Week on Books Direct – 7 April 2013 | Books Direct

  12. Reblogged this on novelnook and commented:
    What do you think, Authors of Novelnook? Do you have more than one WIP going at a time? I know I do! πŸ™‚

  13. I suppose I’m a little crazy then! I’ve got about eight WIPs that I’m working on. Seven of them are novels/novellas, some YA (sci-fi, fantasy, romance, etc) and some Adult Romance. The eighth is poetry. This is what I work on when I’m suffering from writer’s block or just can’t concentrate.

    If at any time I feel weighed down or boxed in by whatever I’m writing at that time, I close it down and open something else. Sometimes working on a completely different idea helps unclog my mind and opens up my muse again.

    As you said, that won’t work for everyone, but it works for me!

    Great blog, you’ve got a new follower!

    • yea! nice to meet you, Danielle. I do agree that it helps to move on to something else when your mind is clogged. I try to blog then. I work differently from you in that I don’t jump from project to project from day to day, though, even when I do have 2 WIPS in the burner.

      • Ah, if I didn’t jump, I’d go mad!

        I seriously love hearing how everyone else works. It just goes to show how different one writer is from the next. Often people think we’re just robots (or Cylons?) who pump out story after story in a few sittings. I’ve actually had people ask me how it took me two months from start to finish for a YA Fantasy/Sci-fi novel I wrote. I thought, are they kidding?? That was lucky! That was me working on the same project for two months straight, hardly doing much else!

        Then again, I don’t think people get it unless they try to write a 75,000 word novel for the first time ha ha!

  14. Honestly, I’ve always had at least 2 projects going at once. One of them was usually in the outlining and character creation stage while the other was being written. I liked the idea of having my next big project ready for me when I finished the first one. It was oddly comforting to know that I had more stories up my sleeve than the one I was working on. The trick is always to give time to each one and make the correct priorities and dedication. For example, I’m here blogging after I’ve said 5 times that I’m going to work on characters for one of my future series.

  15. I want to be able to to work on several at once — at least a novel and short stories. What ends up happening is that I don’t do the short stories at all for long periods or end up not working on the novel while I’m completing the short story. I’m hoping to experiment with time blocking and see if that helps.

    • time blocking can be super helpful! hope it helps you manage things better! It’s definitely a good idea, in general, to have a short story or two in the works for novel down-time.

  16. I always have several writing projects going, as I write the Amsterdam Assassin Series, which features 100K novels and short stories (the Katla KillFiles, and soon the Bram Outtakes). Plus I’m working on a stand-alone, so at the moment I have four projects going at the same time. Although I have to say I’m working hardest on Rogue, the third Katla novel.

    • sounds great!!! best of luck! i have to say, I don’t think I could juggle 4 four projects at once, haha! I admire that you can πŸ™‚

      • I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but it works for me. Every project is unique, so it’s not that difficult to switch. I have to say that I wrote novels first, and started writing the short stories as a ‘filler’ to help readers pass the time between novels. The KillFiles contain some more information on the protagonist of the novels, but not so much that they’re mandatory reading. My protagonist is an assassin and some of her past endeavours are briefly discussed in the novel. The KillFiles explore them with more depth, each one only concerned with a contract killing from her past, chronologically before the first book.
        The love interest of the protagonist, a blind musician, got a lot of attention in reviews and reader emails, where readers hankered for more ‘Bram’ stories, so I started writing the Bram Outtakes, which are short stories told from his perspective and centered on events that also happened before the first novel in the series, so they provide backstory and more information.

  17. Pingback: Editing and Art | M.S. Fowle

  18. I have two novel projects both in rough draft stage, one is near completion and the other is still in its beginning stages. I also have several short stories I’m in process of completing and the occasional freelance project. I balance all that with my jewelry business (my day job). Maybe I’m crazy. πŸ™‚ I like to keep busy. I find that as long as I prioritize the work, things still seem to get done in a timely manner.

    • i could never juggle all that, so I admire you for being able to! I wish I could be that way! I can’t handle more than two projects or I go nuts trying to keep things in order and figure out what to work on

  19. I have two writing projects right now that merit serious attention. To be honest, I felt almost disloyal when after 75% of one novel, I started from page one with a second which is a totally different franchize. I used to have a strict rule about working on only one project until the current draft was done. I would allow myself to do prewriting for the next project, but nothing else. I’m glad I broke that rule. After close to 100,000 words on the first piece I was getting burned out. The work was feeling a bit stale. After completing the first chapter of the new work I feel more invigorated. I know where I’m going with the next extended work and more able to bring the initial novel down the home stretch by the end of the summer. I guess that’s the long way of responding to the topic with a thunderous, “It depends.”

    • Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m glad you broke your rule when doing so worked out well for you πŸ™‚ It just goes to show there are no hard and fast rules where writing is concerned: even personal rules! It can be refreshing and motivating to try a new way of doing something, or to step away from a WIP for a bit when it’s turning stale.

  20. Pingback: Fly Fishermen and Comics in Education | Larry Crane

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s