A friend of mine recently emailed me about how to go about working on multiple projects. I advised against it. It’s slightly different when doing academic work: there are book-length projects, articles and conference papers that all need to be done at the same time, not to mention lectures that need to be written. And, of course, using some obscure sources (as I often do) means that I rely on the brilliant Inter-library loan team to find them for me. Sometimes the books are found quickly, sometimes it takes a little longer. Consequently, I’ve moved on from the project that the books are for (and sometimes I have difficulty remembering why I wanted them in the first place.
I really advise working against writing more than one novel at a time. Invariably there will be times that the writing gets hard: I’ve written myself into a corner, or the ideas just aren’t flowing. It’s at this time – normally about three quarters of the way through the book – that other thoughts for a new book start creeping in. Those thoughts can sound VERY attractive, compared to the current book, where writing is like trying to carve each word into stone with your fingernails. The problem is that the first book gets pushed to one side and is likely to remain there.
The other problem is that with multiple projects going on at the same time, then it can often seem like you’re getting nowhere with a project. You may be progressing, but you’re not finishing.
There’s the old adage that writing is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Definitely the case when approaching the finishing line of a novel.
There is a difference between writing academia and fiction. It’s a different kind of writing process, a different approach to research, a different way of thinking. And the best part is that when I’ve been working on academic writing, then to spend some time writing fiction instead is a luxury, a delight, it doesn’t feel like work at all!
I had one of those really weird days today: I started editing a gothic novel almost two years ago. It’s been hard work, but I recently finished the introductory essay – I sent it to a trusted colleague for comments and he came back to me a couple of days ago with some suggestions. I’d also been working on an introductory essay for a translation I want to use in my Medieval class in December. Comments on that came back today. Also, a proof-reader got back to me with comments for a short novel I’ve written in the high fantasy genre. And I was lucky that I could go through each of these projects and effectively finish them. The translation work is complete, the gothic novel is being sent to the publisher tomorrow, and I’ll send a proposal to my publisher regarding the novel when I’m back from leave in a week’s time. Three projects finished on the same day!
Ok, the moral of this story is, don’t do as I do. Do as I say.