Pros and Cons of Multiple Projects

Pros and cons of working on multiple projects

“What are you writing?” That’s a hard question to answer. These days, I have three major projects going, not to mention a bunch of shorter ones in various stages of rewrites, editing, or under consideration for being trashed, never to be looked at again.

Right now, I’ve got one fantasy novel drafted. I tried to draft the second for my NaNo project, but only got to 37,000 words. My attention has shifted to writing the memoir of a friend with leukemia, sharing what she learned from her journey with cancer.

I hear of people who manage to churn out multiple books in a year. How do they do that? I wasn’t able to finish one last year. So I pose myself the question, is my problem working on so many projects part of the problem?

Because I am a compulsive list maker, I drew up a list of the pros and cons of working on many projects at once. First, the pros:

1. Taking a break from a project can give a fresh perspective

2. By working on some other projects, I got a little distance from my first novel. Over time, I’ve thought of ways to make the plot stronger and the story better.

3. Starting the second in the series has enabled me to refine my world building and back story

This fantasy series is my first venture into fiction, so all of it is new to me. I thought I did a good job world building, but only after I got into the second novel did I see holes in the world I’d created. I’ve come up with a long list of refinements and additions to fill in some of the blanks in my imaginary world. By incorporating these into the first novel, it will become stronger and better.

4. Switching genres gives a fresh look at different aspects of the craft

One aspect of writing memoir is thinking through the personal development of the person the memoir is about. What did they learn? What did they want to learn? How did life turn out different or better or worse than they dreamed or intended?

These are all good questions to ask when developing character arcs in fiction. If I know how someone grows and changes over time, how they wanted life to turn out for them, I am more likely to create a character who seems to live and breathe in three dimensions, rather than being a relative of Flat Stanley.

I didn’t do so well with the cons:

1. Switching from one project to another breaks the momentum

Leaving a novel half drafted breaks the momentum. When I get back to finishing the second novel, I’ll have to re-immerse my mind in the world and the characters and what they were doing when I left them. The ideas I had on the top of my mind for the next scenes have been buried under whatever I’ve been thinking about most recently, and it will take some time to uncover them, dust them off, and start anew.

2. It’s easy to work on something else, anything else, when one project gets bogged down. While at least the time is well spent, having other projects going offers an excuse to avoid the hard work that needs to be done on the one that’s stuck.

So, more pros than cons. For me, having more than one work in progress is a better way to work than just focusing on one.

Or maybe I had trouble coming up with cons because I was thinking about what to give my father for Christmas.

What about you? Do you like working on more than one project, or just stick to one till it’s finished?

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