Writing Multiple Books at the Same Time: Tips for Managing Multiple Projects

Writing Multiple Books at the Same Time: Tips for Managing Multiple Projects

It's common for newer writers to hear advice like, "Just focus on one book at a time," or "Finish the book you're writing before starting a new one." There's a good reason for this advice: When you're writing your first draft, it can be very easy to let new ideas distract you— if you're always jumping to another project, you may never actually finish a book!

However, many authors do work on more than one novel at a time. For example, they may be revising one book while writing the first draft of another. So it is possible, but how do you stay organized with so many writing irons in the fire?

Here are seven tips for writing multiple books:

Tips for writing multiple projects

Don’t just switch projects when one book gets hard

It can be very tempting to switch gears to a shiny new idea when you hit a challenge with your current project. When you’re trapped in a deep plot hole, have a stubborn character that won’t cooperate, or things just aren’t lining up, it seems like every new story idea is brilliant and will be a breeze to write.

But every project will have its own unique challenges. Every project will get difficult at some point. Chances are, you thought the project you’re working on now would be a breeze at some point, right?

You owe it to this current project to try and see it through. Yes, at some point it’s the right move to set a project aside and start writing a new one, but as we mentioned earlier, if you’re always jumping from one project to the next, you’ll never finish a book.

So embrace the challenge, and try to do everything you can to write through it, over it, or under it, and get a first draft done, even if you hate the writing. Once you’ve finished a few stories, you’ll realize that dealing with the challenges that pop up is just part of the writing process.

Work on projects in different development stages

Trying to write two novels simultaneously can be challenging, especially if the stories are in a similar genre. You can easily misplace details of one story in the other and cause yourself a huge challenge just to keep all the storylines and characters straight.

But it’s a lot easier to write a first draft of one story while revising another. When you’re drafting, you’re using your creative skills to come up with new characters, new scenes, and new storylines. And when you’re revising, you’re using your analytical skills to take the pieces apart, figure out what’s missing, and rearrange things to create a better story. These tasks use very different skill sets, so it’s easier for your brain to “switch gears” and keep all the details straight.

A prolific writer who is publishing multiple books a year is probably always writing one book, revising another, and publishing and marketing a third. With each book in a very different developmental stage, it’s not too difficult to keep them distinct in their mind.

Create different “time blocks” throughout your day

Instead of just working on your projects whenever you feel like it, try to block off specific times of the day or week for specific projects. Also, try and align the time blocks to times and days that best suit the activity.

For example, if you’re a morning person and you feel most creative early in the day, you could put a drafting time block in the morning. Then, in the afternoons or evenings, you can focus on revising.

Or if you can only get large, uninterrupted blocks of time on the weekends, you could dedicate weekends to one project, and the time here and there on the weekdays for another book.

It might take some experimentation to find what tasks work best in each time block, and where each block can get carved out of your current schedule. Once you find a setup that works, try to keep it consistent for as long as you can. Staying consistent with your time blocks will train your brain to expect a certain type of work at a certain time, which makes it easier to immerse yourself fully in that project.

In the famous memoir On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, Stephen King emphasizes the importance of establishing a writing routine. He’s written over 70 books and knows a thing or two about working on multiple projects. King advises writers to set specific writing goals and dedicate a fixed amount of time each day to work on their projects.

Set clear goals and deadlines

When working on two books at the same time, it’s also important to establish clear goals for each project. The goals don’t have to be complicated or set in stone. Just knowing when you’d like to have the major stages completed (first draft, revisions, copyedits, etc.) can go a long way toward staying organized.

This is especially important if you have external due dates, such as a publishing contract, or an agreement with an editor, agent, copyeditor, or formatter. With two or three projects spinning at the same time, it’s easy to get lost in working on one and accidentally run out of time on another.

Utilize project management tools to maintain project notes and outlines

To help you keep track of your goals, projects, due dates, and ideas for your many projects, consider using some project management software. These tools allow you to create project boards, categorize tasks, set milestones, and collaborate with others, if you need to. Plus, they’ll help you to see the status of all your projects at a glance, making it quick to see if you’re in line to hit your goals and deadlines or if something is going off schedule.

Some popular project management software options include Trello, Scrivener, Notion, Asana, Evernote, and Google Docs.

It’s beyond the scope of this post to explain how each of these works, but all these tools offer a free trial and excellent resources in their help section and on YouTube, so have a look at each and decide which approaches work best for you.

Practice self-discipline and focus

Working on several books at a time requires discipline and focus. When you're working on a particular project, try to minimize distractions. Create a clean working space, free of unnecessary phones, tablets, and other attention-grabbing tech. If you’ve followed the tips above, you’ve set this time block aside to focus on a single project and you’ve got some deadlines to hit. So do what you need to do to set boundaries and eliminate interruptions during your dedicated working time.

During your session, the Pomodoro Technique is a helpful tool to maximize concentration and prevent burnout. It’s a simple, repeating sequence of a 25-30-minute work sprint followed by a 5-minute productive break. The work sprint is long enough to get some serious work done, and the breaks help to minimize any back pain or mental fatigue. There are tons of Pomodoro apps and timers available - just do a search on the web or in your favorite app store.

Additionally, learn to say 'no' to new projects or commitments that may overload your schedule. By managing your time effectively and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, you can optimize your productivity and maintain clarity across your multiple writing projects.

Don’t forget to take breaks!

Juggling different books can be mentally and creatively demanding. It's important to give yourself a break to rest, recharge, and avoid burnout. Giving yourself time to relax can actually improve your productivity in the long run.

During your breaks, try and find activities that nourish your creativity, such as reading, exploring new environments, or pursuing hobbies unrelated to writing. Giving yourself some space away from your projects lets all the thoughts settle, and allows your subconscious mind to work on any problems you’re having. Many times after returning from a break, or even in the middle of a break, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to have an insight or scene pop into your head that solves all your issues.

Ready to write two books at once?

Juggling multiple writing projects can be challenging, but with the right organizational strategies, you can maintain control, stay focused, and produce outstanding work.

Remember, the specific approach to writing multiple novels at the same time may vary from writer to writer. It's important to find a method that works best for you based on your personal preferences and work style.

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