If you've ever played chess, you know that it's a game of simple strategy: Capture the king. You do this by eliminating the pieces guarding the king and opening up avenues to get to him, hopefully before your opponent does the same to your king. Easy. Only it's not easy because you have to plan your moves while guessing what your opponent's moves are going to be.
Okay, now imagine that writing a novel is playing a game of chess. One playing field, one set of chess pieces, and a whole lot of moves to make. It's enough to keep anyone busy. But what if you could play three games of chess at the same time?
With the right amount of planning and prep work, there is actually very little difference between working on one project and working on two or three simultaneously. It does take more time to finish multiple projects (no writer trick in the world can eliminate the actual work involved) but there are many potential benefits, from eradicating boredom and writer's block from your life to becoming a more efficient and productive writer.
If you're a one-story-at-a-time writer and would like to try this, I have a few preliminary suggestions:
Be conservative. Start off with two projects first (once you get in some practice, then you can try juggling three or more.)
Know your projects. This is not a technique you want to try with a vague idea or a glimmer of story; you want solid, strong, well-thought-out ideas that excite you on the creative level.
Have faith in yourself. If your main writing obstacle is fear, waffling, self-loathing or something along those lines, doing this is probably going to double it. The only way I know how to combat this is to give yourself permission to try this no matter how it turns out. Do it the first time just for fun.
Organize your life. Clear out your writing space, stock up on the office supplies you need, and communicate your plans to your family and loved ones. Eliminate all unnecessary distractions, and make a vow to avoid things that will lure you away from the work.
Once you're in a good place and feel ready to start, write up a working title and a one-page outline for each project (this is also the way to check and see if your idea is clear, strong, and appeals to you.) If you've never done a one-page outline, try my ten point novel template or Alicia Rasley's thirty minute novel outline technique. At this point you want to use broad strokes for outlining to avoid getting mired down in a lot of endless details (you will have time to get more into the details once you start working.)
Set up project files, fiction folders, novel notebooks, or whatever you use to keep your story paperwork organized while you're working on it. Once you have that ready, set up a drawer, box or other contained space where you can put reference materials related to the project (for each project I'm working on I dedicate a shelf in a bookcase near my writing space.) The idea is to have everything you need for the project in one place so you don't have to look around for things while you're writing.
The final prep step is to divide up your dedicated writing time between the projects, and this is where you tailor your time to suit your process. If you prefer to work on one project per day, designate days of the week (i.e. Monday - Project A, Tuesday - Project B, Wednesday - Project A, Thursday - Project B, etc.) If you're like me and you feel comfortable working on different projects during the same session, divide your writing time into hours (i.e. Monday - Project A 9-11 am, Project B 1-3pm; Tuesday - Project C 9-11 am, Project A 1-3 pm, etc.) If you've never tried this and don't know which will work for you, try a test run of each method for a week and find out which one makes you more productive.
A side note on dedicating the writing time: I know it's difficult for those of you with day jobs and/or busy home lives to find the time. If you don't have the time now to write, you'll have to pass on this. Or you might make the time, which means giving up something. Waking up an hour earlier is the simplest way to do it; if you get up before everyone else does that gives you an hour to write in peace and quiet. If you're spending an hour or two a day texting people, tell your friends you're going to take some time to write and turn off the phone. You can also sacrifice watching your favorite television shows to make time to write (if you're worried about missing something, record the shows while you're working, and hold onto the copies as a reward for yourself when you finish the manuscript.)
Tomorrow we'll talk about how to handle the work of quantum writing, how to get into the create-as-you-go zone (and stay there), and some ways to troubleshoot and self-correct common problems. Until then, any questions?
Image credit: © Tino Mager | Dreamstime.com