Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Should you write multiple stories or just one at a time?

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.


I often get asked, "Should I write multiple stories at once, or should I focus on doing one at a time?"

My answer? Both skills are necessary.

Let me explain. Many new writers struggle with having enough discipline to finish a book. And by "finish a book" I mean writing a first draft, doing several rounds of edits, and polishing the book to the luster it requires before an agent or editor will consider spending time with it.

As a new writer, I flitted from idea to idea. I would write half a draft, run out of steam, and switch to the new idea buzzing around my brain that I was super excited about. But I knew I needed to learn how to write an entire book, that I would be expected to do so as a published author.

So I disciplined myself to be able to do this. It became the way I preferred to write, one book at a time. No bunny trails - complete focus.

And then I became a published author, and was shocked by how often I was asked to work on multiple stories at once.

As I was finishing up my first draft of Out with the In Crowd (Skylar Hoyt book number two), my editor sent me my edits for Me, Just Different (Skylar Hoyt book number one) so even thought I was really in the writing groove, I had to pause to do my edits. And when I was working on So Over It (Skylar Hoyt book number three), I had to pause to read through proofs of Me, Just Different, content edits for Out with the In Crowd, plus put together a proposal for a new book that my agent wanted to see before she sent it on to my editor.



After disciplining myself to have such a intense focus when I was working on a story, all the multi-tasking made me cranky. I even caught myself thinking about how much I missed being able to focus on a story, how much I missed the writing time from my pre-published days - something I had sworn I would never, ever think or say!

So is it worth disciplining yourself to work on just one book if you're interested in being published? Yes. Because in my book-flitting days, I wrote based on my whims. Even though I now must work on multiple projects at a time, my whims don't come into play. There was value in learning how to write something other than what I felt like writing.

I think the demand for story multi-tasking is one of the reasons I continue to shift into being a plotter. After an interruption, t's much easier for me to get back in the writing groove when I have the story somewhat figured out.

What about you? Do you work on multiple stories at once or do you focus on one at a time?

And don't forget - the Go Teen Writers store closes on FRIDAY, so get your points earned and turned in! Also, I'm giving away a copy of The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet over on author Trish Perry's blog, so if you're interested in winning a paperback copy, make sure you check that out.

45 comments:

  1. I'm usually cooking a few ideas in my head at once...but I only write one story at a time. I get zoned in on one idea. And it's discipline for me to finish what I start before jumping onto a new project.

    Halfway through a book though...I ALWAYS think up a new idea. It's so weird. XD

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    1. Me too, Cait. I can always expect a shiny new idea, sometimes completely unrelated, right at the end of my first draft. I guess I'm really creative then...
      Katia

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  2. I've struggled with this ever since I first started writing "books". I always thought of an idea, wrote a few chapters, ditched it, then repeated the process again. Because of this, I've never even finished a whole first draft. I'm trying really hard to stick to my WIP right now. It will be a HUGE accomplishment when I finish it. :)

    -Abby

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    1. That was exactly me! I guess I've learned a thing or two about commitment over the last few years!:) Mate, it's actually the best feeling. In my book, I was so pumped to finish that I, uh... totally rush the ending so that I could write THE END. :P So I'm pumped to say congrats when you finish. :)

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  3. I'm sticking to writing one book at the moment, although I have several ideas floating around in my head. Something I've noticed is that at least TWICE before, I'll hit 20,000 words and then abandon the story for some reason.

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    1. I wish I could GET to 20,000. Lol.

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  4. There's definitely necessity for both in this career! I'm with you, Stephanie, that it's vital to be able to focus on one through completion...but that once you've got an editor in the equation, that focus becomes luxury, LOL. In my college days, I always had multiple MSS going at the same time and ended up finishing two books within a week once. For me, it was a matter of which book I had the brain cells for on a given day, LOL. These days, I'm looking for the first time since then at actively writing two books at once (not just writing one and editing one or two others), as two different deadlines loom on the horizon. Should be interesting!

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    1. I thought you said you wrote two books in a week. I just paused life for a moment. :P You know, Roseanna, I think I might just read one of your books. Because I've "known" you for years and it just occurred to me that I haven't read your work! *So pumped*.

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  5. I used to write on whatever I felt like writing at, but since last year I'm trying to stick to one story at a time, to indeed try and focus on one story and get it fully done (writing, editing and so on)

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  6. WOW. You read my mind. I've been wondering about this the past few weeks since I got another story idea right before I started editing the first whole first draft I've completed. Needless to say, I was wondering what on earth I should DO! I asked some fellow GTWs, and I came to the conclusion that as long as I stuck with the story I was editing instead of completely abandoning it for this new idea...I should go for it and learn. :) Thanks so much for clarifying, though, that *both* skills are important! It makes sense!

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  7. I was all about jumping from book to book last year but(the reason I have 4 unfinished W.I.P's) but with my latest WIP I buckled down and decided to focus on it which turned out great because I actually have half the second draft done now :) It also helps to focus on one thing because I realize that when I used to get an idea, that was it, I'd start writing it. Now if I have another story idea, I just write small things down in my writing journal and play with the plot but still focus on the single thing im doing. Now I have my entire plot for the second installment figured out so there wont be any major confusion when I actually write it. :)

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  8. I definitely need to learn to focus. I never seem to finish anything. :/

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  9. I only write one draft at a time, but I'm always jumping from novel to novel. So, I'll write the first draft of story A, then the 2nd draft of story B, then go back and edit story A, then send story B out for critiques, then plot story C, then revise based on the critiques I got for story B, ect. After a few false starts (I have the first three chapters of a few undeveloped novels sitting in my computer) I found that this way gives me the best output.
    Thanks for another great post, Stephanie!

    ~Sarah Faulkner

    www.inklinedwriters.blogspot.com

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  10. I tend to work on one story at a time, because then I find that I give my best to one project. But I don't think either way is necessarily better; I guess it just depends on the writer. Sometimes however, I will allow myself to start writing another book once I have finished the first draft of something else.

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  11. I used to go from story to story whenever I had a new idea and got sick of the old one, but I never finished anything.
    So last year I decided that I was going to write one draft, start to finish, no flitting around to other stories. I managed it. And even though that story has since been abandoned, I now know that I am capable of doing that, and that's the plan I'm sticking to for my current WIP.

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  12. When I'm in a good part of my story and I know what I want to happen, it's hard to pull myself away. If I'm in a boring spot or I don't know what's going to happen next, I tend to open up every other unfinished draft of anything on my computer. I read through them all, and sometimes it inspires me but more often than not I spend the next week or two working on that draft instead. Great post, Stephanie!

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  13. I work on one story at a time. I mean, I can't write two first drafts at the same time (tried that with some completely different books and it was awful), but I'm fine with editing them at the same time. I just need to keep more notes. I suppose writing one and editing the other could work for me, but I haven't tried it yet.
    Thanks for the post, Stephanie! It was really interesting.
    Katia

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    1. I know right -- if I tried to write two books at a time I'd get everyone mixed up! Kind of like reading two books at the same time, I guess. :)

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    2. Haha, I read two books at the same time sometimes xD I'm kinda weird like that. Guess it's my personality--I tend to get bored with the same thing for too long. I also need to work on FINISHING things...;)

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    3. Haha, same here, especially if I'm supposed to be reading a school book.;) Uh-huh, finishing... commitment... big words.

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  14. I work on a few stories at a time, but spend the majority of it on one specific story. I find that a few to work on at once keeps my mind from wandering away when writing my main story. I just have to get myself back on track every once in a while if i stray too far from my main story.

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  15. I think I'm a flitter who needs to know where and when she can flit. I can work on multiple projects at a time; I just need to give myself guidelines. Finish up this chapter for Novel by the end of this week, plot GreatBigReallyScaryTrilogy next week. Then you can work on the Novella. It's tough, because I've never even had unfinished novels--what I've had are two-page images that might just spark a plot. I'm working on disciplining the way I write, limiting myself to two or three projects at once, and stoking the old fire for a project that now sits on my computer oh-so-very-much like roadkill. I'm loving the novella experiment I've been doing, because I don't need to maintain the Story Passion for as long a time, and then end is in sight from the very beginning. It's helped a lot with my self-confidence as a writer, too: I may not have finished That Novel, but I have a novella and a half under my belt. If I can do that, I can do more.

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  16. I usually work on writing one book at a time, but often I'll be getting ideas for other books, so I'll have to pause to write them down, then get back to writing. :)

    ~Grace

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  17. I'd rather work on one story at a time, but I can't always do that. This frustrates me greatly, but ... oh well! Such is a writer's job, I guess.

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  18. I focus on one at a time, though I do have a few other ideas buzzing around in my brain.

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  19. First of all, this post was great! In days long past (thankfully!), I used to begin a book, but never see it through to the end. So, I had a long array of neglected books because I lost inspiration when I got another idea, so abandoned the first, took up the second, and so on. Yeah, a bad deal all around. But when I pinpointed what was wrong with my novels - shallow plots - then I returned with renewed determination to see a book through to the end. And I did, though the poor thing can never see the world *blushes*. But then I took a novel course (Learn to Write the Novel Way), and read a book on writing (A Novel Idea), and wrote another book from beginning to end.

    I used to just focus on one novel. But now, I'm editing one of my books, have two ready for editing, and am currently writing two more novels. I've discovered that when you do write two novels at once, one normally falls behind - I guess you play favorites. :-)

    -Patience

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    1. Oh, I used to do that all the time. I'd write like ten pages and never go back to it. Mostly because I just liked creating my character, back in the day when I had no interest (or knowledge that it even needed to be done...) in delevoping the characters.

      Three books in the editing stage?! Wow, that's a lot of words! :D

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    2. Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one. :-) That's almost exactly what I'd do.

      I know - and I don't like editing! It takes me so much longer to edit than write. Editing keeps one humble. :-)

      -Patience

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  20. This -- writing one book compared to editing and re-writing and a first draft all at the same time -- reminded me of a fitness workout. You can run the whole time at the same pace -- or you can walk awhile, run, jog, sprint, do a couple of pushups, run again...

    As for me, I just write one book. Gosh, I need any ideas I HAVE to go into the novel! Haha. :)

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  21. Ooh, this post made me think. :-)

    I am a Christian, and God has given me a love for writing. Usually I let Him put whichever novel He wants me to write on my heart.

    I've always liked to write various things at once too (if I get stuck on one novel, I move to another and then go back), but I see the benefits of focusing on just one novel.

    Maybe I'll try focusing on just one novel for a bit....
    Great post!!!!!! :-)

    ~Koren.
    A writer for Him.

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    1. Wonderful! I'm a Christian too, and God has given me a love for writing as well. :-) What genre do you write?

      Wielding the dedicated pen,
      Patience

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    2. That's AWESOME!!! :-)

      I like to write about a lot of different things a lot of different ways, actually. But I love to write (esp. Christian) fiction most of all. :-)

      For a NaNoNovel, I wrote a novel in the genre of Historical Fiction, while I like to write more about people in the current year. At the moment I'm writing a novel that's in the 14th-15th century, which has been pretty cool! :-) (Haha, sorry, I don't know the specific names of genre-types!) I like to write a lot of styles and topics. :-)

      What about you? What genre do you write? :-)

      Thanks for asking!

      -Koren
      A writer for Him. :-)

      :-) Just thought my post needed another smiley face. XD

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    3. :-)

      That's what I write - historical fiction. Your novel sounds very interesting! It must require a lot of research. :-) (I'm very ignorant of grenre-types as well!) I did a novel set in France in 1685, then I did a series set in the Victorian era in America (I'm still working on finishing the last one), and now I'm writing a book about a girl who travels third class on Titanic. :-)

      Thank you for answering! :-)

      Wielding the dedicated pen for Him,
      Patience

      :-) :D

      P.S. Do you have a blog?

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    4. Oh wow! Those novels sound really great!!! I would definitely read them! Keep it up!! :-)

      Well, I do have a photo-blog, but it's still in the process of looking presentable. XD It seriously does not look great yet. I really need to work on it. :-/ I'll be happy to give you the name/link to it when I've finished working on it. :-) Do you have one?

      You're welcome! :-)

      -Koren Elise
      A writer for Him :-)

      PS- Do you know any other good writing sites/blogs/etc? :-)

      :-) :D

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    5. Oh, thank you so much! I am glad you like the sound of them. :-)

      How nice! Yes, I would love the name/link to it when it's done. :-) I don't currently have a blog at present, but after graduation this June, I'm going to get a writing blog up with WordPress. Would you like me to give you the name/link to it when it's done?

      I've enjoyed "chatting" with you. :-)

      Wielding the dedicated pen,
      Patience

      P.S. I regularly read these writing blogs: http://scribblesandinkstains.blogspot.com/ , http://thequestforstories.blogspot.com/, http://katie-writingblog.blogspot.com/, and http://safirewriter.blogspot.com/. While you never quite agree with everything someone else writes, these blogs have helped and inspired me in my writing. :-)

      dedicatedpen AT calicoacres DOT com

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    6. Sure thing! I'd love the name/link of your blog when it's done! :-)

      Same here! :-) I have enjoyed it too.

      ~Koren Elise
      A writer for Him.

      PS- Thanks for them!!! I'll check them out! :-)

      PSS- How long did the series (the one set in the Victorian era) you wrote take you to write? Can you write the first drafts of your novels quickly?

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    7. I'll be sure to give it to you!

      If you want, my email address is dedicatedpen AT calicoacres DOT com. :D I know that some bloggers don't care for their comments to be used as a conversational tool. So, feel free to email me! :-)

      Wielding the dedicated pen,
      Patience

      P.S. Great! I think you'll like them. :-)

      P.S.S. Well, it's not a long series - I did two books. :-) But I began it back in March or April of last year, and am about twenty-thirty thousand words away from finishing the first draft. :D I really think it depends on how fast I can write the first draft; because each novel's different, and each character cast proves their own virtues and weaknesses. :-) Normally, the easiest part for me is the first draft - and the funnest part! It took me about seven months or so to write the first novel in my series. I hope that answers your question. :-)

      Thank you!

      :-) :D

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    8. Hi Patience!
      I'm sorry I didn't reply for a while over here. <3
      I was wondering, though, are you on NaNoWriMo?
      Cause I am, and if you are, I would LOVE to be Writing Buddies with you!!! :-)

      Hope to hear from you soon,

      -Koren Elise
      A writer for Him. <3

      :-) :D

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  22. I used to start stories left and right...if you could even call them that! Some were just a sentence! Haha!:) I am trying to discipline myself into writing one story at a time now. I have been really trying to have better plots and characters, though I also feel like whatever I do, it could always be better.:)
    This blog is cool! Thank you!
    Naomi

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  23. I used to do that flitting from story to story thing, too. Now, I've just disciplined myself to work on several at one time. I invented a system that I stick to, to get everything done.

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    1. Also, I've read all of the Skylar Hoyt books and loved them! :D

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  24. Hi Steph! I am in quite the writing dilemma. I've been trying to work on my self- discipline with my writing and not give up on my projects because every time I put them away for a few days, I come back and am really bored with them. So I've been forcing my way through my current novel. Now ive gotten another idea I love! Should I keep up the discipline or delve into my new book?

    -Arianna

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  25. I totally relate with this problem.... I always have a dozen stories all in my head at once and I tend to write the first few chapters or plot points down, so I don't forget, and, if I get bored or stuck in my Main Writing, I fall back and work on those other concepts :)

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  26. I have been writing two stories at once....

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