• Multiple Books & Writing Projects

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in ABCs of Writing     Comments 54 comments
    Feb
    1

    Discussion questions: Do you ever work on multiple writing projects at once? What are your strategies for keeping them separate, from letting one affect the other? How often do you read multiple books at once, and same question: How are you able to keep them separate?

     

    On a recent episode of Yak Babies, my pals and I discussed reading multiple books at once: the benefits, the pitfalls, our own experiences, how it affects our comprehension.

    I’m able to read two books at once if one is fiction and one is nonfiction. I can’t read two novels at the same time. I probably could read two nonfiction books at once, but it almost never happens.

    I can read multiple short story collections, but that’s different than trying to read two novels, for obvious reasons.

    How about you? Are you usually working on more than one book at a time, or are you, as Aaron calls it in the episode, a book monogamist? If you do read multiple books at once, what’s your approach? Can you, unlike me, read multiple novels at once, and if so, how do you keep them straight?

     

    With writing, I have a similar pattern. I’m working on a novel and on a story collection, and I go through phases with each rather than being able to work on both. For the past few weeks, I’ve been working only on the stories. For a couple of months prior to that, I was working only on the novel. And so on.

    However, I can write fiction while also working on something nonfiction. (You might even argue that I’m doing this right now!) Assuming it’s a short piece of nonfiction, a book review, essay, what have you. Back in 2017 I spent six months working on a memoir; I wrote zero fiction during that period.

    And you? Can you work on multiple writing projects at once? If so, how are you able to keep them from bleeding into each other? If not, what have been your past experiences that keep you from doing it now?

     

    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is fiction editor at the Texas Observer and co-host of the Yak Babies podcast. He writes about books for the Dallas Morning News, Electric Literature, Publishing Perspectives, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a 2020 writing project you’d like a little help with, take a look at our book coachingprivate instruction and writer’s block counseling services. If you have a manuscript that’s ready for some editorial care, check out our various critiquing, editorial, and proofing servicesJoin our mailing list and get a FREE writer’s diagnostic, “Common problems and SOLUTIONS for the struggling writer.”

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    KevinWDavid DuhrJennifer PommerSilkeSusan Recent comment authors
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    Torria Stevens
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    Like David, I can’t read two novels at once – nope ,nope can’t do it. But, I can read two, sometimes three books at a time with different genres. Case in point: I may be reading a novel, with a poetry book, even the Tao (full of metaphorical inspiration) and/or a history book. Now when it comes to writing, I agree that’s a different story…get it a different story? Anyheeew, yes, that transition from writing fiction to writing non fiction though is a chaaallenge to say the least. Because just the process alone, the mode to find that a la… Read more »

    Kary
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    Kary

    I can, and usually do, read more than one book at a time. That means unless a book grabs me, I won’t finish it. If I can’t remember where I was, that’s also a bad sign for the book (not strong enough). Lately I have been limiting myself to two books, until I officially quit one, or finish one. That has worked, I’ve finished reading two books in the last month. (Yay me.) Writing has to be a little separate. I can edit/revise while also rough drafting another project – but I can’t duplicate those tasks. I have tried to… Read more »

    Kim
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    Kim

    If a novel really gets my attention I tend to race through it forsaking all others. But I can read two novels at once if they are very different genres and one is not consuming me. (So if I don’t love it.)
    I read non-fiction very slowly, so I usually read at least one novel during the process.
    Writing is harder, obviously. I have multiple projects started, but usually can only work on one at a time, regardless of the type.

    Raymundo
    Guest

    I often have several writing projects in my queue at once (2 or 3 book reviews, a blog post, novel, short story revision, etc) but I tend to work on them serially. That is, I’ll work one to a point, then switch to another. Often, one project will become consuming and I work on it to completion before returning to another. I can get work done like this, but it’s still too erratic to suit my need for feeling like I’m progressing. I still feel like I need to better adopt a working schedule/strategy much like I did on corporate… Read more »

    david lemke
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    david lemke

    Going back all the way to high school, I was interested in motivation. After the navy I smoked a lot and noticed other who smoked a lot were unmotivated. I cut down and eventually quit and studied read and listen to everything I could find and listen to on motivation; Napoleon Hill, Denis Waitley, Norman Vincent Peale, Stephen Covey, Tony Robbins and more than I need to list here. I started listening in the car and even at work. I had no problem listening at work or driving and keeping track of the topic or story line with nearly constant… Read more »

    Cheryl Guillot
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    Cheryl Guillot

    I usually have about three books of different genres going at a time. I have been working through a very large biography of Einstein for awhile now. I can read two novels if they are very different. I could never keep track of two universes concurrently. While working a rewrite on a book this week I noticed being drawn to the “old novel”. Having written it many years ago during a very difficult uncoupling, I am drawn to it when struggling with a current project. It is my most dangerous block. If a new idea comes up during a project,… Read more »

    Bobbie
    Guest

    I can read multiple novels at once and pick up within a few sentences of where I left off in the novel, well that is if the novel isn’t too complicated to follow. I also work on several projects at once. When I hit a roadblock or get frustrated with one project, I jump to another one and let that one rest for a day or so. This month, I’m editing short novel for a class, I’m working on a short story for a contest and a class. I’m taking another class on wounds from various implements like swords, guns… Read more »

    Hans De Leo
    Guest

    There have been cases where I had to put one down, read another through, and then go back to the first. Does that count? Anyway, going back to the first always takes a bit to remember the story, like putting it down for a long time and then trying to pick it back up again. I found that re-reading a few paragraphs was helpful. AS far as having more than one writing project going, I’ve done that. Sometimes it was writing a short story while working on one of my novels. More recently I’ve started working on the first book… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn
    Guest
    Elissa Malcohn

    My default is serial book reading, but sometimes I’m in a situation where I’m reading a non-library book while waiting for a library book to become available. When the library book is then “automatically borrowed,” I step away from the other until I’ve finished the loan and can return. (Most recently, I interrupted Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year — thank you, Project Gutenberg! — to read Dos Passos’s The 42nd Parallel courtesy of my Brooklyn Public Library nonresident card, and then finished up the Defoe.) That being said, there are a few books that I read, on and off,… Read more »

    Susan
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    Susan

    To read only one book at a time was my New Year’s Resolution, and I’m mostly true to it so far, but I consider one book the “main course” and then I have my “side dishes.” So I read one and plan to finish it while I sample others. Maybe a dessert of a poem or two…
    Re: writing, I am monogamous. I would never do one justice if I allowed myself to get too involved with another one. But when the “other one” comes calling, I do take notes and store them for later.

    Silke
    Guest
    Silke

    I usually read only one thing at a time. With my writing, however, while I am waiting for my editor to finish my current project, “Like an Owl Among the Ruins”, I like to work on a short story for a contest, or my other book, “Nurses’ Notes”, just because I can’t stand to just wait and wait. I like to be writing something all the time.

    Jennifer Pommer
    Guest
    Jennifer Pommer

    I seem to be limited to only two books at a time though I usually read only one. When I do read two, I usually read different genres though they can both be fiction if they are different (a mystery and general fiction). I can also write two different things at a time if I find I must research something or don’t have the information I need for something I’m working on. Since I am just starting out in the creative writing process and writing for myself, I find I can work on a writing exercise and do research for… Read more »

    KevinW
    Guest
    KevinW

    This thread made me think of Alice Sheldon (aka James Tiptree. Jr.). She had separate desks for each of her pseudonyms, each in a different part of the house, each decorated differently and equipped with different colors of paper because her different writing personas could not intermingle.

    KevinW
    Guest
    KevinW

    I think that around age 11 or so I followed King Azaz into the Royal Half-Bakery and never left…I’m a bit scattershot with reading; something in a book will grab my interest and I have to explore it, and I end up with five books half read, or half a book reread five times. If I feel disciplined I can usually begin, middle and end a book or a writing project, but when I’m reading for ghits and shiggles I take the path less beaten. I find that this creates odd juxtapositions that stimulate my creativity, for butter or wurst.




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