One of the more difficult adjustments for newly published authors to make — and for established authors, too! — is the need to work on multiple projects at once.
There’s the book you’re promoting, the book you’re editing/proofreading, the book you’re drafting, the book you’re hoping to sell, and . . . sometimes more! (For me, there’s also the book I’m co-writing!) And if you’re published with multiple houses across multiple genres, it can get really tricky to switch gears.
I think a lot of us find some kind of rhythm eventually, or at least pretend there’s a rhythm to it. Looking at a to-do list with a million things, needing to switch mindsets to write about different characters and worlds — it’s a lot. So with that in mind, here are a few ways I keep it together when I’m moving between projects.
1. I keep really, really good notes.
When I have an idea for a book I’m not working on, I write it in my Scrivener file, or in a notebook dedicated to that book. Too many ideas have been lost because “Oh this is such a good idea I’ll remember it for sure!”
No, I won’t remember it. I need to write it down.
2. I try to focus on one project at a time.
That means, I don’t switch projects depending on the day. Some people can do this! I’m not one of them. When I work on the Lady Janies books with my co-writers, we block off a week at a time and focus on writing that book, and that book only. Focusing on one project at a time helps me make sure I’m in the mindset to write different characters or exist in different worlds.
Again, some people are totally able to write Story A in the morning and Story B in the afternoon and Story C on the weekends. But don’t kick yourself if you’re not one of those wizards.
3. If I can afford the time, I try to give myself at least a day between projects.
This one took me a while to figure out. At first, all I knew was that I was supremely unfocused and underproductive the first day of switching projects. Then I realized I was picking up a book to read, or finding a huge knotted yarn to untangle, or deep cleaning my house — or literally anything other than working on the next project.
It’s not always possible to take a slow day or two. Deadlines are beasts. But allowing my mind to acclimate to the next project — rather than trying to force it to switch gears — ended up helping a lot. So I do those household chores I’ve been putting off, or read, or take care of the email pile, and in the back of my mind, I start to let go of everything from Book A and think about what I want to do with Book B.
More time would obviously be better, but again, deadlines. They just don’t care.
4. Know that getting started is the hardest step.
This is another thing that probably isn’t true for everyone, or even every project. (I can think of a couple projects I’d dive into right now if I didn’t have other commitments!) But it’s often very true for me. It can be so difficult to just open the next project and start working on it. Everything seems so daunting!
But honestly, once I get going and build up some momentum, it becomes fun again. My mind gets back into the rhythm of that story and those characters, and then it’s weird to think about working on anything else!
I know I’ve complained about deadlines, and I stand by all that complaining. But honestly, deadlines can be hugely motivating and helpful. They help me to figure out what I need to focus on, and in what order, and how long I have. There’s something really comforting (and maddening) about knowing Book A will be due on this date, and then I will be able to work on something that seems shinier.
Deadlines don’t just come from publishers. When I write with the Lady Janies, we usually have a week together, which means if we want to reach our goal, we have a limited amount of time to do it. We’re all very motivated to keep to the schedule, because if we get behind, then we have to take time out of other places to catch up, or schedule another trip to work together (which is fun, but costs actual money in addition to time).
And that’s it for now! What are your tips for organizing and writing multiple projects?