Don’t limit yourself: the case for juggling multiple writing projects

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At the moment I’m in the limbo period between finishing the first draft of a novel manuscript and embarking on the editing process. As a rule, I try to leave a manuscript alone for at least a month at this stage, preferably several months, in the hope of being objective when returning to the work with a red pen. If you only have one writing project on the go, the temptation to prematurely return to that manuscript can be overwhelming. But if, like me, you have multiple projects at various stages of completion, you will have no trouble filling in your time while that crappy first draft matures like a fine wine.

This morning, while scrolling through Twitter, I stumbled across this wise tweet by E.J. Dawson:

This generous message is one of encouragement, a call to brush off rejection, to move forward, to look for new opportunities. It urges us not to limit ourselves to one goal. This tweet is relevant to me right now, as I stumble through the painful process of submission of my completed psychological thriller manuscript to publishers. But this sentiment can also be applied to the breadth of creative projects undertaken in the first place.

Dani Vee, the host of the wonderful Words and Nerds podcast, recently shared the news that she’d signed a publishing contract for her first picture book, a side project she started while working on an adult novel as well as her popular podcast. Many other authors, including Irma Gold and Pamela Freeman, have published books for children as well as for adults. Others, like Anna Spargo-Ryan, are as well known for their award-winning non-fiction work as they are for their fiction.

If you only ever stick to one style of writing, to one genre or length, to one competition, how will you know what you’re capable of? You may be yet to discover your ideal genre or form, the perfect vehicle for your voice. Perhaps there’s a gifted poet in there, waiting to emerge. Opening your mind to the possibilities and exploring new creative projects, or taking a workshop or two, could also provide new skills and insight into how to improve your manuscript. When you’ve immersed yourself in novel writing for ages, playing around with shorter projects allows your mind to take a break from the all-consuming giant story, reminds you of the joy that brought you to writing in the first place, and may well open up new, unexpected opportunities as well.

So, while I wait for my manuscript to mature, I’m writing and editing a short story and some new flash-fiction pieces, playing around with creative non-fiction, and researching manuscript submission opportunities as well. Oh, and nervously waiting to hear back from publishers, of course.

Do you like to juggle multiple writing projects? How are you going to expand your creative practice today?

5 thoughts on “Don’t limit yourself: the case for juggling multiple writing projects

  1. Hi Lisa, great post.
    I am still on the first draft of my first manuscript and it it hard. So I think it is critical to have multiple writing projects. I try to concentrate on the main manuscript but need a break from it too. I have been writing a few short stories and also working on a new website, which also requires some writing.

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    • Thanks, Pauline. You make an excellent point — writing a novel is such a slog it’s a great idea to recharge the batteries from time to time with shorter projects. Best of luck with it all!

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  2. Great post, Lisa. I feel that it is absolutely crucial not to stop when one or two doors prove uncooperative. This writing life is about immersing ourselves in all the good and the bad, and getting up eight times after being knocked down seven, if that’s what’s necessary. There’s so much more to this than that elusive publishing contract, but you will get that too, I am sure of it! Meanwhile,other projects are always a great way to redirect energy 🙂

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