Juggling Act: How I Work on Multiple Manuscripts at Once

WD editors were impressed to hear that Next Girl to Die author Dea Poirier was working on four manuscripts simultaneously, all after completing her debut novel. We asked Poirier to share a few tips with you on how she manages multiple manuscripts at once.
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While curating the Breaking In debut authors column for the July/August issue of Writer's Digest, WD editors were impressed to hear that Next Girl to Die author Dea Poirier was working on four manuscripts simultaneously, all after completing her debut novel. We asked Poirier to share a few tips with you on how she manages multiple manuscripts at once. See the July/August issue of the magazine for an interview with Poirier about the writing and publishing process of Next Girl to Die.

If five years ago someone had told me that not only was my debut going to launch in 2019, but I’d also be balancing four separate manuscripts at once, I’d have told you that there was no way that would happen. But here I am. Let me start this post with a disclaimer: This is my own process, and it may or may not work for you. And that’s fine. We all have our different quirks and methods. No method is right or wrong.

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In late 2018, I had four manuscripts that I was balancing. This is something that I didn’t think that I was even capable of. However, all these ideas just started to fall out of me, and I didn’t have much choice. All at once, I was editing the follow up to my debut Next Girl to Die, writing a young adult historical fantasy, editing an adult historical fantasy and plotting a middle-grade fantasy novel.

After over 10 years of writing, I’ve found that for me it’s pretty easy to pick up projects and put them down at this point. My projects are all so different that there’s no overlap in my mind about the ideas. It’s as if each idea is its own planet segmented inside my brain, safe from other ideas. But there are some methods that I have to my particular brand of madness.

Outlining

The moment I get an idea that I feel has merit, I make a note in my phone and get down some initial details. If after a few days I still feel strongly about the idea, I write a rough outline. For me the outlining phase covers every chapter, the major plot points that occur in each chapter as well as anything else relevant to the characters that I want to display there. Getting the bones of the story down helps me to determine if I want to move forward, and it also gives me the ability to easily shift to the idea once I’m ready.

Drafting

When in the drafting phase (AKA, the Garbage Fire Begins Phase), I use my outline as a checklist to write the book. I go chapter by chapter and write out every scene. I try to write 10 to 15 pages per day. If I have to stop writing, I leave myself a note summarizing everything I wrote and where I left off, along with what I need to write next. This makes it much easier for me to pick up a project after a few days or weeks if I had to pause for some reason.

Editing

While editing, I try to only work on one project at a time. I find it difficult to shift gears jumping from editing one project to another. But many times, I get no choice in the matter. Sometimes my developmental edits come in in the middle of my edits on another draft. This is why I now start every editing phase with an editing outline. The editing outline breaks down every chapter I have and lists all my major changes for each chapter. Along with my editing outline, I keep a running list of any other issues I encounter while in the middle of my editing phase.

So far, this is the process that has worked best for me. Documenting where I am and what I’ve done in each of my projects simplifies the process of picking one up and putting another down when necessary. It’s always good to have more than one dragon in the fight. Markets change. Your creative drive might change. I’ve always found that I’m more comfortable when I have more than one project in mind at a time. It’s important to always be writing, to always be pushing yourself. But find the way that works for you.

 Looking for more guidance on managing your manuscript? Check out this online course from Writer's Digest University.

Looking for more guidance on managing your manuscript? Check out this online course from Writer's Digest University.