Kay: The Juggling Act

Circus tapestry by Ambesonne

I’m not one for multi-tasking. For me, it doesn’t work. I can toss junk mail while I’m on hold, but I have no illusions that I can do two tasks at once and do justice to either.

So while I’ve sometimes envied authors their giant traditional publishing contracts, I’ve never envied them their workloads: the writing of a complete book in three months, during which time they make revisions on the previous book, proof the galleys of two books ago, and plot the next book. I could do all that sequentially, but not concurrently.

Imagine my surprise when I found myself, as an indie author, in a similar situation.

I finished my three-book series about the haphazard CIA agent—when? Last winter? It’s only been months, but it feels like years ago. I have the revision letters of all three books from my dev editor sitting on my hard drive. I have begun changes on the first book. I’m about 10% in on that one.

In the meantime, I’ve started the new project, and it’s not going well. I’ve rewritten the first chapter about five times. It still doesn’t work. Same with chapters two and three. I found some juice for chapter four, but the ideas my critique group put forward to improve the opening will mean that chapter four will have to change substantially.

The WIP is miles different from the three-book Haphazard CIA series. This book is in a serious FBI series. (What is it with me and cops?) I have to think harder with this one, because in addition to putting in the emotional arcs and all that, the crime has to make sense to people who read actual police procedurals.

To keep ahead of my critique group and keep the momentum going, I keep working on the WIP. It sucks up all my time, and I don’t go back to the Haphazard CIA. The dev editor has given me a lot to think about, and right now I can’t think about it. I don’t have the bandwidth. I’ve moved on to this other world.

However, I’d sure like to get those CIA books published. But how? And when?

You guys must work on different series simultaneously. What do you do?

8 thoughts on “Kay: The Juggling Act

  1. I compartmentalize. I’m also ADD, so I’m really good at switching gears. I can brainstorm one book, edit someone else’s, and work on my own story, all in the same day. Plus marketing stuff and more. IDK, for me, it’s always been easy to slip into something new. I think what’s hard for me is STAYING there, so multi-tasking is definitely something I do well (for example, right now I’m answering your blog post, cleaning my mailbox, packing up my office for our home renovation, and paying bills), but it generally means that lots of things are sort of halfway done for awhile. I get around to all of it eventually. Most of the time.

    For you, have you considered having certain days of the week that you work on a different project? Or different weeks perhaps, just to take advantage of the momentum? So one week is story A, one week is story B. Another idea is to set goals for each story. You’ll work on story A until you complete X, then you’ll switch to story B until you complete Y.

    Those are the best ideas I can come up with for you. But having done the second one (I won’t look at B until I complete X), I can tell you that get twitchy just wanting to dig into B, almost to the point that I can’t focus on A. Guess I thrive on variety.

    • I should add that my critique partners have all learned that sometimes I’ll have stuff to give them and sometimes I won’t. In fact, we’re all like that now. When we have stuff, we share (and we critique what we get), but we don’t always have stuff depending on the other things we’re juggling.

    • That’s a good idea, Justine. Maybe I can set aside two days a week or three days a week to do one project, and then switch to the next. I can at least try it out and see if I can keep up my concentration and momentum going on both projects. Thank you for the idea!

  2. You are not alone! Ilona Andrews finished their latest serialized Innkeeper novel some time late last year. They post the story for free on their website as they’re writing it, then take it down, edit it and put it up for sale. It was supposed to be published before Christmas, but they’ve said it needs a couple of weeks’ worth of edits, and they just don’t have those two weeks to spare. They thought maybe March, but it’s April now and they’re hard at work on a trad pub story, and with contractual deadlines I understand that has to take priority. Plus, those people work hard. So…still waiting. I really want to read the finished version. Maybe next Christmas.

    Maybe you have to finish the first draft of the Serious FBI story first? Then you can go back and work on Haphazard CIA for a light, refreshing change while you let Serious rest for awhile or go through a dev edit.

    • I always enjoy knowing that the rich and famous have the same problems I do! I might try Justine’s thought first, of splitting up a week, so that I can get the Haphazard CIA books finished before the year 2030. But if that doesn’t work for me, I’ll do my best to power out on the Serious FBI story faster so that I can get back to the other. I know what that FBI story has to do, I’m just not executing it very well right now.

  3. I’ve reached a point in life where the only shot I have at doing anything with any degree of quality is to focus on it exclusively. Any attempt at multi-tasking is an invitation to disaster. .

    If you find an answer, let me know

    • Ha! I know what you mean. There may be no possible way around or through this problem. I have a long afternoon ahead of me today. maybe I’ll make super progress with the FBI and will feel ready to charge into the CIA tomorrow.

      Putting the acronyms “FBI” and “CIA” into the same sentence makes me think that the next book will be about the local Sheriff. Just sayin’.

  4. I can multitask if it involves cooking a few dishes, but stories? I’m a one-universe-at-a-time girl. Sometimes I gaze back with longing at an old universe and think, “I really should dip back in there” but I know it means giving up my current universe. Although, when all universes are on hold, I can skip from universe to universe one short (very short) story at a time. Sometimes I can even do a writing sprint in a different universe when I’m working on something else. But that’s so rare.

    But for me, I believe in the abundance of the universe for providing new ideas, so if I found myself in your situation, I think I’d put the new on hold and work on editing exclusively. If, when I was done, the new story was no longer shiny and fun, I’d feel confident that something new would come up. (Unless, of course, the New Story was hugely shiny and fun; then I’d chase that until I could run no more . . . and probably not finish anything.)

    That’s my huge failure as a writer: failing to complete. Gotta work on that.

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