Double juggle

Apart from being successful authors, what else do all these – very different – writers have in common?: PG Wodehouse, David Baldacci, Stephen King, John Irving.

Well, they are all prolific (King over 100 books and novellas published; Baldacci around 34; Irving about 20 novels plus multiple screenplays; and Wodehouse over 90 books in his lifetime). So it comes as no surprise that they all work (or worked) on more than one writing project at the same time.

P.G. Wodehouse was said to have ‘built up’ his books over roughly two-year periods each, plotting and developing scenarios before fully drafting, with two or more on the go. Whilst I am not a big Wodehouse fan personally, his approach does seem to make sense. Stephen King is said to work on short stories if he finds himself delayed on longer writing projects, whilst John Irving has said that whilst he doesn’t usually write more than one novel at a time… “it has happened before (and will happen again) that I’m writing a novel concurrently with either a screenplay or a teleplay.”

Even where authors are not working on multiple books simultaneously, they will have others germinating. Alice Hoffman has said that “I only work on one novel at a time, but I have notes about other novels, sometimes outlines, sometimes chapters. They’re like planes on the runway waiting to take off…” Good simile – though that sounds pretty much like working on early drafts to me.

In addition to the creative urge, for popular authors with a hungry (and perhaps fickle) fan base, you can see why they need to keep ‘em coming. Indeed some, such as James Patterson, openly use teams of ghost writers – or “co-writers” – to flesh out their ideas (though I read somewhere that the non plus ultra in prolific authors Nora Roberts does not work on more than one book at a time, and has denied using ghost writers. Impressive).

And sales aside, the benefits of having more than one book on the go at once seem clear. For one thing, it’s common advice to take a step back from a draft for a while prior to re-drafting or editing – meaning you read with objectivity what’s on the page rather than what you imagined in your head. So going off to start a draft of something else could make sense.

Sharpening it up

However, the above-mentioned writers are commercially successful enough to be able to write full time – or they belong to a quite different decade. In reality, hardly any authors attain significant commercial success, and even most published authors need ‘day jobs’. For instance, the average annual income for a published writer in the UK was given as £12,000 (about $15.5k or €13.5k) in 2017. In terms of the average number of copies sold of each book, numbers appear to be between 250 – 500 copies.

In which case… For the unsuccessful part-time or hobbyist writer, between the full-time day job, kids, housework, commute, caring for parents, etc., it would seems unwise to work on more than one key writing project at the same time.

It is frustrating. Sometimes an idea pops into your head and it’s hard not to jot that down. Then you might itch to expand it. And even if you’re not actually writing, you might not be able to resist a bit of research, or to start ‘writing in your head’. I have a draft I have not touched in over a year, yet I still mentally add and go back to it from time to time with revisions. But given I already have an existing draft on the go, it would be silly to start a parallel project. Wouldn’t it?

PS Apologies to anyone who saw the title of this post and hoped it might be about breasts.

Images: Hans / 22248 images

33 thoughts on “Double juggle

  1. Juggling breasts? Perish the thought, you have a lovely writing style and I was comparing your authorship observations to my own writing, such as I often formulate in my head a complete post in the shower, then hop out and quickly empty my brain into the computer! As regards publishing, I have neither the talent patience nor patience but I do admire writers who have the drive to follow a book through to printing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you, you’re very kind. I know what you mean about writing something in your head then ‘downloading’ it.
    I wish I could write the book I really want to write – but that would take time I don’t have (I am forever whingeing about not enough time – apologies!)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Alice Hoffman’s approach suits me to a T. Oooo, that gives me an idea for a possible future story…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Guess that’s why lot of writers have a notebook on them at all times, you never know when an idea will strike.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Yep. I keep scratch pads in 7 locations in my house, and in my briefcase, along with leaving voice notes (and song ideas) on my phone.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. I liked this article, and I admire your writing voice. 🙂 Until you mentioned in the last line, I did not think that the title was a double entendre.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting Debjani. The title was not intended as a double entendre, just a silly comment at the end – I am useless at titling posts!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. A great share. I always believe in working on more than one plot. But as you said I have many drafts in progress – with the job, and everything else it is frustrating at times.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can only admire the quantity, and quality, of your output, balanced against so many commitments.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I agree with your view. Thank you for your beautiful share

        Liked by 2 people

  6. I run parallel projects. 2-3 at time. I actually shift between them, bcz I’m bored & fed up
    (Often…if I do same: no matter writing or reading or watching). So I think if I’d continue – it would allow me to produce 2-3 books a year. The question is only: are they good books or no? Lol 😂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think we have to employ the strategy that works for us. I can see the benefit of running several projects at once, each keeping the other fresh and allowing objectivity. Certainly, I am amazed how you produce diversity and quality. Added to being bilingual!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes. But also I don’t go to work (or office) as usually ppl do. It’s a savior 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. To write in English is really difficult for me. I have to pay enormous money for proofreading & editing. My first book cost 700$, but the second, I’ll publish in April – will be 1650$. I’m not sure I’m able to keep up. Too expensive

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Ouch, that’s a lot. I am torn on the proof-reading and writing issue. The benefit is uncontested, and I respect the skills, but the cost often prohibitive. So when people say “don’t dream of publishing without professional editing and proofing’, I understand that, but it would also preclude many people from being able to publish at all.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Haha… your last lines… I am no multitasker in writing or anything else… I have only admiration for such prolific writers…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Me too, there is enough to keep spinning in ‘real life’s for me.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. indeed reeling from the real…

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Love the P.S. 🙂

    I always have at least two going on in my head and in notes at the same time. Currently I am working on a project I shelved a few years ago. In a nutshell I wrote it wrong. I knew it would come around so I placed the idea on my mental shelf and slowly it worked it’s way into my mental hands.

    Stories are funny that way.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I have a project next like that, ‘in the Fraser’s but not gone. There is a conceptual piece missing, and when that comes to mind, it might be time.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. When that day comes that the pieces all fit it is one glorious day. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I happen to think that ghost writing is cheating in a way, so no matter how successful I get, I will always write on my own.

    I usually work on 1 piece at a time. However, I do find scribbling notes (ideas) for future stories every now and again. I’d rather focus on 1 thing and get it done ASAP, rather than on a million different things and fail and completing them.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I know what you mean about ghost writing – these are pretty formulaic books in the first place, so not convinced it’s a realization of great creative vision. I have a similar approach, work on one thinf, but not ideas for others. When starting something new, it feels like a gift to myself when I see those notes.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Interesting post. Very much in line with France (So proud of its publishing industry hardly anyone reads…) Over there the average writer barely makes minimum wage. The only ones making money are the publishers of course. They add on sales sales of 500 + 250 +1000, etc. and still sell.
    No apologies needed. One must keep abreast of all new developments.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My only wish – If could could multitask! I’m too much of an OCD to dabble! 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Butterflies always find their way.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. I tried the double juggle. It doesn’t work so well for me. But I do start on a new project when I hit the point that it’s time to edit the current project. As you wrote above, it helps to give space and objectivity. So I don’t know if that counts as a double juggle, or if it’s more like a double bounce. (Keeping the innuendo going. Lol.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Love the double-bounce strategem, sounds like you have a good rhythm going in your work.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I work a FT job and I do have different writing projects. Each one is not a book, though. Some may be for professional writing, and others for creative outlets, like a magazine submission. I think it helps me to maintain creativity.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sounds like a good plan – I have tried more than one fiction before, but the method of different writing types sounds like it keeps output refreshed.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. “Apologies to anyone who..” Aye! You’ve got me! The title did, indeed. But the visual confused me, really. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hmn, I can see the third one might.

      Liked by 1 person

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