Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Mental White Board

It’s no secret that I have three, sometimes four, manuscripts going at once.   All are written from different POV’s in completely different genres.  Yesterday I was asked how I do it . . . how I can switch from one set of characters to another multiple times a day.  My answer:  Mental White Board.

I am insanely organized.  I don’t have a date book or a wall calendar posted anywhere in my house, nor do I use my computers handy post-it reminder system.  What I do have is this huge white board in my head, one that not only keeps tracks of appointments and coffee-dates, but has character maps, plot lines, and red-line editing projects clearly drawn out. It is so vivid I can actually smell my imaginary sharpie marker.

When I move from one project to the next throughout the day, I simply shuffle whiteboards  . . . toss one to the back while bringing another forward.   Do I get ideas for my Sci-fi  while I am writing my YA contemporary – very rarely.  Does editing the extraneous prose out of my Dystopian make me wonder about the word count of my YA contemporary . . . not at all.  See, each one exists within the narrow confines of the box I’ve created for it; my attention solely focused on whichever box I have opened.

Is their a benefit to working on multiple manuscripts at once time?  Absolutely . . . you never get stuck!  When my muse refuses to cooperate on one project I open another, let her play with that one for a while.  

And lastly why?  Why in the world would I want to stress myself out with writing, editing, and submitting multiple projects at the same time? The answer to that question is probably the most insightful.  See, I am an emotional writer.  I can cycle through several moods a day, and my writing has become a reflective outlet. When I am angry and feeling unappreciated, I work on my Dystopian.  When I am feeling intelligent and snarky, I open my Sci-fi.  And when I feel the need to explain to my teenage daughter that life isn’t as bad as it seems, I crack open my YA contemporary.  

So in essence, I work on multiple projects at one time because I have to, because if I didn’t the stress of raising two teenagers and a toddler, of having a husband who commutes from Cape Cod to San Jose, and a volunteer schedule that is unmanagable would drive me insane.

What about you?  Any of my fellow writers working on multiple projects at a time?


  1. I totally understand what you are talking about. I don't think of it as a giant white board, but I do compartmentalize things in my head so I can go from to the other project.
    Stress - I thought it would lessen when my daughter graduated from college in May, but no, it doesn't.
    Good luck with the books you are writing, your kids and husband and schedule.

  2. Wow! You have a lot going on. I have a hard time working on multiple projects, but I have stopped one to take up another. I just can't work on both each day.

  3. Um, yeah multiple projects. I like your process - move to one when the other isn't working for you. Mine do reflect two completely different mindsets so I really have to separate LOL!

  4. Ummm...yeah, I'm working on multiple projects. But when I can't seem to get something working in one, it somehow makes it impossible to get anything done!

    Which is why I spent yesterday editing my brother's MBA application. Totally functional use of my time.

    P.S. Thanks for the post! ;)

  5. I do keep multiple projects going on at once. Some of them might be smaller, task-oriented writing goals, but there's always something to turn to if I'm waiting on queries, or letting a manuscript sit and simmer awhile. I keep a to-do list to keep it all organized.

  6. I can write 2 projects at a time, but it's the same genre so it's nothing spectacular.
    And really? No post-its or planner? I'm green over here. I want a mental whiteboard like YOURS.

  7. NiaRaie- I'll let you borrow my mental white board anytime. Although, considering I write dark stuff, it may just keep you up at night.

    Lindsay- my process is easy given I have a very demanding writing partner :)

    Joanne-- I also began writing multiple projects during the query phase. It gave me something to focus on besides all those rejections.

    Becky -- Ask and you shall receive!

    J.L. Jackson -- How goes it stranger? Hope you are still working on that amazing YA historical fiction.

    Alex -- college? Yeah that's fast approaching for my kids too.

  8. I can juggle more than one WIP at a time, but don't have your whiteboard capabilities (kinda jealous here!)

    I like being able to jump from one thing to another to keep my writing fresh and give my muse time to work out the kinks.

  9. SOmetimes I can do that. Sometimes I can't but BRAVO!

  10. I'm more one track minded than you are. I need to keep my mind occupied by one project and let it consume me. Then when I'm done I can work on another!

    If I get an idea that I like I'll write it down and get back to my WIP.

  11. Great post ! I tend to read across multiple genres and age groups at the same time and my writing interests tend toward that pattern. It's hard to rein myself in to focus solely on the current WIP, but my concern was that I'd end up with a lot of great starts and nothing more. So.. its really refreshing to hear you do this successfully! You don't see any disadvantage to publishing a debut novel in one genre if you don't plan to stay there? I like that. very freeing !