If manuscripts were men then I’d say one ought to be enough – the right one, obviously But since manuscripts are a sign of your creative processes being hard at work, I say the more the merrier.
Manuscripts are interchangeable – you can’t cheat on yourself with another of your own creations!
It can be difficult to set aside a project you’re emotionally attched to, and invested in, in order to concentrate on something else, but there are times when you’ll need to. Writing one manuscript whilst editing another and plotting a third will be necessary some days! (or someday…)
Minimising downtime becomes a necessity when you have a lot of projects on your plate. Trial and error is a necessary part of every new system, but there will inevitably be decisions to be made. If listening to a particular song is enough to centre you then you’re in luck… play it and write! If it takes longer then you’ll probably want to minimise how often you swap projects, and utilise pre-writing time to get your mind into your ms. Any time you spend re-reading, setting the scene, plotting with your hands on the keyboard, making coffee, listening to music etc is not going to add to your word count – at least not in the short term.
So here are some time-cheats you might like to try: plot whilst doing housework, listen to your ms soundtrack in the car, jot down the closing sentence – or email it to yourself – so you know what you’ll write next before your writing session starts. If you must read over what you last wrote then do it while your tea brews, or improvise and glance at a printout while you queue up somewhere. Stealing time can be oddly satisfying and I thoroughly recommend it!
If you need to concentrate on one project but are drawn to another then reward yourself with a set time on the “bonus” one. Some kind of system where you write for two hours and edit another ms for one might be just the ticket. Mix it up, and see what you’re happiest and most productive with!!
Happy writing, one thing or many, and please share your time-cheats and juggling systems.