For whatever reason—the start of spring, the nearing release of my debut novel, the fast approach of my thirtieth birthday—I have decided that September will be the month of writing all the books.
Three books, exactly.
One polished draft and two rough drafts.
I’ve never done this before. I’ve always thought of myself as a one-project-at-a-time sort of writer. But if there’s anything I’ve learnt about writing (and life) it’s this: never assume anything you know about yourself is unchangeable. You can change anything if you really want to.
In preparation for my month of writing all the books, I have spent the last week of August acting like it’s a perfectly natural thing for me to be writing three projects at the same time. Would you like to know how I’ve made it work? Here are some things I have learnt in past seven days:
Make sure the projects are fairly different from one another (in some way)
One of things that’s made my week of crazy writing manageable is that the projects I’ve chosen to work on are all pretty different. One is YA, one is upper MG, and one is lower MG. So even though they’re all weird and magical, they’re distinct in my mind because they’re for different age categories. (If you write multiple genres, that could work, too.)
Assign a physical space/object to each project
This really helps me to compartmentalise. I’ve been working on the YA weird book on my sofa, using a pencil and notebook. I’ve only been looking at my upper MG fantasy at my desk, using my laptop, and I work on the lower MG fantasy on my laptop/in a notebook with pen, at the table in my dining room. Somehow I have tricked my brain into moving between projects by changing my position in space. (Yay, brain!)
It helps if the projects are at different stages
My upper MG book is in the editing/polishing stage, my YA book is in the drafting stage, and my lower MG book is in the outlining stage. This also helps my brain to see them as separate, instead of congealing them into one big glob of a book.
It’s easier to write short(er) books this way
I write books that are on the short side. Even the YA book I’m drafting is never going to be 80 000 words long. So. That’s not a tip, just an observation. If you’re writing 100 000-word books, maybe don’t do this? (Or, if you can do this, tell me and I will bow down to you, you writing genius.) For reference, my upper MG fairy tale/fantasy is about 40 000 words, the lower MG will be about 25 000 words. (Or it might be closer to 30 000 or 40 000. We’ll see?) And the YA—well, I’m actually writing it in verse at the moment so I’m aiming for 25 000 – 30 000 words. As you can see, we’re not dealing with huge word counts here.
They don’t have to be different genres, but it helps if they have different tones
Even though all of these books are dark, fairy-tale-style fantasies, they have very different settings, moods and colour palettes. If I were more visually inclined, I might make an aesthetics board for each of them to keep them separate in my mind, but since I’m not really that sort of writer, I just make sure I know how each of the worlds feels to me, and I try not to let them overlap. Each world has markers (climate, a species of magical animal, a city I’m basing the world on) and I try to keep them pretty distinct.
I’ve chosen one song for each project that I listen to on repeat. (I don’t always listen to music, though. Sometimes I need silence.) I find that if I’m struggling to enter the world of a book, a song can be a good door.
Set small goals
I’ve made my goals for each project really small so that I don’t get overwhelmed. “Small” is a relative term, depending on so many factors, so I’m not going to say what the actual word counts are, but just make sure your goals aren't so ambitious that you get overwhelmed. You want to be able to dip into each project a little every day (if you write every day, that is). Find what works for you.
Like I said, I’ve only been doing this for a week, so I might fail!
And that’s all right. I’m treating it as an experiment for now. But it’s been a pretty successful one so far!
How about you? Do you write multiple books at the same time, or do you focus on one project? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!