Blog: How many works in progress are sustainable at once?

I’ve got a lot of partially-completed works, both long and short, and I’m starting to find that the sheer volume of things I have in the pipeline is problematic for a number of reasons.

First, the jarring whiplash between genres can be tough. When I’m working on very realistic works, this isn’t usually a problem, but if I’m going back and forth between literary fiction and, say, horror or medieval fantasy, that’s tough. I need a moment to fully inhabit my world, my characters, get inside their heads, their voices, and the more different those pieces are, the more difficult it is to get going.

The other problem is simply an inability to get anything done. If you chip away for an hour a day on three different pieces, it’s going to take longer to get each piece done than if you devote all three of those hours to a single piece.

I’ve made a lot of writing resolutions for 2012, but my biggest one is going to be to start keeping an idea log instead of starting in on new works as soon as inspiration strikes. Writing with the aim of publication is rather a bit more regimented than creative people like to pretend it is, and it takes a fair amount of discipline to say, “No, I’m not going to write that new story right now, not until I finish this one.”

That isn’t to say that working on many projects simultaneously doesn’t work for some people. It just doesn’t work for me right now, at least not to the level that I’ve been doing it lately.

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