Somewhere out there, in the depths of Gloucestershire, my housemate, Rhian, is wondering why the hell I’m using part of her first novel title as the title for a blog post. This post isn’t actually about her book (though, I am very excited for the day when I can do that.) This post is about multiple projects.
Multi-verse, as I have decided I am going to call it, is the state of being where a writer is working on more than one project at the same time. This is especially prevalent in Fantasy and Science Fiction, where you are the most likely of the genres to be writing in whole other universes. These universes have different names and laws, they have different quirks and social rules. They have completely different plots too, but let’s not get into that.
So, how do you work on multiple projects spanning multiple universes?
I have been told that I’ll be set after by an angry mob of friends and family for working on another project before Out of Orbit is finished, but this is a risk I will have to take.
I find that I can’t often work on a single project. I am constantly afflicted with Multi-Verse. Even if I am writing a single project, I’m always pondering something else. Ideas that don’t work for the story I’m working on stick in my head and slowly grow into something else. Characters solidify themselves through a number of little anecdotes I think up. Revelations on how plot points will work keep me from sleeping. The only thing to do with a bout of multi-verse is to write it down.
Multi-verse is like unpacking a new house. It’s going to get a hell of a lot worse before it gets better. You’re going to dump boxes everywhere, unpack half boxes until you realise that this box wasn’t the one you were looking for and there is another box you needed to unpack first. Without realising it, soon, you have things strewn over every room and the entire house is in chaos.
The thing is, once you’re in that position, when everything is messy, and you can see it all there, that is the time you can start organising it into place. You need to know how many pans you have before you start loading them into cupboards, and you need to know which ideas you have before you can organise them into stories.
I’m currently working on three projects. One, the most important, is Out of Orbit. This project is my priority. It is the selection of boxes that get unpacked first. The kitchen equipment, the bathroom stuff, and the bedsheets, so that, if nothing else, I can survive in the mess. This project has a book out, and another one in first draft. The series is mostly planned, so moving on to the next book will be relatively easy.
The second project is Le Cirque Navire. This one is my clothes. I am surviving on the minimum while I sort the essentials, but occasionally I fold a batch of shirts and put them in the correct drawer. I’m slowly writing chapter plans and outlining characters. I’m creating the laws of the world as they come to me. I’m doing the odd bit of research on 1920’s circus’s when I just can’t write Out of Orbit anymore and need a break.
The third project is one I’ve tentatively named Plugged In. This will, no doubt, not be the name of the book. I just needed something to call it other than ‘Collab’. It is the random junk that stays in boxes for over a week because there are more important things. This project is a collaboration with a close friend. Moa and I have been roleplaying together for almost three years, and I have very rarely found someone I can write as well with. We’re very in sync, and so we decided to work on an original project together. I’m not sure what form this project will take yet, but I’m excited by the bones of a plot we’ve figured out. I’m incredibly lucky that Moa understands that other things have to be my priority right now, but we’re happy to take our time making it amazing.
Sometimes, you just need a break. People say that before you start editing, you should get some distance from the story so that you can look at it fresh. Sometimes, I just need that distance even while writing. I need to take a break and relax… or focus on something else. Past that, when I send Fight or Flight off to my editor, I’m going to want something to work on. I can’t work on Out of Orbit, not knowing exactly how the final draft will end up, whether I move chapters around, etc, so I need something else. I’m setting up so that by the time that book goes, I’ll have another waiting in the wings to work on.
For me, multi-verse is the perfect affliction, because it gives me the break I need, while alleviating the guilt that I should be writing. I’m working on other projects…
And I plan on being in this for the long haul, so I might as well start planning now.