Friday, October 29, 2010

Crit Dare Day 7 - Should You Write Two Books At Once?

Two more chapters critiqued. And more writing on multiple scenes both from the WIP, and a little work on The Serial. Wrote maybe 1500 words.

Which brings me to a question someone asked on Kindleboards this week - should people work on more than one story at a time?

For me the answer is a resounding yes, but it is a sticky topic. If we go back to Heinlein's Rule #2 (You Must Finish What You Start): the number one reason that rule is necessary is because shiny new ideas are more fun than the hard work of finishing an old idea.

After all, odds are that you wrote the easy stuff early on, and by the time you are getting close to the finish, it's all the tricky and hard parts that you have left. (Not shiny at all!) Giving in to the lure of a new idea is the downfall of many a writer.

However, there are a couple of reasons you might want to work on more than one project at a time:

1.) When a shiny new idea comes to you, you don't want to lose it. You want to at least take notes. If you don't, the new idea has a way of taking up a bit of your brain so you won't forget it. Get it out of your head and onto the page. Take the notes, and set them aside so you can get back to the work at hand with a clear conscience.

2.) Many ideas need a lot of "simmering" time. They need development, research, or just plain time to mature. If you get these stories going a few months (or even years) before you actually start working on them, they will be the better for it. But if you only work on one story at a time, you won't be very productive during those months or years. IMHO, you should put the pot on to boil before you're done with the previous story.

3.) The human brain was not intended for long drawn out concentration on a single thing. We all vary here, but we do tend to need breaks. A pause to work on somehting else can be exactly the mental break you need - and it is still productive work time.

The key to working on more than one project at a time, though, is to have one project that is the prime work-in-progress. That has priority. You must always go back to it. Give yourself rules - perhaps to start and end every work session with that story. Or to work on it every day.


marycatelli said...

I find that having one idea that you always come back to means that most ideas don't get done. Circling around so that when one idea runs dry I go to the next already-in-progress idea gets more stuff done.

(I work on multiple stories all the time. Bad habit, but unbreakable.)

The Daring Novelist said...

Well, I'm pretty liberal about dealing with those other stories, but if I didn't put something into finishing a story, I would run in circles forever.

Of course, one thing I do allow myself is to switch the primary story if necessary. If a story needs drawer time or is seriously stalled, I can't spin my wheels on it. I will put it on the shelf and declare some other story as the primary for a while.