Managing Multiple Projects

As a chronic unfinisher, I understand there are multiple things that can keep me from finishing a project. While some just die off on their own for whatever reason, be it lack of time spent on the project or a lack of direction, other projects get the giatine. For me, that slice of death is usually because I find something else more interesting to work on, and this is a problem I battle constantly.

Currently I’m working on one major project and a few minor projects. The major project is “Not Done Yet,” my epic mash-up piece where the women of Elwood City deal with major problems and overcome them in their own way. The piece already has followers and reviewers, and I feel like it’s going well. My minor projects are all one-shots, short things I can wrap up quickly, and they’re not even worth mentioning (but if you’re curious, it’s for my 100 one-shot summer challenge that I’m doing. It’s going okay).

But back to Not Done Yet–I haven’t been able to work on it in about a week now. I’ve just started a new job, and while I spend a lot of my time sitting quietly at the desk waiting for things to happen (I’m in a library and so far the main question I get is “Do you have a pen I can borrow?”), I don’t really know if I’m allowed to write while I’m there. Besides, I work about four and half hours a day, and writing that whole time is DRAINING. I can read that whole time and just be a little tired, but writing that whole time with my rates? I mean, yeah, I’d put a licking on those pages, but I’d be like a zombie afterwards, and I still have to get home.

So many of you following this would say, “Oh, Not Done Yet is at risk because you don’t work on it enough,” which is part way true. But I have another problem that I want to highlight to help out my fellow writers: I’ve got another idea that I’ve been playing with that I REALLY want to start working on.

This leads to a lot of questions. The main one? Can I manage more than one large project at once?

The answer is flat out NO for me. Unless you have strict outlines that you adhere to, you cannot bounce between major pieces. As many of you know, I’m a pantser for life. I cannot plan. It kills my piece and the piece dies in outline stage. That’s how it works for me, and I make it work for me–I’ve had people attempt to shame me before with the whole “Writers have to plan!” Um, no they don’t. It’s called editing. Look it up;)

Why can’t pantsers manage two pieces at once? Because we have to dedicate ourselves to coming up with new ideas on the spot, plus we have to spend our spare time stewing over the ideas, letting them cook and fall into place. Everything is in our heads, and you just can’t manage multiple writing projects. You can read books, work on schoolwork, etc., but you can’t work on two big writing projects at once. It’s too taxing.

So, what are some solutions to working on multiple projects for those of you who want to attempt it? Well, for Not Done Yet, I’ve been doing an after-the-fact outline. As soon as I finish a chapter, I immediately scroll back through and organize my outline by person, in the order they appear in, and I write down what happened (Example from Chapter 1, Francine: “Groped at work, not sure what to do”). I don’t need much to get the jist, but it helped with Sophomore Sorrows so I immediately started it with this piece.

How does this help? Well now I know where I’ve been, and if you know where you’ve been, you know where to go next IF you write in order. If you don’t write in order, I can’t help you because I’ve only done that with small academic projects, never a larger creative piece.

For me, this is one of the Pros I have for starting a new major project: It won’t take much for me to jump back into my old one because I know where I’ve been, which can remind me where I’m going. But another good solution here is to make random notes about where you want to go. I know certain things about Not Done Yet that have to happen. I won’t share them because spoilers, but to help me out, I might have a planning document with just random ideas like “Muffy gets a dog.” I may have that happen, I may not. But it’s good to have at hand in case you get lost and need to remember where you were trying to go.

And for the record, that’s where I am now, on a road with two directions: Forget the idea I have and hope to keep it or start working on it and see what happens. The best thing for me to do is weigh out the Pros and Cons to decide what’s best. Let’s do this here:

• I’ll get this nagging idea out of my head, a good idea with a lot of potential
• Not Done Yet already has a good direction, so it’ll be easier to get back to later
• Not Done Yet has a following so I have people to encourage me not to forget the piece

• There’s no turning back–once you start a second piece, the first piece could easily fall away while the second flourishes or both fall to pieces
• I have very little writing time right now, which is problematic for both new and existing projects
• My second idea is original, aka something I refuse to publish online (sometimes even in idea form), so I won’t get much support for it.
• I know myself and juggling projects isn’t a good idea for me

So where do you guys stand on this? Answer this poll for me, then if you’d like, share your full opinion in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you guys.
[Written 5/12/16]

UPDATE: So I’ve spent the weekend thinking on this (it’s the 16th now), and I’ve decided to take the leap. I’ve finished Chapter 11 of Not Done Yet, and now I’m going to put it on the shelf so I can start an original project. I’ve left in a good spot and I kinda want to do a time jump anyway to get through some pretty boring parts. I think it’ll work out well, and I know I can easily jump back in with the way I’ve done things. I’ll just have to take the risk of not finishing because this original idea is just begging to come out.


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