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?
IT’S WORKING FOR ME RIGHT NOW
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!
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
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.