Herding WIPs

19 May

by Jenn Fitzgerald


Rarely do I work on a single WIP at a time. I’m still not sure if this is good writerly behavior or not, but it is something I have to deal with. No matter how much I love a project that I’m working on, no matter how devoted to it, or focused on it I am, I still think about other WIPs. It can kinda feel like I’m cheating on my books with other books, but luckily WIPs can’t have hurt feelings if I neglect one for a while to spend time with another.

However, it can be a problem trying to balance projects. Sometimes, I’ll sit down to write, open up a project and start typing away, only to be distracted a few minutes later by plans for a different WIP. I’ll switch to the other one and start working on that, only to be drawn back to the first one again. And, by the end of the day I haven’t gotten much done on either and I’m frustrated with myself.

I had this problem in a big way when I was starting PRISCILLA THE EVIL. I was writing another WIP and things were going well, but I couldn’t help thinking about this idea I had about a little girl who wanted to be evil. Finally, I decided to get to a stopping point with my main WIP and see where this other idea went. Six weeks later I had a first draft of Priscilla and could go back to working on my main WIP, which I finished before starting major edits.

What I learned from this was that I need to work on new ideas and I need stopping points. Constantly jumping back and forth between projects is not the way to do it.

So, now when I have to deal with multiple projects I try to pick one to work on, and pick a stopping point to work towards before I’m allowed to switch to the next WIP. This helps keep me from switching back and forth spastically. If I set a goal and can get myself to work to that certain point, then I can actually get something done and make progress on both projects. If there is something pressing that I just have to write down or risk forgetting for the project I’m not working on, then I’ll take the shortest possible notes before going back to the WIP I am working on. This way I don’t loose any ideas, but I don’t get distracted and pulled off into another work either. This is still a process I’m working on and trying to get better at. There are sill days when I jump back and forth and can’t settle on one WIP to work on, but it’s getting better.

Do you all have the same problem? What techniques or solutions do you have for dealing with wanting to write multiple projects at the same time?


13 Responses to “Herding WIPs”

  1. Nicole Zoltack May 19, 2011 at 12:18 AM #

    I’m the same way, I’m always working on more than one project at the same time, although usually it’s a novel and a short story or two. I agree, it’s probably not the best method, but it helps to ensure that I’m never not writing. I’m never stuck at the same time with all of my stories so I can constantly write.

    • jenn fitzgerald May 19, 2011 at 10:39 PM #

      Yeah, having multiple projects going at once does mean it’s hard to run out of things to write!

  2. Brett James Irvine May 19, 2011 at 5:56 AM #

    I’m the same – I usually have multiple things going on. I found it killed my productivity though (as you mentioned) – and I had to start setting “check points”, as in, I would only allow myself to switch to the other WIP once I’d finished x words or this chapter / scene etc. on this WIP. Once I did that, I found it a good balance between productivity and constantly changing my mind between WIPs.

    • jenn fitzgerald May 20, 2011 at 4:59 PM #

      I’m glad you found a way to balance the two! I do thinking having check points or goals is key to getting stuff done, though I still have a problem sticking to them sometimes

  3. Jia May 19, 2011 at 6:39 AM #

    Thanks for this post! I can never stay faithful to a single WIP for long, and it always makes me feel guilty. But after I switch projects, I’ll find myself having new ideas for the WIP I turned away from. The stopping points tip will prove helpful!

    • jenn fitzgerald May 20, 2011 at 5:01 PM #

      I hate feeling guilty when switching from project to project, but I can’t help it either. I hope coming up with stopping points will work for you! šŸ™‚

  4. Astrid Quarry May 19, 2011 at 7:46 AM #

    Oh I certainly do this. I have a duology that I’m working on both books at once plus a stand alone novel.

    But I do have the stopping point method. Usually it’s every 10k words I let myself switch to the next (I try to rotate). My switching time does usually happen every few weeks or so, rather than in the same day, but I hear you!

    And I find that it helps to work out flaws in my other WiPs by working on the other.

  5. Maya May 19, 2011 at 8:09 AM #

    I’m always full of ideas and I never finish anything, so a resounding YES to this one. šŸ™‚ So long as I keep notes about all of them, I can keep them straight but it’s kind of sad that I never get further than a few pages into one before it’s abandoned for something else or I lose interest. Real life is kicking me in the butt. I have no advice, but I do hope that things continue to get better for everyone!

  6. authorguy May 19, 2011 at 8:15 AM #

    I usually have several projects running, but I rarely feel like working on more than one at a time. If I get stale on one story I switch to a different story.

  7. laradunning May 19, 2011 at 8:25 AM #

    I usually have ideas floating around in my head, but I stick to one piece during the day. Otherwise it gets to confusing to write a little on something, then write a little more on something else. Sounds like you have figured out how you write best.

  8. Emery May 19, 2011 at 10:58 AM #

    When I first started writing (7th grade), I had that problem. I’d just think of a new idea and have to get it down right away. Somewhere along the road, I didn’t have that issue anymore. Now, while writing one piece, I just spend time perfecting other pieces in my mind, choosing which one I’ll write next, and forcing myself to finish one manuscript at a time.

  9. Megan May 19, 2011 at 1:13 PM #

    This is actually something I had to tackle recently myself. I’m very much the same way–always juggling multiple projects at once–but I felt like lately it was out of control, to the point where I couldn’t see the path clearly in ANY of my stories. That, I think we would all agree, is bad. So after talking with a lot of people about writing and about what I want my career as a writer to be, I settled down with one story to really push through and get the first draft done. That finish line will be my “stopping point” as you call it, and will give me the much needed chance to A) take a break from the first story and B) make some serious headway in terms of the plot/world building I’ll need to do for the project that will eventually take its place.

    This is a great piece, if only because it really speaks to one of the biggest dilemmas writers can face: distraction. We all have jobs and friends and families and it’s hard enough juggling that AND a novel on top of it, but then you throw in three different novel ideas and suddenly my desk is a hot mess. This helps put it all in perspective, at least in terms of tackling a main project. It might not be for everybody but it’s definitely something I relate to, and I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who does this. šŸ˜‰

  10. Najela Cobb May 20, 2011 at 2:13 AM #

    I love your idea, I’m going to borrow it. I just went to write my current WiP and was like, Let me read that story I was working on. I actually liked most of what I had written, but by the time I had finished reading, I hadn’t written anything for both. Now I know that I should just have a stopping point and switch off from one project to another.

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