Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Indie Life: How do you maintain focus when balancing multiple writing projects?

It's time for this month's Indie Life post, a monthly feature run by the awesome writers over at the Indelibles blog. If you're familiar with Alex J. Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Group, you'll already have an idea of how this will run. Every second Wednesday of the month those taking part will post something related to indie life, such the highs, lows, triumphs, struggles, and milestones of going it alone.




Today I'm talking about the dangers of losing focus by asking the question: How do you maintain focus when balancing multiple writing projects?

As a newly published Indie writer, I'm all to aware that unless by some miracle my short collection suddenly garners the attention and sales of someone like Hugh Howey, I'm not going to give up my day job on its sales. In fact, I probably won't even make the equivalent of two or three days wages in a month. But if I can have multiple books on sale, then maybe combined they will bring home a decent wage. And that means writing more books.

Easy? It should be. I'm a writer. Writing stories is what I do, and it's the most important part. Not the sales. But I'll let you in on a secret - when I first starting submitting short stories for publication, I concentrated on one story at a time. Yes. I worked on a novel from time to time, but I focused my creative energies on completing one project. I selected an anthology. I knew the final submission date. I submitted on time.

Fast-forward a couple of years and I have multiple projects competing for my attention, and because I'm self-publishing, no deadline. Of course I can give myself a deadline but then I can also change it. The result is I'm losing focus. Instead of regularly completing one of these projects, I have lots on the go. Of course that is not always a bad thing - we need variety so as not to stagnate. But we also need to finish stories.

While it is great for any writer to already have an idea of what their next few publications will be, how do they ensure a steady stream of publications without losing their way? How do they maintain focus when balancing so many writing projects? For me the answer is starting a business plan and publicly announcing a publishing schedule.

As much as I hate to think of my writing as a business, my dream is to write full-time. I can only achieve this through consistent sales. If I want consistent sales, I need to giving my readers more reading options on a regular basis. By setting a publishing schedule, and then telling the world, I will be making a commitment. By working out the hard facts of increasing sales through more books for sale I am focusing my attention on ensuring each project is completed. Talking of announcing publishing schedules, here's mine for the next few months:

July 15th - Taking Time (science fiction short story collection).

September 2nd - episode one of a science fiction serial. Then one more every two weeks. Nine episodes in total.

What are your thoughts on maintaining focus? Do you think balancing multiple projects is a good or bad thing? How many becomes to many?

13 comments:

  1. Balancing multiple projects can be difficult. I was jumping from project to project, but now I try to focus on writing one and editing another (or several others). It seems to work so far.

    I also agree having a business plan and making yourself accountable for it is a wonderful strategy!

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  2. You need absolute conviction and drive to make this work. I have an ebook coming out in three weeks, that same trilogy will then start coming out in paperback editions starting September, I have a four book series that I am developing with my agent, and a further project we have just brainstormed...

    My head hurts just thinking about managing this. In any one day, I am working on at least three manuscripts.

    Oh, and I work full-time too!!

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  3. I only have one idea at a time, so can't imagine balancing several.
    Good idea to put yourself on a schedule.

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  4. What I do is...I write a summary of the stories I want to write. This leaves me to focus on expanding one project at a time. I will have three shorts coming out this summer. Two mainstream women's fiction and one cozy sci-fy. I'm also planning two more novels to be published by the end of this year.

    Hugs and chocolate,
    Shelly

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  5. I can only actively work on one writing project at a time, or lose focus. I can only juggle the plot and characters for one book at a time, or risk adding my brain. :) I do, however, continue to make notes on future projects so I am ready to move on the next project the moment my current one goes to my editor.

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  6. Hi Ellie - very good luck with all your projects .. it is essential to concentrate and finish things isn't it - but keep on doing and they will come together - priority today ...

    I'm just moving forward with various projects, which will give me big leg up in my development ..

    All the best - you'll get there .. Hilary

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  7. If it works for you then that is the way to do it. I've lost focus, mainly because of family affairs, but I'll get back to it.

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  8. I like having multiple things on the go. If I reach an impasse with one I just go and work on another rather than sitting there staring at a blank screen. I generally find the impasse resolves itself at some point...

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  9. I've really wondered about the too many part. Sometimes I have so many editing projects I can't get to the writing of my own. LOL

    Great post!
    ~Summer

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  10. I envy writers who can balance several projects simultaneously. I can only work on one at a time, which is generally my main project, but I can edit and plan other projects at the same time. I like to outline each novel so I can move onto the next one as soon as I finish a draft, then return to edit later.

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  11. Good for you for setting deadlines. Although my focus isn't writing a book, I try to have 5-7 projects on the horizon at any given time. I like staying busy and productive.

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  12. The difference between men and women, multiple tasking and linear tasking. Men in general are not so good at mulitple tasking, so hats off to anyone who manages many projects at once. I am not good at it, I need to concentrate on one thing at a time.

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  13. Maintaining schedules - the bane of my existence! :) As soon as I set a date for myself it's like a conspiracy forms to knock me off-track.

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