If you have a question about writing, the right person to ask is another writer. It’s March already, which means it’s time for Ask an Author: the guest feature that puts the author in authoritative.
March’s featured author is Kylie Betzner, author of comedic fantasy, reader, blogger, coffee lover, and my very own twin sister. For the record, I’m not featuring her because she’s family. I like to consider myself more objective than that. My sister and I give each other advice on everything: hair, clothes, dating, etc. It just so happens, she also has a lot of advice about writing, mainly how to work on multiple projects simultaneously. If I were to consult anyone on this subject, it would be her. While she worked on her debut novel, “The Quest for the Holy Something or Other.” she was also drafting books one, two, and three of her upcoming fantasy parody (tentative release in 2015). I like to think of balancing writing projects as cooking food on multiple burners, but she has her own spin. Enjoy!
The Book Factory: How to Manage Multiple Writing Projects
Writers often have more than one writing project going on at once, whether we plan to or not. It can’t be helped. Our busy minds are constantly churning out new ideas and finding inspiration just about anywhere. And sometimes we just can’t wait to finish one project before tinkering with the next. I know I’m guilty of it. I’m sure you are as well. I’m not here to tell you to stop. I’m here to give you some advice on how to successfully manage multiple writing projects.
Now before we start, I just want to make one thing clear: I am not an expert; I’m a published author. I’m only sharing with you a system that works for me and some advice to make it your own. Take or leave what you will. Keep in mind the purpose of Ask and Author is for authors to share their best practices with their fellow writers. And because juggling multiple projects is something I do well, my sister requested for me to speak on this subject.
So what makes me such a successful juggler? For starters, I’ve got this great metaphor that really helps me keep things in perspective. I refer to it as “the book factory.” I know what you’re thinking: that’s a cold comparison. But the end goal is the same—to put out a product that is suitable for public consumption. And in the same way that a product—say an automobile—is manufactured on the production line through a series of sequential operations, a novel undergoes the various stages of the writing process: planning, drafting, editing, and publishing. To keep all of my projects moving forward, I try to put one project on the belt at a time and let it reach the next stage before I start the next, and so on and so forth until I have a never-ending line of projects in the works.
The key is balance, and for me it’s keeping all projects at various stages. Think about it. You wouldn’t want to have two or three projects in the editing stages; your editors would kill you! And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how exhausting it is to draft more than one novel at the same time. What’s worked best for me is having one project in each stage. While I’m drafting one novel, I’m editing another, all while simultaneously planning the next. This keeps things moving forward, so when I finish the edits on one book and begin the publishing process, I’ve already got a finished draft ready to be edited and a new one to start.
Are you overwhelmed yet? Don’t worry, that’s normal when tackling multiple projects. Here’s some advice to make juggling multiple projects more doable:
Allot a Specific Block of Time for Each Project Every Day
For those of us with short attention spans or limited free time, this method works well. For example, I drive approximately one hour to and from work each day. I might allot this time to brainstorming my upcoming projects. I have a half hour lunch each day during which I could dedicate to drafting a scene from my work in progress. This would leave me several hours in the evening to complete edits on my most advanced project.
My suggestion if you choose to try this method: schedule the time slots according to your energy level. I am most alert in the evenings after a quick power nap. That’s why I tackle the most difficult tasks then. If you’re a morning person consider drafting or editing after breakfast.
You might also schedule at least an hour for each task but no more than two or three. It’s not about spending a lot of time on a task but making use of the time you have.
Schedule Each Project for a Different Day of the Week
Instead of trying to tackle multiple projects every day try spreading them out throughout the week. For example, I have three projects going on right now: one in the editing phase, one in the drafting phase, and one in the planning phase. And might I add I have a published work that needs some attention in regards to marketing. You have to factor that in, too. So here’s an example of how my week might work: Monday and Wednesday I might devote some time to marketing my published work. Tuesday and Thursday I might work on drafting my novel. Saturdays and Sundays might be good editing days, while Fridays, being lazy days, might be ideal for brainstorming new ideas.
My suggestion would be to keep a calendar, whether on hand or electronically. Myself, I keep a Google calendar.
Work on One Project at a Time for a Fixed Number of Days
For those of us who would prefer to focus on one project at a time, there’s an option. Choose your most pressing project to work on first and dedicate a certain number of days to work on it. Maybe one week, two weeks, an entire month, whatever works best for you and then spend a certain number of hours each day focusing solely on that project—no tinkering in other projects. Then, when that time is up move on to the next project. You don’t have to give each project the same amount of days. Planning a new project might only take a week while drafting and editing might require at least two. Don’t expect to finish each project during that time. And remember, you’re not giving up on it, you’re only setting it aside.
Whatever method you choose, make sure you stick to it. Falling behind on one or more projects is a good way to back up your line and ensure that none of your projects get done. And there’s no shame in reducing your work load if you discover it’s too much. One of the keys to successfully managing multiple projects is to be realistic about how many projects you can handle.
For more advice from my sister, or to learn more about her recent and upcoming projects, please visit her blog here.
or follow her on Twitter @kbbetzner
You can find her debut novel on Amazon. Also, don’t forget to stay tuned for news on her upcoming projects.
Join me again in April for another awesome author!