Multiple Works in Progress: How?
Works in Progress:
I often get asked how many WIPs I have--for non-writers that stands for "works in progress"--and explain my average is 5. The next follow up question is "HOW?" To explain how, first let me define what WIP means to me, as I think the definition could be different for those whom are monogamous to their manuscripts.
I define a WIP as any book I'm working on actively within a three-month cycle that is not in print yet. This includes ones with the publisher that we're editing, ones I'm working on to submit, and ones I'm drafting. If I haven't worked on a manuscript in more than three months, I consider it no longer a WIP and call it "shelved," even if only temporarily.
How does my system work? Well, first know that I'm a pantser, meaning I plan nothing in the manuscripts themselves and often write out of order. It's not for the faint of heart, but does save me time. Despite my wild writing style, my system for when I write and what I write is very organized. Call it organized chaos. Next, I'll exemplify and break down where I am currently for my 5 WIPs from oldest to newest so you can literally see the "'how."
My organized chaos
WIP 1: in a timeout, copyedits and marketing plan stage fast approaching for July release
WIP 2: in a timeout, publishers and I are soon embarking on round 1 edits for Feb. 2021 release
WIP 3: active, working on revision stage, but also editing as I go, submission deadline June 1st
WIP 4: active, halfway drafted, no deadline
WIP 5: active, first draft has 3 chapters down, submission deadline Dec. 31st
If you look at my list, my active WIPs are only 3, but while I'm writing all 3, it is not uncommon I am sent the email that editing or copyediting has begun on the other 2. I should also explain my 3-month cycle is because given certain times of year--like now--I have a lot of paper grading to do since I'm a college lecturer too. Within a month is is not uncommon that I work on all 5, sometimes 2 different ones on the same day. I go with my mood. Not feeling creative? Edit. Problem-solving mood? Revise content. Imagination won't stop? Drafting.
So how do I keep everything straight and not mix things up? I don't know. I have no amazing software or spreadsheets or note files. All these amazing organizational skills others have take a lot of time to set up, and then I found in the past that I ignored them completely. I'm not knocking on those organized folks out there, but it is time consuming and a skill that personally limits my creativity. What I do do is make 1 little (as in post-it-note sized) to-do list for my 3-month rounds which includes marketing and such--the thing I might forget about most. The rest resides in my brain.
How do I switch from one story to the other and remember where I left off? I dunno, but as a kid I was often frustrated that people couldn't do this and didn't have the memory I had about things; I didn't understand that people's brains didn't work like databases with multiple browsers you could tap into. I must conclude then, that for me, my ADHD--hyperactive type--is a gift in this respect. I know not everyone who can juggle multiple WIPs is neurodiverse, but I know it is the reason why I can juggle ideas, memorize, and hyperfocus when it comes to writing. It works for me for writing, but before you'll accuse me of bragging, outside of writing those brain browsers can make life hell by vying which one holds my attention. Spoiler alert: it's not the one that I need at that time almost ever (right now this blog begged to be written but I should be grading papers). I may have a fantastic mind when it comes to writing, but in life, it can be a bummer. Now if only I could remember to pack a fork for my lunch, where I left my keys, or to buy toilet paper...