This is something that happens every so often for me, and I’m hoping other writers too! I’m bad as it as – I usually have multiple projects on the go so that if I get bored or need a change, I can switch quickly to something else until I’m ready to go back to it. This is very useful but as with most things, it has disadvantages too.
Changing projects mid-way through
I often get told this is quite a bad thing to do and I can see why a lot of people think th
at. If you’re in the middle of writing something, whether a short story, a poem, a novel or anything else and you switch to something different in the middle, then you are at risk of losing what flow and momentum you have. Coming back to it later is also hard because you need to find that flow and tone, which can lead to some writing that’s ultimately scrapped. I get that, and if you have the dedication and will power to stick it out, great.
The problem is, I don’t always have it and it depends on what I’m writing and how I feel.
I keep a lot of detailed notes about each project. This covers character profiles, histories, plot points, settings, overall plans and any lore related to that world or story. Most of it will probably never be seen by anyone other than me so that information has to play a part for everything to make sense for the reader.
However, I can jump back into projects whenever and waste very little time by going over what I’ve done and these notes. There may be discrepancies but I can fix that during the redraft and editing stage. My logic is that I’ve become bored or hit a block and I’m wasting my time when I could be writing something else for a while instead. There’s nothing worse than not writing when you really feel like you can – you just need to be on the right project.
When inspiration strikes…
I’m one of those people who will have pen and paper almost all the time. It’s so frustrating when things click and you have no way to record it. Sure we have smartphones now but it’s not really the same, is it? It would work, I suppose but maybe I’m just old-fashioned – I’m not huge on kindles and e-readers either (that’s another story, maybe next month).
So, let me present you with a situation that happens every so often, and one I’ve been stuck with more recently too. I’m working on a project that is taking longer than I’d wanted and then an idea hit me, one to do with another short story that I worked on during university (so, about two years ago). I knew it had potential but I wasn’t sure how to use it.
So, I had the dilemma; stop working on the current project temporarily and risk losing the little flow I had to start work on another project. Now, you might think that’s an obvious call but I have three or four big length pieces on the go at the moment and adding a fifth was not something I wanted to do.
The idea, while good, wasn’t amazing enough to beat off the ones I already have and so the debate began. Which project should I be devoting my time too, what do I feel like writing and how can I divide that time best?
I aim to write for at least an hour a day but that can easily turn into a three or four-hour session if I really get into it.
Finding the balance
It’s all about the balance and finding what works for you. I won’t have more than three or four big projects around at a time, and they have to be at different stages to make it easier on myself – although once these are done I’m going to cut it down to two. I occasionally take breaks for short stories and I’ll revisit these every few months to see how happy I am with them.
I like to stop and start – if the flow isn’t there then I won’t write or keep anything. That’s important to me as I’ve read a number of novels where the story just doesn’t flow but it’s a great idea or the characters are fantastic. It’s a pet hate and one I hope my work will never suffer from.
What I’m really interested in is hearing from other writers and finding out where they stand on this. Do you switch between projects half way through? What do you do when inspiration hits and when you have a project going? Get in touch and let me know!