When I first started writing seriously, over twenty years ago, I used to say that I had a two-book writing engine.
At that time, I was writing historic fantasy. That meant a lot (A LOT) of research. This is before the internet, so I was always haunting used bookstores for history books about the time frame I was looking for.
In the mornings, I would write whatever book I was working on. In the evenings, I’d do research, take notes, world build, etc. on the next novel.
This process worked for me for those first few years. I always thought it gave me a good break from the one novel to be working on a second as well.
When I’d get stuck in the novel I was writing, I’d spend a night or more going back and doing more research for it instead. I always found that the research informed the writing. As I researched, I’d find more cool things I’d want to put into the novel. I rarely got trapped in the “just do research” phase because eventually, I’d have so many ideas about the novel that I’d just hop over and start writing it again.
Then I stopped writing for several years. When I came back to writing, I started with an epic fantasy trilogy, so I wasn’t having to do so much research. In addition, I was writing both in the mornings as well as in the evenings, so there wasn’t the time set aside for that second, other novel.
This meant that when I started doing edits, I was using writing time, not research time.
I kind of got stuck in that mode for a while. I was trying to get in a large number of words, which took up time in both the mornings and the evenings. This meant I started editing in the mornings instead of writing. It also meant that all my novels were sequential—from start to finish I only worked on a single story.
There have been a couple of notable exceptions, when I’ve been working on a novel, stopped, pivoted over to writing a short story, then pivoted back and picked up the novel again. Those stories were ones that writer brain insistedthat I write. There was no getting away from them. But that is very much the exception and not the rule.
For the last few years, I’ve tried to get back into just writing in the morning, regardless of whether I’m making my word count or not, and then doing edits, world-building, and research in the evenings.
I wish I could say that the transition was easy, or at least fast. It hasn’t been. It’s taken me some time to get back to that two-novel writing engine of mine. However, I finally feel as though I’m back in that headspace.
I have one novel that I’m writing almost every morning. It’s going pretty well, except when it isn’t. (Grin)
Then, in the evenings, I’ve been able to do edits on one series. In addition, I’ve started working on a different series, doing some research as well as world-building. (As it’s epic fantasy, not historic, the research involves reading other books in that genre, or about that topic in general.)
It’s been so nice to get back to having more than one project in my brain at the same time. Though it’s kinda sorta three books at once right now. I’m writing one book, editing a second, and planning out a third.
Don’t know how long I’ll maintain this. I’m hoping this ability doesn’t just disappear again. Though I also understand that my process changes all the damned time. I’m working on book number sixty-one right now. It’s different than the previous books, including the previous book in this series.
So I guess the upshot of all this is to not get too tied to any one process. Be open to things changing, as well as possibly changing back.
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