Juggling Chainsaws – Writing Two Books at the Same Time

By Laura Drake

This is so not something I would ever do.

  • I’m a pantster, and a linear writer to boot.
  • I’m organized – anally so.
  • I want to steep in my book, live it, snuggle up and get close to it.
  • I can’t even talk and carry coffee at the same time.

Why would I even attempt it? What made me think I could do this?

Deadlines, that’s what.

I did it to myself. My editor knew I was already writing for another house, so she let me set the deadline for the Biker-chick book. But she dangled a carrot. If I submitted it in “a few months,” she’d give me a 2013 pub slot. Three books out in one year? Oh, the buzz I could get from that! As a debut author, I’m doing everything I can to garner buzz.

So I kind of eased into it. Here’s how:

  1. I’d write a full chapter, then switch books. That helped satisfy my need to ‘be with the book.
  2. I submitted that chapter to my wonderful crit partners, and moved on to the next. As feedback came in, much as it killed me, I didn’t look at it. I just set it aside with the first book.
  3. When I’d submitted the chapter on the second book, I went back and read the crits on the first, and did the edits. That seemed to warm me up for the story, and get me ready to write the next chapter.
  4. Repeat.

What I discovered:

ADVANTAGES:

  • I may not be able to talk on the phone and drive at the same time, but I can do this.
  • Each time I switch books, I fall in love with the book again
  • I’m writing more. I have to!
  • When I’m stuck in one book, by putting it down and picking it up a week later, my brain has usually solved the problem
  • It takes advantage of my discipline and good organization skills
  • It’s satisfying to try something new, and I’m encouraged by my progress

DISADVANTAGES:

  • Whichever book I’m working on, the other is my favorite. I realized this is part of the “Rather have written than to write” syndrome. Gives me something to look forward to, though – like dating two very different men at the same time.
  • I think my crit group is getting whiplash; cowboys one week, biker chick the next.
  • I’m missing the snuggle-time with only one book. That may just be me.
  • I do worry about continuity – it’s harder to see the plot and overarching themes when you’re writing in fits and starts. If you’re a plotter, I don’t think you’ll have this problem

Is my writing better or worse for this? It’s too early to tell – and I’m not sure I’ll be the one to judge that in the end.

But I DO recommend you give it a try!

So how about you? Have you ever tried writing two works at the same time? How did it turn out? Did juggling chainsaws lead to a trip to the ER?

Have I enticed you to attempt it?

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38 Responses to Juggling Chainsaws – Writing Two Books at the Same Time

  1. Joan Leacott says:

    It sounds fairly straightforward the way you describe it, Laura. Were you tempted to add a third book?

    • LauraDrake says:

      Busted! I’ve submitted chapters for both books to crit partners, and wondering what to do next . . . the novella I’ve been playing with in my head started calling me. . . .
      I may have created a monster! Thanks, Joan. Give it a try!

  2. Yes, this can be done – in fact it may help both products. The time away brings some objectivity and there is a change in you perspective. I’m working a major book for the second year but I got blah, blah, and blah. So I started a short story, then another and all the while I’m thinking about the other; parts lying about, new chapters (smaller), more characters and with names, different locations to help with different scene, etc., etc.

  3. Sharla Rae says:

    As one of your crit partners, you “know” how linear I am. Being organized is my middle name so if I was lucky enough to have your problem of two books at once, I’d “have” to have a routine or go mad. Yours sounds like a good one!

  4. LauraDrake says:

    Can’t wait for you to try it, Sharla! With your meticulous organization skills, this would be right up your alley! Really, people, she makes me look like Oscar, in the Odd Couple!

  5. Um, you haven’t convinced me yet. I am a liner-pantser, but I can write five 100,000 word book in a year. Hopefully, I will never need to write two at a time.

  6. LauraDrake says:

    Jeez, Ella, at that rate, if you tried to, your head would probably explode! Wow — I have word-count envy!

  7. Julie Glover says:

    Oh, I have thought about doing this and the suggestion of it makes my eyeballs fall out. Best wishes to you! I can write one and edit one at once, but not writing on two. At least I don’t think I can. But if I get a big stinkin’ contract with that provision in it, I may change my tune.

    • LauraDrake says:

      Julie – I’d have never thought I could either! I’m so shocked to find that I not only can do it, but I’m getting more written! I’m telling you, you should try it – just for two weeks. If your eyes get loose – STOP! Or maybe you could just do it til you needed glasses?
      Oh, sorry, couldn’t resist 6th grade humor!

  8. Laura, that is amazing good stuff going on with cowboys and a biker chick … what fun !!

    I have not had the tension of deadlines, but I have had the experience of writing more than one book at a time, in two genres, which I plan to submit under two names. I could be nuts or successful … we’ll have to wait and see. I don’t work a chapter at a time, but I alternate days … I have a mental daily word count for fresh work and for revising or editing. When I meet that I go to the next day … the next book. Because of Margie’s class I have only been on one book for three weeks and I miss the other one …

    The fact is that our minds can bend like contortionist and give us more muscle than a two ton gorilla … all we have to do is ask it🙂 Great luck with both of these … three books in one year is worth the work.

    • LauraDrake says:

      Hey, if you’re writing at ALL while you’re doing Margie’s class, you’re doing better than I, Miss Gorilla! You go!

      • I don’t know which of us did more drugs … or was that sex and rock ‘n roll? My gorilla is aided by the fact that I am a poor retiree. A small price to pay to write full time. You think maybe one of these day it will pay off ??

    • Oh, Florence, I have to jump in here at the mind-bending comment, because I love it! I swear sometimes my mind switches directions and gears so fast my eyes really do cross.
      -Fae

  9. Lorrie Thomson says:

    Laura, I’m so glad this is working out for you! But all I can think is 1. Not sure whether I could do that and 2. Are you at all tempted to write a chapter where you combine the characters and situations from both novels for comic effect?

    • LauraDrake says:

      No, Lorrie, but Fae wants her and I to write a Sci-Fi alien animal rodeo book!
      She did a lot of drugs in the 70’s😉 (Oh wait, that was ME!)

  10. I laughed when I read that whichever book you’re working on, the other is your favorite. Too funny, Laura! I’ve never tried it but you’ve given really good tips in case I ever do. Thanks!

  11. Multi-book juggling is an essential technique for authors. Deadlines are definitely what do it – I’ve had times when I’ve had two or three books on the go simultaneously, purely because the publisher contracts demanded it. The hard part is bouncing between what at times can be quite different styles and content, and keeping it consistent.

  12. rolandclarke says:

    You really made me think Laura – thanks. As a fledgling writer with nothing published and as yet no agent or anyone making demans, the nearest I’ve ever come to this was finishing draft of first novel, writing first draft of second, writting first draft of third, editing first, writing first draft of fourth, and now currently editing first again (while new idea simmers somewhere). Never tempted to do any of this at same time but (a) I’m a guy; (b) all my critcs said now way; (c) already get characters confused – at least their names; (c) I have to cope with MS

    That said I’m very impressed and inspired by what you are doing.

    • LauraDrake says:

      Roland,
      That you’ve written all those while dealing with MS is inspiring!!!

      And just think, when you sell, you’ll have all those books, just waiting to get in line!

      Keep it up!

  13. Okay, Laura. You know I can be really slow (gotta balance that lightning quick brain reflex!) but as I was editing the current book, and looking over revisions for the book on the block it hit me. I’m juggling chainsaws! Who knew? Thanks!
    Love, Fae

  14. Jenny Hansen says:

    I’m very proud of you and Fae for doing this! I think it’s good for you. But then again, I’m like Florence and I always have 2-3 things going. Can we say A.D.D. Writer??

    • LauraDrake says:

      Jenny, you remind me of a busy bee, flitting from one project to another! Whatever works to keep us writing, Girlfriend. Whatever works.

  15. Stacy Green says:

    Wow. I’ve been tempted to try this because I’ve got so many plot bunnies lined out, but I worry I wouldn’t be able to keep it straight. Congrats to you for pulling that off. And do you have any tips for organizing? Thanks!

  16. Susan says:

    Laura,
    You probably get more done this way, and my hat’s off to you. I think you would absolutely need a crit partner or reader who could turn around the first chapter that fast. How’s it coming?
    Susan D

    • LauraDrake says:

      My crit partners are amazing, stellar, Gods and Goddesses, Susan! I don’t know how people write without critters.

      I’m getting so much written that I’m getting ahead of them though, and having a hard time keeping track of what’s been given to them, and what’s in line! But I guess that’s a great problem to have.

      I know this sounds really hard to do, but I encourage anyone reading this to try it. My brain seems to work harder on plotting ahead (plotting is my nemesis) if I give it two books to juggle. Not intuitive, but then, my brain has never been normal.

  17. I’m a bit late to the party. I can work on two or three projects at a time, but I find it works better for me if they’re in different genres. I write historical romance and MG/YA, so right now I’m working on a Regency novella and a middle grade fantasy. I think the danger in writing two many different projects at once is following through and finishing them all. I guess I’ll find out soon. Thanks for the inspiration.

  18. Hi,just found the site a couple of days ago. Sinse finishing my novel, and uploading it to Lulu print a month ago(ebook is being a pain and will not fulfil criteria) i find my head is crammed with book ideas.
    I never had the confidence to think I could produce 85,000 words. Now it is done I am anxious to get more written, and have already started on the sequel to ‘From Lindos With Love’. What are ‘critters’ apart from the type mentioned in cowboy films? and how do you acquire them? I am English, retired and living on Rhodes Island Greece.
    I love the energy and enthusiasm on this site.

  19. MonaKarel says:

    I saved this blog to read “later” and almost missed it. So glad to find it. I have been in a total writer lock up because I could not figure out which book to write and being one of those dreaded non plotting writers there was NO way I could do both. Or is there? I’m thinking yes there is. The stories are bouncing around in my head and my fingers are itching to write write write. So I’m gonna give this a try. THANKS so much

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  22. Elizabeth Crowe says:

    Hi Laura,

    I loved your article on writing two books simultaneously. I am a brand new writer and I am most definitely a panster. Being a very spontaneous person, I found that whenever I have tried to box myself into some sort of structure not only do I find my creativity goes on an extended leave of absence but, I get quite frustrated with myself. But then, that’s me in all areas of life. I love spontaneity.

    I am writing two books right out of the gate as a new writer. It wasn’t intended; it just happened that way. I had an idea for a plot years ago while taking a shower. After I finally started writing the story a scene for an entirely different story popped in my head and wouldn’t leave me alone until I started on it. So many voices in my head all vying for my attention.🙂

    I am such an unstructured panster that I started both books somewhere in the middle of the stories. As the plots and characters develop I go back in the storyline to fill in the gaps. But, I really like this style of writing. When one story seems to hit a roadblock in the creative process the other book will call me with new ideas, character twists, etc..

    Here I go typing endlessly once again! Once I get started the voices won’t quiet down.🙂

    Thanks for a great topic and very valuable insight from all of the contributors to this wonderful blog.

    – Elizabeth

    • Elizabeth Crowe says:

      Oh darn… I misspelled pantster in my last reply. Please forgive this bumbling fingered typist. Let me just blame it on my beloved MacBook Pro and it’s autocorrect.🙂

    • LauraDrake says:

      Oh Elizabeth, you’re the only one who hasn’t told me I’m crazy!
      In spite of my whiningI mean explanation on my “Dust Bunny” post, I really will do this again.

      Thanks for validating my crazy pantster writing style – you and me, Babe!
      Good luck on your two babies!
      Laura

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