Frankenstein’s Ideas: Working Multiple Stories

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This is my first guest blog post. Ever. I am both incredibly excited and nervous. Before diving into this, I want to thank Dave and Brion, the wonderful hosts here at the Roundtable Podcast, for not only inviting me to ramble on their website, but for the opportunity to brainstorm with some of the brightest minds in  podcasting.

If you have not signed up to take part in what is happening here, I highly recommend you do so. I enjoyed myself more than words can say, and left with plot ideas and possibilities that have since taken off radically. To quote a famous, though fictional, mad scientist, THEY’RE ALIVE!

Plot Frankensteins

Speaking of plot Frankensteins (the whole ‘I’ve created a monster’, get it?), I want to take a moment to address an issue many writers, including myself, are plagued with:

So many ideas, so little time.

I’m struck with a least two new story ideas a week. Sometimes I can satisfy my fickle muses with a short story or two. Other times, the ideas demand novel-length exorcising. I can’t control it, and I’m somewhat scared of what might happen if I tried. As a result of said caution, I’ve devised a means to placate the voices in my head while maintaining my sanity. I…

Indulge!

By indulge I mean I work on at least three stories at a time. I know, I know, bad writer. Folk talk about how it’s not a good idea to project hop, what with possibly mixing up storylines, and beginning lots of plots only to never finish them, but hear me out. When I first started writing, I had two main ideas that battled one another constantly for my attention. I got about 100 pages into each before I realized it would take me forever to finish anything going back and forth like that.

So I womaned up and made a choice. To writers, our stories are our babies, and like good parents we want to pay all of our children equal attention. This, in my opinion, is the one time we’re allowed to pick a favorite.

Working Multiple Stories

I chose between the two WIPs which I’d finish first. It wasn’t easy, but I went with the muse that screamed the loudest at the time. Afterward, when I began my edits, I developed my system of indulgence where I allowed myself to work on two manuscripts at once, but under certain restrictions.

  1. I wasn’t allowed to swap unless a strong bout of writer’s block hit, and I mean merciless, as in unable to get anywhere for days.
  2. At that point, to keep the creativity going, I’d switch to the ‘fresh’ project and go wherever it took me.
  3. Just like before, I couldn’t swap back until I was out of options.
  4. All the while, I’m reworking the very first project, and taking the edited draft through my writer’s group to be polished.

Get all that?

Finish the first project and begin edits. During continuous revising, work on one of two other projects. If one WIP proves difficult, switch to the other, and vice versa. There is a stipulation, once you’ve decided which two to bounce between, you have to stick with those two. No tagging out.

The Results?

As a result of my ‘program’ I have polished one novel to where I am able to query. While I submit to agents on a regular basis, that’s a whole other blog post in and of itself, I am editing a second novel, and bouncing back and forth between completing two others.

This system works for me, it keeps me busy writing and editing, which is exactly where I want to be. It might seem a bit crazy, but believe me when I say it would be worse if I didn’t do it like this. I’d probably wind up pulling countless bits and pieces of plots, characters, settings and who knows what else into a real monster of mess.

Poor Dr. Frankenstein. Maybe he should have indulged a bit.

How do you deal with your plot monsters?

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About Author

El is a published poet and a former columnist for Writer’s News Weekly. She is a member of Novel Clique, an established group of professional writers, and an Affiliate Member of the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation, Inc. She is seeking representation for her young adult urban fantasy COVETED. Check out her blog, Info Dump a la El.

3 Comments

  1. I’ve always wanted to try writing two serials simultaneously. I actually set up my site with that in mind. I think when I try it’s going to hurt me, though.

    • Your site? Now I’m curious. I’m currently working on stories that are the same genre, ya urban fantasy (that’s kinda my thing), so that makes it easy. But I have two wildly different protagonists in Jay and Alice. It’s fun, though!

  2. I’ve always been a multi-project writer. I did have to work myself down from five or six different novels to just two at a time before I was able to finish one. I still keep that system up, two novels at a time and a short story now and then when both novels are giving me trouble.

    Funny thing is, when I’m editing, I can’t do anything else. All my focus has to be on the revision project. You would think it’d be easier to write one book and edit another at the same time, but it always stalls me.