Writing More Than One Book at a Time

I had a great question posed to me recently, which was how I manage to write more than one book at a time (and if it got confusing).  So today I’m going to address this issue.  I used to write one book at a time, but this was years ago.  I started writing more than one book at a time when I had the first draft blog.  Back then, I wrote the 500 words a day in the morning and then another 1000 or more words for another work in progress.  So writing more than one book wasn’t something I planned on when I started.  It popped up because of the first draft blog.  I think I started that blog in the fall of 2009.

So anyway, I wrote one story in the morning or early afternoon to make my 500 words a day goal to post on the blog.  Then I’d write another story in the evening.  That’s how writing more than one book at a time got started.

I don’t remember when I added a third or a fourth book to the list, but I know it was because I had so many story ideas that I couldn’t just pick one or two books to write.  It’s very hard to choose what I’m going to write next because so many ideas appeal to me.  I also find having a variety of books helps keep my mind fresh.  If I write just one book or one particular romance subgenre at one time, I get burned out.  This is why I do contemporaries, historical westerns and Regencies.  Some are more serious and others are more comedic.

I usually work on three to four different books at a time.  I used to devote different times of the day to each book.  So in the morning, I’d work on one book.  Then early afternoon, I’d do another.  Then in the evening, I’d do another one.  By working on them at different times of the day, I’d establish a routine that made me better able to focus on that particular story at that time.

From there, I have gotten to the point where I can now work on all of the stories at the same time.  So it was a progression for me.  Now I’m at the point where I am better able to write if I have multiple works in progress.  I actually like it a lot more this way because if I get to a point in the book where I’m not sure what happens next, I can work on another book.  I have estimated word counts that I aim for each day for every book I write, but those are more guidelines than mandatory goals.  They’re there to help me stay focused with what I need to do.

If I’m on a roll with one story, I’ll keep writing in it for as long as the story is flowing.  There have been days when I get so involved with one story that I don’t write anything in the other stories.  That doesn’t happen often, but if it does, it’s usually at the end of the book.  By the last couple chapters, I tend to have full focus and energy that goes into that one book.

Most of the other times, I pace myself with my word counts as if I’m in a marathon.  I don’t set aside certain times to write anymore because when my husband retired, him being around the house has disrupted that for me.  Now I’m back to writing 10-15 minutes here and there.  Despite what some people think, my husband does not understand that when I’m writing I am actually working.  He thinks it’s like playing a game on the computer.  (I wish it was that easy.  LOL)  Sometimes I will get to spend an hour or two straight working on a story, but that is not the norm.  Just like when I started writing romances in late 2007 and I had toddlers and preschoolers at home interrupting me all the time, I have to write in small chunks of time.

It was very hard to get used to writing that way when my husband retired.  I couldn’t effectively write more than a couple hundred words a day for about two months after he came back from Korea.  Now I’m used to it and have trouble sitting still and writing for an hour or two straight.  I usually get up to do laundry, dishes, or some other chore then come back to the computer.  It’s really about what you’re used to and developing a system that works for you and your lifestyle.

I currently am in “story mode” at all times, which means even if I’m not writing, I’m planning out what scenes to write for either today or tomorrow in my mind.  And I do usually have all of my works in progress weaving in and out of my thoughts during the day.  I’m able to keep them all straight because the characters are so real to me that they are unique people, each with their own personalities and their own circumstances.

Also, I allow myself to take days off if I start feeling exhausted.  Sometimes I know what happens next in the story but the energy isn’t there.  I will take the day off.  I try not to take more than two days off.  If I take a week or longer off, it takes about two weeks of steady “trying to write” days before I’m finally able to meet my daily word count goals for each book.  Also, I don’t sweat the word count goals a whole lot.  If I don’t make the word counts for the day, I start the next day fresh as if I did.  This means if I only write 500 words in a book that I have a 1000-words-a-day goal for, I will start off tomorrow with 1000 words goal.  I don’t compound my word goals into 1500 words for tomorrow.  Each day starts out fresh and new as if I met my word goals the day before.

I also set aside time for family and friends and non-writing activities that I enjoy.  I think it’s important to have a good balance in life.  I think the balance does wonders for creativity.  It’s not really about meeting word count goals every day as it is with making each story the best story it can possibly be.  Some books take a little longer than others because some characters need more time to tell their story.  But I’ve also learned that if I try to force a story along or go against the characters’ leading, the story ends up suffering for it and will need to be rewritten.  I hate rewriting because it ends up taking away time I could spend on another book, so if a story slows to a grinding halt, I put it aside and work on something else (which is another great reason to write more than one book at a time).

Sorry if this post seems to be disjointed in thought.  During the course of writing it, I had two interruptions.  🙂

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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10 Responses to Writing More Than One Book at a Time

  1. I’ve always said I can’t write more than one book at a time. But I wonder if I could if I didn’t have a full time job. Then I could write one in the morning and one in the evening. You would think someone who could actually READ four books at a time, could write more than one. LOL

    • I don’t know. I wonder if part of it has to do with how we work in general. If I remember right, Rose said that she ends up focused on one book. I think she has done a couple at a time, though, but it sounded like one usually takes her full attention. For me, it’s pretty stable. I can’t pull the 5K words a day like Rose can. The most I can do is 3K words. I’m a slower pacer.

      Janet stays at home (so no job there) and can’t focus on more than one book at a time.

      I think Melanie Nilles also writes one book at a time, and she doesn’t work.

      I think it depends on how things work out in general. This is why I don’t believe one method works for everyone. We all have our own way of doing things. Now, I can see why not having a job would help get more written, but that also takes discipline because it’s not easy to say no to the TV or some other distraction. LOL I didn’t make word count goals over this past week because I got sucked into watching Family Feud with my husband. :X

  2. lornafaith says:

    I wish I had more moments in my day where I was in “story mode.” One of the secrets must be what you said…that your characters are so real to you that they are each their own unique people. I think I need to develop that skill better 🙂 In writing my last book, I had many days where I felt burned out and didn’t really know what to do about it…so I forced myself to write. I’ll know better with this next book(s) that I’m working on. Great advice…thanks Ruth 🙂

    • I have noticed when I start questioning what my characters are doing that my writing slows. Even after 31 romances, I have trouble handing them the reins to lead the story as they will. I think I’ll start outlining the upcoming chapter in my work in progress and seeing if that helps. I might require a little more discipline to help stay on task.

      I hate the burn out sensations, but I’ve also dealt with it quite a bit. From time to time, I still have to force something down just to get back into the feel of the story and get connected to the characters. I am currently battling that. One week on vacation to go to the convention and it’s thrown me off for three weeks. If I was smart, I would have scheduled to have the books done before the convention.

      Writing is harder than it looks. LOL 😀

      • lornafaith says:

        So true, writing is harder than it looks, but also rewarding. Makes me feel better to know I’m not the only one who has felt burned out from writing. You’ll get through it Ruth…rooting for you!
        I’ve just had a week off of writing…so this coming week I’ll get back into creating more characters and storylines…and listening to what they are trying tell me:-)

  3. lgould171784 says:

    Thanks for an interesting post. With my retirement approaching, I’ve been wondering lately if the extra free time would enable me to write two novels at once. Both would be sequels to previous works that have been pounding my brain for some time. I’ve had to hold these thoughts back, however, because the novel I’m currently writing requires all my creative energy. If I allow any extraneous thoughts in, total confusion ensues!

    • I think there are some books that can demand full attention. It could be the more complicated the plot (with sub-plots that weave in and around each other), the more focus it takes to be in that story. I’m sure other factors play into it, but that’s the one that usually trips me. Plus, if momentum is strong and the words flowing, why break away from that story to work on another?

      I’ve found books that have been in the back of my mind for a while are the easiest to write. The subconscious mind works well. 😀

      I hope you get a system that works for you and think it’s great you’ll be getting more time to write!

  4. Rose Gordon says:

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve tried writing several at once and as you mentioned above, I get “focused” on one so much that I end up stopping the other(s) I have going in order to funnel all of my attention only on the one that is progressing.

    You mention that you’ve kind of revolved into how you write now. I’ve reached a place where pulling those 5-8K days just don’t happen very often anymore. I consider it a good day if I get 4K+ done and my average is about 3,000 or so (when I actually have time to sit and write). I think a lot of that has to do with other obligations–my kids go to school 30 minutes away, so I spend an hour driving them to school, then another to pick them up, an hour and a half to go to swim lessons on those days, etc etc, If I were to add up all of the time I spend doing outside things (field trips, youth group activities, reading my husband’s research papers, etc) I probably spend half of my writing day doing other things. So in perspective the 3,000 is probably on target–but like you said, when you just SIT in the chair and write it comes slower because you move around. I move around a lot. I surf the net. I pace the floor. I go get a fresh glass of water every 15 minutes. And believe it or not, getting up, helps me. When I started writing, I had 2 kids (3&4) and was constantly interrupted. It was so easy to just sit back down and finish a thought. So I know exactly who what you’re saying.

    So…now that you’ve mentioned having different times of the day to work on different stories (and switching genres), I think I’m going to try that–we’ll see how long it lasts. When I do a schedule with 15 or 30 minute increments: 500 words, work on blog, 500 words, sift through email, 500 words, comments, 500 words, pay bills, 500 words etc, it’s easier to get back into it because I leave things “undone”, so maybe if I leave an entire scene unfinished in the morning and start working on something else in the afternoon, by the next morning, I might be on a roll again. In the past, it was: 2,000 words in this book, 1,500 in this one, 1,000 in this one, etc and it got hard to move forward really with any of them.

    Thanks so much for the insight!

    • Wow. 5-8K a day. I don’t think I ever got that much in a day. I probably did get more in when I started out because I didn’t worry about the art of storytelling. I think as we get more experience, we start to pay attention to the craft of writing a story and that slows us down. We probably end up rewriting less (I know I did), and the first draft starts to look similar to the finished version (mine does). I think writing becomes slower but also more defined.

      However, having all these responsibilities definitely takes away from writing time. We might not have a job outside the home, but we keep busy. As you said, it’s hard to sit still. I’m the same way. I just can’t do it. Even if all I do is go to the kitchen and sip some coffee then come back, it helps to settle me down so I can focus. (I used to snag a piece of chocolate but stopped buying those so it’s helped me lose some weight, which tells you how many trips I make during the day.)

      Switching genres helps a lot to keep the mind fresh. I find if I stay in one genre, my writing starts to feel stale. I like your schedule idea. I often switch between online tasks and writing and find it helps to get a lot done without feeling overwhelmed. I tried answering emails only 2-3 times a week but they piled up in my inbox and I’d spend an entire evening answer them. I was frustrated because I felt like I didn’t get anything done (and I didn’t with the writing).

      I’ve also given myself permission to take a break from a book if it starts to stall out (meaning, I run out of ideas) and work on something else, even if I start it. To get back into a story that’s stalled, I’ll lower the word count goal to a couple hundred words until the ideas come back. I don’t stick with the same word count anymore for the same book all the time. I adjust them as the ideas are flowing. My word count goals are more like 200-300 for one story, 500 for another, 500-1000 for another, and 1000 for the fourth per day, but if I miss a word count goal, I don’t tack it on to the next day. Each day is a new beginning. And if I’m exhausted, I let myself take the day off or just do one or two books instead of all of them. That stuff helps to avoid burn-out, which I had a couple times in the past.

      I’m glad my post helped!

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