One or More: How Many Manuscripts Do You Work on at Once

Last week at critique group, one of my writing friends commented that she had to set a manuscript aside.  After more than a year of research, she had found a published book that did it better.  She thinks she’ll probably come back to her idea, but until then she needs to work on something new.  Apparently, working on multiple things at once was a new idea to her.

Me?  I’ve got five manuscripts in the works at the moment.

  1.  I’m working on a rewrite of a picture book on prayer. An agent has agreed to look at it.
  2. I’m rewriting the cave picture book.  An agent has recommended a colleague for this one.
  3. I am outlining and then need to draft a cozy mystery.
  4. I am researching a new nonfiction project.  Fourteen pages of notes and more to come.
  5. I am currently working on a middle grade contemporary fantasy.

How can I work on this many things at once?  It helps when they are at different stages.

#1 doesn’t require any more research.  I’m working on shifting the emphasis and adding sidebars which will flesh out the manuscript.  After that I will rework the backmatter.

#2 requires a bit more research but mostly a major overhaul.  And I do mean major.  When I get stuck on #1 and need to let things settle, I work on this one.

#3 I’m reading how-to material on mystery writing, noodling, and then adding to my outline.  This isn’t writing per se but pre-writing.

#4 is research, note taking and photography.

#5 is stuck. I’ve written myself into a corner so I’m ignoring it while I work on other things.  Hopefully when I come back to it, it will be fresh and the solution will be obvious.

I have writing friends who work on one manuscript at a time.  That’s how I did it when I was a new writer, working and going to grad school.  When I’m working hard on a draft, I generally focus on one manuscript although I may be researching another one or two.

I’m not saying that this is the best way to work. It is simply how I work.  For now?  Tomorrow?  We shall see when tomorrow arrives.