Balancing Multiple Projects

When I first started writing novels, all the advice for newbies was to pick one project and stick with it until it was done. That’s great advice. Without it, it’s easy to get distracted and never finish one thing because as soon as that project gets difficult, the temptation for the Slutty Next Novel kicks in and the first project is abandoned and before you know it, your file cabinet is full of several unfinished, unpublished things. But for various reasons, I now find myself revising two different manuscripts at the same time, and there’s a SNN in the back of my mind, as well.

Insane? Why, yes. Yes I am. And rather than continue wallowing in madness, I asked some of the Miss Snark’s First Victim Success Stories group for some tips to help battle the insanity.

  • Peter Salomon and Helene Dunbar both try to follow the inspiration and listen to the project that calls to them. Peter adds that he's “trying not to stress over which project takes priority.” Helene says, "If something is really calling to you to be written, go for that."
  • Nicole Wolverton and Sarah Brand, like me, tend to favor the old project. Nicole will power through edits so she can hand them in, and then devote herself once again to the new project. Sarah added that whatever gets put in the back of her mind tends to “benefit from having time to percolate there.” 
  • Leah Petersen does whatever she can to NOT work on more than one project at once, but when she absolutely has to switch back and forth, she’ll usually give herself a day or two in between so she can "soak" in the main character. She’ll take long rides replaying their most emotional times in her head.
  • A writing friend of Stephanie Scott’s creates inspiration folders and will look through those to set the mood when switching back and forth between projects. Stephanie said the same could be done with Pinterest.
  • Helene Dunbar and PJ Schnyder listen to playlists for each project, and Leah Petersen listens to songs that fit with specific characters.
  • When switching between genres, PJ Schnyder and J.M. Frey watch portions of movies or television shows from the genre to provide visual cues, and J.M. Frey will sometimes read fanfic or chapters from textbooks or novels to set the mood.
  • J.M. Frey keeps track of her projects by writing their names on her refrigerator door—that way she won’t forget any of them, and she can muse over them while cooking or fixing tea. She also has a chalkboard where she uses a different color for each project—and she says it’s immensely satisfying to erase a note when she doesn’t need it anymore.
  • J.M. Frey, Leah Petersen, and PJ Schnyder all mentioned that they read portions of the project they need to be working on—not to do edits or work, but just to read and absorb the world and characters.

Some of these ideas have to do with choosing which project to work on, and some are tips to help set the mood and re-immerse yourself in the setting. Whatever you’re struggling with in the balancing act, I hope you found something here that you can use! I know I, at least, am encouraged. Huge thank yous to the group for helping me out!


Such an interesting topic to explore! I love hearing about how others cope with the challenges of the writing life, and multiple projects is definitely one of them. It's slightly easier if you're writing a series, because the world and main characters are the same, but it must also be hard to edit one while trying to write the next.

I love the ideas for how to focus your mind on a particular project when making the switch between them, and I use some of those techniques even if I've just had to take a few days off from writing (day job) to find my place in the world again. Creating a Pinterest board for your book is a great visual reminder, so long as you don't get sucked into the Pinterest vortex instead of writing! Creating a mood playlist of music that inspires you can help, too, though I can't listen to it while I'm writing. I just use it for warm ups. Thanks for the interesting post, Beth!

I used to think that writing more than one book at a time was impossible--until I had to do it myself. Thanks for all these great suggestions, Beth--and thanks to the group as well!

Great post! For me, I'd rather punch myself in the throat than try and think about writing two books at the same time. My brain can barely handle thinking about one thing...hell, it can barely handle thinking at all...

Great post, Beth! I'm very visual and I LOVE the idea of using Pinterest. Sometimes it's a good idea to let a story breathe for a bit -- working on another is not a bad idea to keep the creative juices flowing. Please thank your group, too, for such useful suggestions.

I'm pretty sure I need to stay FAR away from Pinterest.

But that didn't keep me from creating a website for my main character a couple of months ago!

Yeah, Katy, I figured you'd have your own tips to share!

But of course! I'm glad it was helpful.

That's kind of how my brain's been feeling lately!

That's why I have more than one project, Robin! The idea was to work on one while the other "breathed," and it was just supposed to be a short story...and then, yeah.

I'll pass the thanks along to the group!

You can do it, Beth! And I can't wait to hear about that SNN!

Love this post, Beth. The process of brainstorming it with the group helped me tons with my own projects right now and reminded me of tips I had used before and had forgotten about.

I love working on more than one thing. It allows me to be productive even when I'm procrastinating from the one I'm supposed to be working on, and it's fun to have a project that feels like it's just for play (even if it's not).

If the SNN works out, you'll probably end up hearing more about it than you ever thought you wanted to... :)

Same here, Leah! And thanks, again, for sharing your ideas!

Me, too! Like what Sarah said--whatever's in the back of my mind usually benefits from its time there.

Beth - I did a pinterest with ideas for my book. Loved doing this. Great visual resource and inspiration.

That's so cool! If you ever wanna share, I'd love to take a look!

I absolutely never thought of using Pinterest as a novel-writing aid. Now I am very intrigued! And I'm not sure I've ever read-just-to-read/absorb my work without editing. I'm going to try that. Thanks, Beth!

Glad you found it helpful, PB! It came from a wise group of writers. Let me know if you try Pinterest for your writing - your MG would have some gorgeous images!

It should be under Robin Fitzsimmons Meng - Seven Sapphires!

That is WAY cool, Robin! It's actually a lot like my Scrivener corkboard in the "research" folder--all the images pop up and I can feast my eyes. So I tricked myself into Pinteresting even though it isn't on Pinterest? I didn't even know it! :)

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