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Splitting Time Between Writing Projects

June 23rd, 2012 Matt Leave a comment Go to comments
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I have two stories waiting for edits. I need to keep them moving, but I don’t want to stop writing new material. How can I juggle my projects more effectively?

Okay, so here I am trying to work something out. I’m dumping my thoughts here (makes it sound like a brain-poo. Sorry, weird image. BUT YOU CAN’T UNREAD IT!) in case they’re of any use to anyone else, and also to get feedback.


Juggling clubs - so much harder when they're stuck to your hands. Image from Barney Moss on Flickr

What’s the Situation, Mr.?

This is the situation, right here: I’m just finishing off the first full draft of a longer-than-short-but-smaller-than-novella story. When I do that, I’ll want to leave it alone for a bit, so I can come at it relatively fresh when it comes to editing. Normally I would start a new story while the other is festering in a drawer.

BUT I have another story that’s waiting for some serious editing (we’ll call this story A, and the ones above story B and C respectively). So, while story B is on a break, do I

  1. resume work on story A until finished, then return to story B, and finally start story C when both are finished?
  2. start story C, then come back to story A, then story B?
  3. finish story A, then start story C, then edit story B?

There are other combinations I’m sure. The point is, I either end up with a long period of time where I’m not generating new material (1 and 2, assuming there is a mysterious story D after two), or leaving a massive gap before I return to edit a drafted story. The former is a problem because I don’t want to fall out of my writing routine and lose momentum in generating new material. The latter is a problem because although I want to leave a project for a bit I don’t want to leave it too long, for fear of never coming back to it.

So naturally I want to do everything! My limited time means I would normally work on only one project at a time, but in order to keep things moving I really feel I have to start writing story C, whilst also making some time for editing story A. After some thought, my strategy will be twofold…

Be more opportunistic

I admit that I’m rather inflexible. I am a person who gets a lot out of being in a routine, which is fine, but outside of that I don’t take advantage of unexpected free time. I like to know what’s coming up; I like to know that my writing time is at this point in the day. If I even think about writing outside of that, the option is quickly dismissed for something that seems easier.

Chicago clock

If only giant clocks gave you more time. Image from nathanmac87 on Flickr

So, I hereby declare that if some surprise free time should show itself, I will spend some time on writing first, other distractions second. I heard the Mighty Mur once suggest telling yourself you only have to write for 15 minutes. That’s a great idea as it immediately makes the task seem less daunting. Getting into it is the biggest problem. The likelihood is I’ll spend longer than 15 minutes in any given session, but allowing myself that option means I’m much more likely to get started.

Sacrifice some new material time

I don’t want to do it, but although I could technically add more time to my writing routine (you can always add more time, unless you’re writing 24 hours a day) by getting up earlier (I thought about that once before but never managed it. I’m thinking about it again now, but we’ll see) or sacrificing more time at weekends, that may not happen.

It’s far more likely that I’ll get some editing done if I work it into my current routine. Those other things are still options I can take, but I think it’s best to go with what you know will get you results at first. So, I will start by sacrificing one journey home to the editing gods. If I find it’s not going fast enough and I need more time (probably), then I’ll sacrifice another journey, but that’s it!

So there we go. That’s how I’ll be juggling my projects for the moment. Who knows, maybe something will actually get finished! Thank you for allowing me to indulge in some rambling so I can sort my routine out. I hope it has been of some use to you. Any input is of course welcome, and I’d love to know about your writing routines and how you juggle different projects in their various stages of readiness! Please leave a comment below for discussification.

Categories: Time Keeping Tags: , ,
  • Barney Moss

    Nice photo!

    • http://getmewriting.com Matt Roberts

      Thanks for letting me use it!

  • Craig

    This is a tough one. As I’m sure you’re aware, I have many projects in various stages of completion (hell, several of which are ‘finished’ to the degree of at least first draft) and for me (as one of those deadbeat lazy writers) it is all very dependant on mood.
    Sometimes you may not be in the mood for generating new material. Likewise, sometimes you may not be in the mood for editing. Oftentimes (like me) you may not be in the mood for writing at all. Sometimes I can hit a wall, especially when generating new material, in that I don’t know where something is going to go next. This is a good time to move onto a different project. Not to abandon what you’re doing, but to prevent yourself from getting hung up. ‘Oh no, i don’t know where to go with this next, I must stop writing.’ No, just move onto something else, and come back to this later. Editing is something else.
    Recently (and I’ll be posting about this) I’ve had some major inspirations with an older piece, and I’ve been desperate to get stuck back into it. Just one or two simple things have opened everything up, all the problems I had with it before, and everything fell into place.
    I know its not the kind of thing you can fit into a routine, but sometimes routines can become, well, routine. Stilted. And you need to shake things up a bit.