Can you work on more than one book at once?

When I was a kid, my mother found it baffling how I could simultaneously read five books at the same time (not literally…but chapters out of different books throughout the same week.) My writing life was similar. Ten-year-old Michelle planned sequels to books that weren’t even finished. I dabbled in writing multiple stories at the same time. I was a top multitasker. Even in my fanfic years, I was capable of pushing out one-shots and novellas while still building an epic-lengthed fic.

Somewhere, I lost all that. Darn.

Original fiction requires a long stew period for me. I take months just to THINK about where I’m going with my next project. This is very difficult to do with two WIPs at once,  unless they’re in a series. Which is probably why I’m so tempted to write Paradisa’s sequel for NaNoWriMo, as I literally cannot think of other stories right now.

I try. I try to build other plot bunnies up in my brain, molding them into a story, but my thoughts constantly slip back to Connor and his pals. I’m an outliner too, so I can’t just “write and see where that takes me.” Even pushing out short stories during this time is rough.

On one hand, this is quite frustrating.  On the other, it’s necessary. To finish a book – to spend the required months of writing, possible years of editing, possible years of querying – you almost must be obsessed with it. It must pain you to think of working on anything else. Otherwise,  you might give up. You’ll grow sick with it. You might lose your patience and never want to finish or see it again.

I know this is not the case with some of you. You lucky dogs can spread yourself across multiple universes, puppeteer the lives of many different characters. That lends itself very well to genre-writing or self-publishing. I myself have an obsessive personality though. I’m a planner and a commiter. And when I commit to a project,  I am useless to anything else. I cannot do scripts and film work while writing fiction, nor can I do music work with my boyfriend. Even when I was in fanfic,  I could only write for one fandom at a time – and I couldn’t do original work either.

Are YOU able to juggle multiple projects at once?  Or are you a raging obsessive like me?

9 thoughts on “Can you work on more than one book at once?

  1. Personally, I have something like an opposite problem. I am always jumping from one project to another, which means I have about 20 projects (and I write daily flash fiction) at a time. I’m not sure if I am effectively juggling, but I can’t ever just work on one thing. I have writing ADD.

    • Ooh, that sounds like it could be a frustration too! I like that you do flash fiction, but I can imagine it’s difficult to finish a longer piece. My coworker is more of a drabble/flash writer as well. She says she likes writing, but doesn’t have the attention span to do a novel.

      Meanwhile, I suck at flash fiction because of that lack of “stew” time. I could probably execute concept-driven pieces as flash (as I did for a short story contest last month), but I have to think about characters for a long time before they become living, organic people. Anything with a remotely deep character cannot come out of me instantly.

  2. I’m such a multitasker I have to jump back in forth. If I get too invovled with one writing project, I go insane and start to obsess. I need that break into other worlds. Plus, I’m just like this in real life in my job too. I don’t know why. I guess you just find out what works best for you, even if it sounds nuts to other people. <3

    • I’m constantly impressed by your multitasking, because you actually manage to finish most of your projects!

      Everything else sounds boring to me when I’m knees deep in a project I like. It’s annoying, because I’d really like to jump into something *new* for NaNo, and get a different kind of book going, and it’s kind of pointless to write a sequel to a book that isn’t published. Maybe I just haven’t found the right kernel of an idea. But mostly, I devote pretty much all my free time to pushing out the next edit of my WIP that I don’t have time in the day to mull/outline anything new.

  3. I used to multi-task more than I do. I have found it is better to get one thing done and wrapped up than to work on five things and not get anything done. Now and then, I’ll write a scene or outline a concept for a different story, but I try to stay focused on one novel. Once that’s done, I can use the notes I’ve used to work on the next one… and then edit the previous one.

    • I’m the same way! If I worked on five different things, I’d never have anything to show for it. I keep a “plot bunny” journal with concepts that come to me, and those concepts may turn into books one day, but not while I’m in the midst of my WIP.

      I’m pretty incapable of writing other things when I’m editing too. Bah.

  4. Up until recently, I was a monogamous reader and writer. I couldn’t fathom trying to read more than one book at a time or work on more than one project, but somewhere that’s changed. Some days it’s a blessing and other’s not so much. I’m typically reading about four books at one time and working on two different stories. At some point though, one usually takes over and demands my attention and I’ll submerge myself into it until I get it finished.

    • I’m still decent at reading multiple books *nods* I’m currently reading These Broken Stars and House of Leaves, but I’ve set both of them down for awhile. One is just too creepy to read for long and the other hasn’t quite captured me yet.

      I’m considering starting a new novel for NaNo, as it’s an idea I may be able to accomplish simultaneously….but I’m still mulling. If I do achieve it during NaNo, I’ll probably put it on the back burner and continue working on the current WIP. I’m so close to the finish line, I can’t focus on anything else :P

      • I’m terrible about starting something when an idea pops in my head and then putting it aside. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though. It will be there for when I’m ready to come back to it.

        The finish line is always sweet. Best of luck!

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