Let me start by saying, it is doable. You can have two, three, or twenty-seven stories you are working on and make progress on all of them, but it’s not easy. It requires setting priorities, adjusting your schedule, and having self-discipline.
But What’s the Point?
Why should you have more than one work-in-progress (WIP) anyway? Is it a good idea? Like a lot of aspects of writing, it’s up to you. You have to look at your schedule, your writing techniques, and your ability to focus on a given task and determine whether you can effectively manage multiple WIPs.
If and when you get bored of or need a break from your main WIP, you have another running project to fall back on. This can be especially important during the time between drafts, when it’s important to take a step back and focus on something else.
Additionally, working on a variety of stories and genres helps you develop your writing style and skills, thereby improving the quality of each of your WIPs. You can take what you learn by writing one story and apply that to another.
You might also be forced to have multiple WIPs. If you want to submit to contests and LitMags, build a writing portfolio, and work on a novel, you will probably work on them simultaneously.
On the other hand, multiple works might distract you and cause you to procrastinate on what’s most important. You might find yourself jumping between WIPs at a rate that doesn’t allow you to make meaningful progress in any of them. Or you may mix up characters, plots, and settings, creating unexplainable plot holes in multiple WIPs.
Managing multiple WIPs also takes more time away from non-writing activities. It means that during times when you take a break from one WIP, you might opt to work on another WIP you have instead of stepping away from writing altogether.
If you do decide to keep multiple WIPs, decide which ones are most important to you. Do you have a short story that you want to submit to a contest that’s closing submissions in three weeks? That’s probably your main priority at the moment. Do you have a large project that you want to finish editing? Focus on that. If you find yourself constantly getting distracted from your main WIP, you might have to reprioritize.
Additionally, you should consider other aspects of your life, such as mental health, social life, school, and other extracurriculars when working on multiple WIPs. You might not have time to work on each WIP every day or even every month, and that’s okay. What matters is that you are making progress on what matters most to you.
Overall, multiple WIPs can let you grow your writing and time-management skills, but it isn’t for everyone. It’s up to you to decide what works best. You can experiment with both strategies to see what makes you the most productive and what you enjoy most. And don’t feel afraid to switch around if you decide one method isn’t working for you.
I usually have a main WIP, but I sometimes work on short stories on the side. I do keep side WIPs for times when I need a break from my main project.
How many WIPs do you have? Let me know in the comments!