Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One Story At a Time

I, like most mothers, are Grand Masters of Multi-tasking. I can plan a grocery list in my head, while driving my son to hockey practice, stopping to drop off dry cleaning and work on stubborn novel plot points all at the same time. This talent (or maybe not a talent but an essential survival skill in today's world) is not something I trained for or even thought I needed to have before I had children. Maybe it's a latent gene that turns on when you give birth. Suddenly you become a multi-tasker. Then again, maybe it's just a woman thing. Lord knows I despair of seeing it develop in my dearly loved son. My husband seems to be a great multi-tasker at work but when it comes to home life, uh, well, he tries. My point is, if this is something that I've developed to survive in my day to day life (or it's a genetic twist that a large percentage of women have) it seems to have by-passed me in terms of my ability to work on more than one story idea at a time.

I am a one draft at a time, one story at a time writer. I am amazed when I hear of other writers who can flip from working on their middle grade WIP to dip into a picture book draft and then, if they're stalled in these endeavors (or because they really are amazing multi-taskers), start drafting that YA novel they've had brewing in the back of their mind for a few weeks. I know I am not mentally or physically capable of stopping and starting three or more different projects with different voices, different plots, themes, tones and maintain the focus required to reach conclusion on any one of these projects. Ack. I get stressed just thinking about it. Even when I received my revision notes for Illegally Blonde, a story that was pretty much complete, I had to stop working on my WIP at the time to fully focus on Lucy's voice, Lucy's story and submerge myself into the story completely so that the revisions didn't have a different tone. That was my one big worry about the editorial revisions on IB. Because they came so many years after I'd completed the story, would I be able to get back into that 'voice'. So that's why I dropped the WIP I was working on at the time for a full month while I tackled the revisions. I didn't feel confident enough that switching from one story to another would benefit either of them very much. Yet I know many writers who can do this.

Is this writerly multi-tasking ability something that you can develop? Is it just a personal quirk? I'm genuinely curious even though I don't think I'll ever change my one story at a time method. I guess with my personal life already filled to overflowing with multiple tasks, I kind of enjoy just focussing on one thing at a time for a change. How about you? Are you a multi-tasker or one story at a time writer?


  1. Like you, I tend to work on one writing project at a time. Trying to juggle too many characters might confuse me--I'm afraid I'd wind up with the MC from one book making out with the love interest from another. ;)

  2. Linda: That is such a surreal idea it would probably work really well as a book idea! Too bad we're both tied up trying to stay focussed on our current - and only! - WIP! :)

  3. I don't know what is truth, but I've read that when you work on more than story on a time, like two first drafts, that the full percentage of your creativity is going toward neither. So when i'm writing a first draft, that's it. But while I'm revising, I will plot and dream and outline.

  4. I work on one thing at a time, but I'll switch. So I'll put wip 1 on the back burner, write a draft of wip 2 until I'm completed; return to wip 1 to do another round of revisions, and so on. But I don't work on several projects at the same time. I just switch every few months since I need time off from a wip to look at it with fresh eyes later.

  5. Hi Laura: I don't know the truth either, Laura but I know that's the truth for me too.

    Hey Medeia: I've done that a couple of times only to realize I don't go back and finish that put aside WIP. I wish I could though - those two unfinished wip's are bugging me!