Frankly, it would be easier if I was one of those people who could focus on one project; start it, finish it, then move on. My brain doesn’t work that way. I have one project that is my main focus and others that I add to as the ideas flesh out. In the end, this way is better even if it’s more challenging. When I’m feeling dark, I work on the Urban Fantasy/Horror. When I’m feeling hopeful, I work on the YA Fantasy. And so on.
Working on multiple projects at once ca be tricky, though. Most of us are juggling entire “other” lives outside of our writing, whether that means job, kids, or school. So here are my three tips for success when working multiple projects at once.
1. Have an organizational system
Or you can stay low-tech and have an accordion folder, binder, or a file cabinet set up to collect carefully handwritten pages of character details, sticky notes with bits of dialogue, or setting descriptions hastily scribbled beside the stains on the backs of coffee house receipts.
I use a combination of both methods. No matter what your system, decide on it and commit to it.
2. Make time to sort
The best organizational system in the world won’t help you if you don’t use it. Set aside time to make sure that all your digital notes are in the correct virtual folders or notebooks and all the physical papers are tucked away safe from muddy feet or hungry pets.
Do this every day or two or at least once a week. Waiting too long could make your notes meaningless or at least a lot harder to incorporate. A great detail or suggestion you came up with on your commute doesn’t do any good if you don’t have it in front of you when you’re writing that scene. Rewriting and editing are part of the job, sure. But, we won’t have to wallow in the misery as much if we are better prepared before that first draft.
I struggle with this one and let me tell you, it is much easier to sort a few days’ worth of notes than a few months’ worth.“A stitch in time saves nine.” Learn from my mistakes and take a few minutes regularly to preserve your most productive and creative time later.
3. Set the mood
Speaking of your most productive time, let’s talk about the actual challenge of switching back and forth between projects. In my case, it can be quite a drastic switch. I might be working on a supernatural thriller and a romance at the same time. Now, for the most part, I try to make it so that I’m editing one thing, writing another, and plotting a third and not actually writing two back to back. But, any way that you do it can be tricky.
To help recapture the moods I was looking to create, I use other media along with my notes and outlines. For example, I keep a playlist for most of my longer WIPs (works in progress.) I also have Pinterest boards set up with inspirational photos or quotes that have something to do with each work. (If you’re not much for Pinterest, you can always set up a folder in your computer’s documents or even have a collection in a physical folder or on a corkboard.)
So, if I’m working on the Fantasy WIP, I browse through my pics of dragons while I listen to the playlist and write out scene cards as the inspiration comes. Then later that day or the next, as I’m ready to jump to editing the Romance, I put on the playlist I created for it and maybe burn a candle with a specific scent that reminds me of the scene I’m on or the character I’ve created.
This is also useful just to get me in the mood to write. If I need to write an uplifting scene and all I can think about is the crappy day I’m having, I might choose not to write, but I might choose to lock myself in the office and play the songs that uplift me to try to capture (at least temporarily) the feeling that started the project in the first place.
I hope these tips help you maintain sanity while switching between multiple WIPs. I know these methods have helped me. If you have other ideas you’d like to add, drop them in the comments below!