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Book Juggling

As you can see from the pretty bars to the right, I now have three WIPs going at once. WIP-A is a modern politically charged retelling of "Beauty and the Beast" (like Bubbles Pop but in the third person, with bankers and Marxists). WIP-B is basically one long exercise on how terrible and stifling life was for everyone in late Victorian England, and WIP-C is a comedy of errors in early twentieth-century New York.

I never thought I'd be a book-juggler. I started out believing in putting 100% concentration into my single magnum opus. But now I (a) don't believe in magna opera and (b) am finding a lot of advantages to putting 50% concentration into multiple projects at once. There are disadvantages as well, but personally I feel like the advantages outweigh them. Here are few:

Upside: I never get bored.

When I was writing only one book, there were days when I didn't really feel like working on any particular part of it...especially since I have a habit of writing the fun, happy chapters first and putting off the depressing, aggravating ones for last. But now if I spend the first half of my day draining my energy into a vicious argument in WIP-B, I can relax in the second half with a comic misunderstanding in WIP-C.

Downside: I feel the pressure to write all the time.

With so many projects to complete before the deadline (not a publisher's deadline, mind you, the "there's no money left for rent" one), I can't afford to slack off and watch dramas. Rather than a 9-to-5 job, this is more like a soul-consuming career. If I'm not eating or sleeping, I'm writing. The very first thought in my head when I wake up is what scene I'll write that day, and I'm preoccupied with passages even while I jog, cook, or bathe. Taking twenty minutes away to watch an episode of Community over dinner with Sweetie feels like a waste. If he was not thoroughly accustomed to my obsessive tendencies after five years of pseudo-marriage, we probably would have fallen apart in January.

Upside: I'm getting a ridiculous amount of practice.

I never thought my command of the English language lacking, so I was amazed when, only a few months after dropping out of respectable society to "tippity type" (as Sweetie calls it) I began to feel a lot more fluent with words than before. I can average some three thousand words a day now, and at least half of them are good ones :p

I'm becoming comfortable enough that I've even warmed up to the "delete" key. I used to hesitate to cut any of my precious passages, but my sentimental attachment to my work is decreasing with the increase in total volume. If it's not up to my standards, I can just throw it out, because I know I'm capable of replacing it with something better.

Downside: I get my worlds mixed up.

My characters across different WIPs are significantly different, but sometimes in the middle of writing I'll fall into the wrong line of thinking. Yesterday, I was very distressed to get to the end of chapter one in WIP-C and realize that for the last quarter or so, my spineless hero was thinking like the brash one from WIP-B. I had to go back this morning after pressing the "reset" button on my brain and rewrite liberally (fortunately, the plot followed the outline...only his attitude needed a makeover).

Another problem is that the tone of each work clashes with the others. For example, almost every line of WIP-C should be bouncy and tongue-in-cheek, while WIP-B is subdued and serious. The contrast is a good thing for staving off boredom, as I said above, but it can also be a problem if I approach my fluff like social commentary or vice versa.

Upside: I'm much more productive.

By the time I'm forced to find a "real job," I should have at least two new manuscripts completed, and hopefully three. If I were only working on one, however, it would probably be only half done by then.

"But that doesn't make any sense," you say. "Wouldn't you just complete that one first, and then start the next, for the same result?"

Indeed, that would be sensible. But I've always been known for intelligence, not good sense. One of my chemistry professors once noted that he used to allot three hours to a particular lab exercise, and he thought his judgment was spot-on because the students took three hours to complete it. Then, because of scheduling, he had to give a class only one and a half hours, and they still completed it easily without complaint. He lengthened the period again the next semester, and lo and behold they took all three hours, and were scrambling in a panic to finish on time.

If I have three months to work on a single book, I can probably complete it without much fuss. But if I have six for the same task, you bet I would somehow end up "needing" them all. This way, I'll most likely pump out a higher volume in the same amount of time.

Downside: I don't look very productive.

Even if I'm working twice as much as I used to, the pace of each individual work is unchanged. Rather than pouring everything into WIP-B to have it finished in a single month, my efforts are spread out such that on any given day, you can barely tell there's any progress at all. My little bars inch forward bit by bit, though I update the chapter percentages every time I finish a scene to have the giddy satisfaction of watching the total jump.

Since I'm working on each WIP more or less simultaneously (with A on the back burner while B and C take up most of my attention), I won't have the advantage of wrapping one up and hoping it sells while I work on the next one. WIP-B looks like it's taking the lead now, but one week I may suddenly feel like putting my time into WIP-C, or dusting off WIP-A instead. To the outside world, it seems like I'm not producing anything. That can be disheartening for an approval-seeker like me.


Anonymous (April 11, 2012, 10:37 am)

win-win-win situation!

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What is the first letter of "Mississippi"?