If you’re like me, and have too many WIPs for your own good, sometimes you don’t want to lose your grip on that stellar idea that you may not be as inspired for later. This may sound wild at first, but working on multiple projects can potentially help you maintain your inspiration on both! At least for me, it helps to be able to work on something else when I’m stuck, and after having my head in another world for a while, I can come back to the first book with a fresh perspective.
This especially helps when one of the projects has to do with editing! Once you’ve associated yourself with one concept for so long, thinking about something else can help you come back with a clearer head.
Now, all of this is nice and all, but you want to be able to focus on both without getting so distracted you don’t finish either! So here are my methods to writing multiple stories at once.
(Note, this trick may not work for everyone. If you’re the kind of person that can multitask well, it might work for you better.)
Notes will be your best friend
I would recommend making a good note-taking system. Let’s face it, you can barely remember all the facts for one story, much less keeping up with two. Even if you’re not a planner, it’s a good habit to make to keep a notebook or an open document where you can record important bits as they come up. And the more organized, the better. You want to be able to come back to these notes and quickly understand what’s going on so you can get back to writing. If you’re searching through scattered chicken scratches in random places, it’s going to be harder to keep up with what you were doing with the story when you come back to it.
So decide on a system that works for you! I’ve used a lot of different methods that I all like for different reasons. Just to name a few:
This is my personal favorite, basically because I love stationary. Writing notes by hand help me concentrate better sometimes, but using this can take some fore-planning in order to work well. For planners, pantsers, or a mixture of the two, you can either get two notebooks or you can work out a system so you know which story your notes are for (I keep one notebook, and title all my notes. Then beside the title, I doodle a little symbol that represents the story. I know I’m extra, you could also just color code your notes. Like blue for story X and red for story Z, for example)
For a planner, you can make outlines of all of the events you plan to happen in both stories ahead of time. But also remember that you’ll be adding to this notebook for later steps, so keep that in mind.
For a plotter, I like I said above, work out how you’re going to keep your notes separate, and from there you might want to leave a couple pages free and title them things like “World building”, “Characters”, “Important plot points”, “Important places” etc. That way, you can add to these pages as those things come up in your writing.
This is a lot more easy to organize than physical notes, since everything is easy to erase or alter. So you can create a folder either on your computer or on some application like Google Drive titled after each story, and in it stuff all the important details. Characters, plot, places, important research points, put it all here!
I feel like these are the in-between the convenience of digital notes and the personal touch of notebooks. Since they’re not in order, making a change is as simple as throwing away a card and replacing it with another. They’re easy to title and therefore itemize your plot, characters, and important notes. And if there are related points that need to stay together, you can always just combine them with a paper clip to keep them together. The only problem that may come up is keeping them all in one place, but if you have somewhere they can stay safe, this is a great option! Just remember to have a way to keep both story notes separate so you don’t get confused.
Decide where you want to make the switch
Okay, now that you have your notes all written (or simply prepared, if you’re a pantser), you might want to decide at what point you’ll make your switches from story to story. There are several systems you could use.
Divide the story in acts
I’ve done this before! Divide the story in three or four parts. You can either imagine how many chapters your story will have in total and divide it by three or four, or you can divide the story by its arcs (beginning, middle, end. Or, beginning, half of the middle, other half of the middle, and the end. I did it the second way so that my middle wouldn’t sag as much. I can go more into arcs another time, though!).
Once you’ve divided the story, at least in your head, you use those points as check marks. And every time you reach an act or check mark, you change over to your other story. And when you reach another check mark of that story, you switch back!
Change whenever you feel inspired
This is a much more loose approach that allows you to go with the flow. Just be sure not to leave one story behind in favor of another one! That’s what keeping all those notes was for. When you’re ready to come back to a project you haven’t seen in a while, you can just pick up where you left off!
So do what inspires you!
Write a certain goal of each
You could set a goal to reach every time you sit down to write, and switch when you’ve met that goal. That goal could be 500 words, a scene, or an entire chapter! You decide what would work best for you, and don’t feel pressured to finish by a certain time, either. You may take two days to write 500 words. That’s fine! Just switch when you finish!
However way you decide to make your switches, knowing how to keep track will be more important, so don’t sweat this step too much.
Make note of the progress thus far
So! Remember what I said about keeping those notes? This is where it becomes important! As you’re writing, record important parts. It’s the little obscure things that are easiest to forget, like your MC’s birthday, or if someone broke their arm, remembering which side it was! Write down these things as they come up (especially if you’re a pantser that stumbles upon important plot points as you go along!).
If you anticipate writing on a particular project for a long time (like if decide to switch per act), I would recommend also making a note just before you make the switch. Briefly explain what’s happened in the story so far, or important things you know you won’t remember when you come back. I also found it useful to record my characters’ states of mind at the time of the switch! If my MC was depressed when I left off, I want to be able to carry that depression when I get back. So remember to mark down how they were feeling at the time that you switched, especially main and side characters.
Remember where you were going with this!
As you make notes of where you left off, Also make notes of where the story was going! What’s supposed to happen next? Even if you’re pantser, I’m sure you had a vague idea of what was going to go on afterward, so trust me. Don’t lose your thought and write it down. You’ll thank yourself when you come back to your story later with a fresh perspective and see all these notes already prepared with the direction you’re supposed to be going in next!!
Believe me, this step is a life-saver!
Read past notes, decide what your next steps should be
Now, as you switch into your second project, if you have notes on what you’re supposed to be doing next, read over those. It might also help to just quickly go over the setting and character notes as well, just to re-familiarize yourself with this world and setting. And make note of what needs to be done in this act/chapter/section of the story before you switch back. Now, if you’re not a planner, you may just want to jot down one or two thoughts of where you might be before you switch back.
Again, this step can help you approach the story with your goals clear, which will keep you inspired to write!
Now as I’ve said already, these are just the methods that have helped me, and they may not work for everyone. Working on several projects can be confusing for some, and I wouldn’t recommend doing it if you feel like you might drop both stories!
A bit of a disclaimer, haha!
Anyway, that’s it for me today, I’ll catch you later!