When I tell my writing students about my many writing projects, they ask me how I keep them straight. At any one time, a seasoned writer has several projects in the works. Maybe I’ve submitted an idea for an unwritten novel, or written several opening chapters. Meanwhile, I’m writing short essays for anthologies and working on that one novel closest to my heart.
Writing Tip for Today: Here’s how I work my way through the week:
- Deadlines. Whatever is squeaking loudest, I work on first. This often involves a deadline, and for a lot of published authors, it’s editing or galleys that must be turned in by a certain date. If you’re pre-published, a contest deadline, call out for submissions or even a self-imposed deadline (I will submit my mss. by this date) can add to your productivity.
- WIP. Next on my list of to-dos is whatever Work-in-Progress I’m writing. For me it’s usually a novel. Keep the WIP near the top of the priority list. If you’re a pre-published novelist, you need a finished manuscript to break in. If you are writing nonfiction, your proposal and a solid first three chapters is a must.
- Teaching/Learning. I teach a lot of writing classes (my day job) so I must leave room for writing handouts, researching latest trends, or mentoring. You might consider devoting a slice of writing time to learning new writing techniques, enrolling in a class or workshop or practicing writing forms with which you are unfamiliar.
- Reading. No matter how busy I am, I try to leave room for reading. If you don’t stay current with publishing trends, technological areas and reading for pleasure, your work could be less relevant.
- Dare to Dream. I also try to get in a “just for me” writing session now and then. I’m working on a novel that is “my baby” but so far is also an orphan–no publisher seems to want to contract it–yet. Occasionally write whatever you want to–be it a rant, a poem, or a short story. Spread your wings and turn off the editor, the money troll and its evil twin which sits on your shoulder telling you it’s a waste of your time.
One Caveat: While most published writers have several projects at once, they ought to know their limits too. Don’t have so many things started that you never finish any of them. At every creative writing session, remind yourself that you need to write as fast as you can, as much as you can. Later on, you’ll edit with a steel gaze and a sharp red pencil. Good Luck!