Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Juggling Multiple Manuscripts

by Lucy Marsden

I can't walk and chew gum at the same time, so I can't imagine what I was thinking when I took on that second story.

Actually, I tell a lie.

My critique partner dared me to do it, and I was feeling frustrated with my Work In Progress at the moment, and the temptation to escape my soul-searing lack of imagination* was overwhelming—that's what I was thinking.

You know how it is when you've got a story idea in your hand, bright and shiny as a new penny. It's all fun and possibility. It's researching, and running amok on Pinterest for pictures of the setting and characters, and putting together soundtracks for your hero and heroine, and not worrying at all about how you're to tell the damn thing. It's my favorite time during a story, before I feel as though the lovely, shimmering thread of it has been snagged, and knotted, and suspiciously stained, and generally pulled all out of shape by clumsy handling.**

So when, as I say, my critique partner issued her challenge, I leapt into all of the above with a gladsome heart, only to find...

My first story wouldn't let me go. Little by little, despite my bouts of frustration and heart-felt profanity, I had turned a corner with it. My characters were becoming real to me; they were pushing for what they needed, pushing back against each other, and the story was truly going somewhere.

At last.

And I decided that I didn't want to walk away from that to chase the shiny, not when I could feel my first story beginning to tell me what it wanted to be. So I let the second story go—not forever; it sends me postcards now and again, and points me to pertinent articles in travel magazines—it'll be waiting for me when the time is right. But for now, I'm choosing not to split my focus.

What about you? Have you been energized and inspired by the challenge of juggling multiple manuscripts at the same time, or discombobulated by the necessity of jumping back and forth?

Lucy Marsden is a romance writer living in New England. When she’s not backstage at a magic show or crashing a physics picnic, she can be found knee-deep in the occult collection of some old library, or arguing hotly about Story.

* Cue the violins.
** Ibid.


efjace said...

I actually really enjoy working on multiple WIPs at once, although I suspect that has a lot to do with their genres as well. My current baby is an adult dark fantasy, it's got a lot of worldbuilding going into it, careful plotting and pacing and secrets and all that fun stuff. So when I hit a block or get really distracted by that shiny new idea, sometimes I put it down and pick up WIP2. But WIP2 happens to be a MG fantasy, and that's a totally different world for me. Sometimes I feel less constrained to stress worldbuilding or crazy plotting, I just let go and have fun with it =)

I haven't yet tried writing two adult WIPs at the same time, I think that could prove perilous. Especially once they both reach the point where you're waist deep in it and each one is equally enticing, then it's like trying to split your mind in two!

SC Author said...

You have to be a mind reader.
I literally have a blog post that I just wrote up which goes over how I'm giving my MS a break and going to write something new!

My MS was SO frustrating. Way too frustrating, even though I loved it to death. I still love it, but I am going to start writing something new and let the MS sit :) Then I'll come back to it. This is a great post! (And kind of freaky too, because I almost have the same post about to go up as well.)

DeniseCovey _L_Aussie said...

I love reading multiple books at the same time and I love writing multiple stories simultaneously.Maybe it takes me longer, but when I see the finishing line for one, I streak ahead with it and leave the others behind for a time.


JeffO said...

So far I tend to stick with one WiP at a time. That one story dominates my thought process and blocks out just about everything else. I mostly read this way, too, preferring to read one book all the way through rather than flip back and forth.

Rick Pieters said...

As a kid, I always ate all of one thing on my plate before moving on to the next. Usually I ate what I liked least first and saved what I liked most for last. Okay, sometimes I did mix the peas and mashed potatoes and gravy together at Sunday dinner.

I eventually taught myself to move from flavor to flavor, a bit of this, a little of that, but I think in reading and writing, I never really got past that one-thing-at-a-time.

When I get ideas for a next-thing, I'll make notes for when I get there. Meanwhile, I stick with the plate I'm working on, bite by bite, until that last, most delicious taste. -end-

Jean Oram said...

I've been known to work on a few stories at once. Sometimes working on something new tweaks my brain to add new things to the "old" WIP. :)

LD Masterson said...

I may work in a short story or other small piece while I've got a novel going but two full length stories at a time is too much for me. Too many characters in my head.

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post! :) The thought of drafting 2 stories at once sends me into convulsions! But I can draft one, and edit another one. Sometimes. It's not easy though - one usually has my heart at the time :)

Cecilia M. said...

Great post! At times, I juggle two projects at a time. (times when I'm working on a scene which is emotionally draining. e.g. The other day I was working on my YA, my MC's family were involved in an accident, and to write what she was going through, make it authentic was really, really tough. After that chapter I hopped over and began working on my sweet commedy-ish romance to recharge. Then there are times I can't think of anything else other than the current WIP.