There is nothing ill to be said about bouncing from one manuscript to another. But writing multiple manuscripts simultaneously can present some real problems Ever heard of term “50-page novel?” We've all had false starts, sometimes as many as a half dozen or more. Or we have an archive filled with 20, 30, 50-page novels. They all have their place in our writing career, since they were all born out of the same drive and inspiration. Each and every one seemed to be a good or even great idea at the time. Then one or two them loose their luster and you find the initial excitement has diminished. Yet you are not compelled to toss any of them away. So you bounce from one manuscript to the other, writing a few pages on one, finishing a chapter on another, or compiling notes for yet another.
If you're dividing your time between two manuscripts or more and don't seem to be making any headway, it's because you're probably not. You're beginning to feel like a master of none and a jack of all trades. You start one and it bores you. You change to another, looking for that lost thrill. It isn't there so you return to the original. This flip-flopping is confusing, time-consuming and depressing. You can solve the dilemma. Evaluate each of your projects by asking yourself several questions and analyzing your feelings.
Will this manuscript steal you away from the others? How so?
Does this story have the most unique and original premise?
Is this the type of book you would like to read?
What do your beta readers think?
Do you feel comfortable writing this tale, and do you find the tone, pace, genre and POV a good fit for your mood at this time?
What characters appeal to you the most and do you feel comfortable and at ease in their world?
Are you excited with the idea of crafting a special world in this story?
After you read several pages, are you easily drawn in and eager to add to the storyline?
You have to listen/feel for that magic, and a lot of it is gut instinct. The right story/book will flag itself. And I stress a single story. Hint: if you find yourself in a white-hot fit of inspiration and typing agility, go hard and fast, for surely that is the one that wants to hog your time.
Stories are like unruly children vying for your attention. Some are loud-mouthed, some are shy and timid, looking at you with soulful, watery eyes. Consider which one makes you feel happier when your in it. Consider which one seems more commercial. Consider which one is more mapped out and would be an easier trek. Hard choices. If you are comfortable biding your time between multiple manuscripts, and you can multitask, go ahead and give it a whirl. There's nothing wrong with it, if you truly have the talent to give each one the individual attention it requires.
I find that if I divide my attention between different story arcs and characters, I tend to dilute the overall execution of all of them. To keep me on target with one book, after I've settled on it, I copy the books/stories to a flash drive and erase the originals from my files. I'm then less likely to dive back into them, read them out of curiosity or play around with newer ideas. This gives me the impetus to stay focused and finish one project at a time, before I even think about starting or continuing with the next.
That's really the secret to good productivity—finishing one project at a time, slugging it out in the trenches, solving plot problems then and there, editing as you write, but spending all your time on that project. Until it's finished. Then start your questions and analysis all over again, and begin anew.
But just keep writing, even if it is touch and go from one to another. Heck, if you are a true multitasker, they eventually might all get done!
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