(Disclaimer: I wrote this back in March 2021 so some of the refrences to my personal writing journy are different now, but they were still true then and still think this post has a lot of useful tips so I'll post it anyway! Mostly likely, I'll make another, more current post about this topic. Without further ado...)
Have you ever had so many WIP (work in progress) ideas floating around in your head that you just couldn't pick which one to work on or wasn't sure which ones to cut?
. . . if you answered "no" then I'm not entirely sure you're a writer …
Just kidding! But this is a problem most all writers have been up against more than once.
When I first started writing I had one book idea—The Prophecy. By the time I finished the first draft, I had 4 books instead of 1 and after the second-fifth draft, I had nearly 6. So while I always thought of it as one book (I still do sometimes!) you could easily argue that I was working on more than one WIP.
But, of course, that just wasn't ever enough.
On top of that, I was always coming up with new ideas for books and I just never seemed to know the limit. I still don't sometimes. Okay, maybe all the time.
If you're the same, you know that, naturally, that really, really long list needs to be narrowed down a bit before you start seriously consider whether or not to write multiple WIPs at once or not.
How to chose whether or not to cut a WIP
Write what you know
The Shadows of Light series (then known as The Prophecy) consumed much of my writing time but I still managed to write a few pages in a note-book about an Atlantis story and a futuristic story about a cyborg. While I loved both ideas, it was fairly easy for me to focus on The Shadows of Light because I was so attached to high fantasy instead of sci-fi or urban fantasy. I was able to chose because I went with what I knew.
If you read one genre more than another, then a good way to decide which WIP you want to focus on is to go with the genre you are more familiar with. Chances are, you'll be much more interested in your own WIP and will have more ideas to keep it going if you are familiar with and enjoy the genre it's in.
2. Consider the direction of the WIP
I understand there are many different kinds of writers and most fall into one of three categories—plotter, pantser, and the strange realm of the in-between plantser (as a hardcore plotter, I still don't know how anyone writes a book any other way so please enlighten me). So I do know that some writers do not know the end of their book when they begin, or even the middle for that matter. But for the most part, it's extremely important to at least know the direction of where you want your book to go, or at least have some sort of goal in mind. If all you have is a quote here and a vague character sketch there, it's not going to be hard to loose motivation or inspiration. If you want to know if you should drop a WIP to focus on another, try to think about how much you know about the WIP. If you have another WIP that's more fleshed out and gives you more excitement to work on, then obviously you should focus on it first.
Writing Multiple WIPs Pros and Cons
Of course, these tips are only good for weeding out those many WIPs but what if you want to work on more than one? Is it wrong to work on several or is it helpful?
Once upon a time, I was actively writing on nearly 5 WIPs at once (and that was outside of The Prophecy!) I've had my far share of ups and downs for writing multiple at once.
Before I begin on the pros and cons, however, it still all boils down to one think—preference. If you want to write on more than one and don't feel overwhelmed, then there is no rule that's gonna stop you. And if you only ever work on one at a time, there's nothing but respect in it.
Don't let anyone tell you there is a right or wrong way to write.
I have to admit. I'm starting out with the pros because I'm a little biased. I LOVE working on more than one WIPs!
—Write more often without burning out on one WIP
—Getting inspiration from your own writing. Need to cut a character from one WIP but don't want to cut them out altogether? Put them in another!
—You never get bored of writing
—Exercise writing in different perspectives, genders, genres, etc.
—Different stages of progress for each book. You can have one in outline, one in editing, and one in drafting.
—Change up your writing day! Sick of editing? Continue drafting another!
—Quickly learn your strengths and weaknesses from having tried so many different things
—When your friends and family get sick of hearing about WIP#1, just start talking about WIP#2 !
—Never loose the heart of a WIP because you actually wrote some of it down or outlined it
As much as I love it though, I have run into my share of problems with working on multiple WIPS.
—Getting WIPs mixed up. Sometimes you'll confuse your character names, or oops! the entire plot
—Repetition. You didn't realize it but now all of your WIPs have the same arcs and plot lines
—You get overwhelmed. This really only happens when you're forcing yourself to write each one equally. When I was writing for Wattpad, I felt like I had to write a new chapter for each one EVERY SINGLE DAY. That does not work well with anxiety lemme tell ya
—Never finishing any. You just made another WIP and now you just have 15 WIPs that each only have 2 pages written
—Shallow WIPs. If you're not focusing on just one or two WIPs, you might not be able to develop the story, characters, or world as much as you should or want to
Should you or shouldn't you?
So now that you know some of the pros and cons, how do you chose?
This is an extremely personal question that no one can make for you. To help though, I'm going to tell you about how I decided to write on more than one or not.
Because I felt like I needed to post so often for all 5 WIPs on Wattpad, I stopped caring about the story and was more worried about posting. Huge red flag. Even though I didn't hardcore plot back then like I do now, I always knew what was going to happen next in my books. However, I wasn't thinking about the direction for any of them anymore. I hit brick walls with almost every single one. And that's when I realized I was abandoning The Shadows of Light which was ready to move to beta reading and then publication. I had abandoned a perfectly good WIP which I loved dearly just so I could upload chapters to Wattpad. I made the decision to stop them because of the build up of unnecessary stress. I was then able to focus on The Shadows of Light.
Does that mean I regret writing on those WIPs? Never!
In fact, I'm so happy that I did write that much. I now have 5 other WIPs that each have over 20,000 (one even has 40,000!) words written. The heart and soul of each story has been captured and recorded on paper. I don't have to worry about remembering where I wanted them to go, and neither do they worry me anymore, demanding to be written. Getting all of that creativity and all the different WIP ideas out of my head and onto paper ended up relieving more stress in the long run.
With those WIPs set aside, (and all that wild writing having died down a bit) I regained my love for The Shadows of Light and found the motivation to move it farther down the road to publication. Before that, I had lost a lot of my motivation to write. Those 5 other WIPs really reignited my love for writing; they served their purpose and now they're just waiting patiently.
When Child of the Dragon Prophecy (book 1 of The Shadows of Light) was being read by beta readers, I turned my attention to rewriting book 2 and outlining a few companion novels I wanted to write later.
Working on multiple WIPs now helps relieve any anxiety I get during the waiting game.
It took about 6 months for my editor to finish COTDP. I had nothing to do then. So not only did I take a few well deserved breaks, but I pushed past some writer's block I had gotten in book 2, and also started drafting a companion novel. That new first draft opened my eyes to my new writing skills and helped me reignite a love for my series which gave me the motivation I needed to finish editing COTDP.
Now I'm trying to work out a publication plan so I can turn out at least one book a year. That necessitates working on more than one WIP at once. I'm thinking one in editing, one in rewriting, one in drafting, and one in outlining. It seems like a lot but we'll see how it goes!
The main thing I've learned though, is working on more than one WIP has always helped me keep my love for writing alive and has kept me from getting too much writer's block. Working on more than one WIP means I'm always being productive with writing, even if I'm not making head way in a certain WIP, (which, for my personality, it's pretty important that I'm always checking something off my list).
In the End, it All Comes Down to How You Feel
The most important thing to remember is to go with what feels right to you.
If it stresses you to work on more than one WIP, then don't!
If you think writing on more than one WIP will work best for you, then do it!
Whether you decide to work on more than one at a time or not, if you have ideas for other WIPs, simply write the ideas down. They're gonna always be there waiting for you. You'll NEVER regret even just writing a few lines about them, or making a playlist, or Pinterest mood board, or whatever holds the heart of your book. Even if it takes you years to get back to it, it will stop nagging you so much if you at least give it the respect to record it. And if it keeps nagging you even after than, then maybe you should give it a chance!
Just because you like writing on more than one at a time, doesn't mean you can't ever focus on just one. Or vis-versa.
You will go through different stages in your writing journey and different things are going to make sense or not at different times. Go with what feels right at the time.
But most importantly, never let anyone tell you that you're writing too much or not enough. That's none of their business because its a non-problem. As long as you are happy with your writing and aren't stressed, then you are writing just enough.
Here's a screenshot of how many book idea folders I have!! Just because I have something written down doesn't mean I'll even actually write it, but at least I'm never out of ideas.
A couple of the folders have more than one WIP in them and a few only have a few lines written so I counted all the ones I've actually worked on and came up with ...
A whopping 22 WIPs! Thankfully I'm only actively working on 4 right now!
I hope this was helpful! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave a comment below or fill out a contact form on my page. I would love to talk with anyone who wants more help or just wants to rant about their WIP(s)!
How many WIPs do you generally work on? How many WIPs do you have now?
May the suns smile upon your presence.