Sunday, September 09, 2007

On writing concurrent books

On one of my lists another author just asked about writing two novels concurrently. Since I'm in the midst of doing that very thing with MythOS and the Halifax book I responded there. I thought some of what I had to say might be interesting over here as well.

I'm writing two books concurrently right now, and I've often concurrently written short stories (either with each other or with novels).

I'm currently writing the 4th WebMage book (MythOS) which is the third that was sold on proposal. With the first two proposal books I was trying to see if I could get my production up to two books a year without killing myself or hurting the quality of my writing. I did so by pushing hard to get the books done ahead of deadline and giving myself the time from actual turn-in date to one month past the formal deadline to write anything I wanted. Fair enough, 4 novels in 24 months each written in slightly less time than the preceding book. My editor is really pleased with the quality of the contract books and my agent is happy with the spec books.

This year, I want to see if I can do three novels, again without killing myself or letting quality slip. So I'm writing a spec (Halifax) book concurrently with the contract book. I treat the spec book as a special treat because it really wants to be written. If I meet my word count on the contract book for the day (currently 2k ramped up from 500 words a bit over two weeks ago) then I can write as much as I want on the spec book.

I'm really excited about the spec book or this wouldn't work and I think that's a key detail. Also, if I meet my word count for the week I get to write on the spec book on weekends, but only for a couple of hours at most and not at all if it interferes with stuff my wife and I have planned or want to do–I don't normally work weekends.

Thus far I've got 12k on the contract book and 3k on the spec book, but I expect that ratio will improve as I ramp back up to full writing mode after the lull from the last book delivery

One process note: I tend to outline the whole book scene by scene around a third of the way through the book which helps me keep everything straight. I also start with a pretty solid 1-2k outline which again helps me keep everything straight.

What about you, oh reader? Do you do multiple simultaneous projects? Why or why not? How do you manage it if you do?


MariAdkins said...

Could you describe your outline process, please, Kelly? I know a lot of authors who work both with and without outlines. I'm one who "goes without" - although in a way, I guess it depends on how you define "outline"...

Kelly McCullough said...

Actually, I did a pretty good walkthrough of this in a set of earlier posts




Let me know if this is what you were thinking of, or if you wanted something else.

MariAdkins said...

Yes that's what I was looking for, thanks! I remembered those posts once I saw them again. ;)

Stephanie Zvan said...

I don't usually work multiple projects at once, but I will interrupt a current project to start another. I usually go about 500 to 1,000 words, enough to get the tone down. Then I'll jot a couple of cryptic lines about where it's going and the idea that got my brain revving in the first place and go back to what I was working on.

The exception comes when I have to choose between writing and having a life. Then I'll pick up the previously started project that interests me most for the little time I have. Writing whatever grabs me the hardest makes me the most productive then. But if I'm on deadline? No.