On Writing Every Day and the Problem of Juggling

As of last night, I have written for 216 out of the last 218 days. My initial streak of writing every day lasted for 140 days. I missed 2 days while attending Launchpad, and have since built up a streak of 73 consecutive days.

Writing every day has started to produce some challenges that have nothing to do with finding the time to write. Let me explain. When I started writing every day, I was working on what I thought was a short story and what eventually turned into a novel. Looking back on it, this made things rather easy. There was never a question of what I would work on the next day. It was always the novel.

Last month, I finished the first draft of the novel and decided to set it aside until December, when I will start on the second draft. In the meantime, I thought, I’d work on four short stories that I’ve been wanting to write. The day after I finished the novel draft, I started on the first of the four short stories. I continued to write every day and finished the first draft of the new story 9 days later.

This is where things start to get complicated.

It made sense to me to set aside a 95,000 word novel to get some space. I thought I would try this with the short story as well. It meant some juggling, however. When I finished the first short story, I would set it aside and start writing the second short story. When I finished the first draft of the second short story, I’d come back and write the second draft of the first short story.

But that didn’t work for me in practice. For longer stuff, it makes sense to set it aside, but with shorter stuff (the first draft of the first short story came in at 7,800 words, making it, technically, a novelette) I feel like I need to get on the second draft at once. After two days of working on the second short story, I stopped and decided to write the second draft of the first story right away. (Confused yet?)  That is what I did. It took me 8 days to write the second draft, cutting as I went along, and yesterday, I finished the second draft which came in at 6,600 words (some 1,200 words shorter than the original, and back in the realm of short story).

For me, second drafts often look very different from first drafts. They are always complete rewrites. Third drafts incorporate the feedback from beta-readers and proofreading and are usually not too different from the second drafts. The bulk of my writing goes into the first and second drafts.

I mention this because, with the second draft of the first story done, tonight I return to the first draft of the second story. While it is difficult to say right now, I’d expect this story to be maybe a little longer than the first one. Let’s call it 8,000 words. Given the fact that I am writing every day, it is reasonable to assume that I’ll finish the first draft in 8-10 days. Add to that another 8 days or so for the second draft. Call it 18 days total. That means that by around the third week in October, I’ll be ready to start on the first draft of my third story.

However, I will also have likely gotten feedback on the first story and will need to spend some time incorporating that feedback into the third draft. So beginning around the third week of October, I’ll be dividing my writing. The first writing I’ll do each day will be on the first draft of the third story. That gets me my new words for the day. Unlike now, however, when that writing is done, I’ll need to work on the third draft of the first story. That will probably take only a couple of days, but it means squeezing more work into roughly the same amount of time each day.

And of course, by the time the first draft of the third story is done (sometime in November, I imagine) and I’m ready to start the second draft of the third story, I’ll have received feedback on the second story and need to start on the third draft of that. Still, it seems reasonable that I will be able to complete 4 stories before December, juggling the work as I have outlined above. If it sounds confusing, well, it is. But maybe this diagram helps to clarify it just a little:


The bands of time shaded in light blue are periods when I am doing the multitasking. For instance, in mid-October, right around the time I’d be starting on the second draft of story #2, I’ll likely have gotten feedback on story #1 and can start incorporating it into the third draft. The diagram isn’t perfectly accurate, but it does give a sense of the patterns and when and where this juggling and multitasking happens.

All of this is a consequence of writing every day. I always want to be moving forward, but there are always those third drafts to deal with.

It illustrates something else that new writers might find helpful (something I wish new when I was starting out). While it is important to write and submit your stories, there is no need to rush getting your story to market. I used to feel like I wanted to submit a story the minute I’d finished the first draft. Over time, I’ve learned it’s better to develop a process that acts as both a gatekeeper and assembly line to make sure what you are submitting is your best possible work. As the diagram sort of illustrates, that process, for me is:

  1. Write the 1st draft. This tells me the story.
  2. Write the 2nd draft. This is usually a complete rewrite, me telling the reader the story.
  3. Get feedback on the 2nd draft from beta-readers.
  4. Incorporate feedback into third draft.
  5. Run through proofing checklist.
  6. Submit.

Anyone else have to do this kind of juggling? How do you handle it?

One comment

  1. I find that juggling multiple projects is easier when I have defined periods to work on each one. This year I’ve tended to do work for writing classes on weekday mornings, write new words at lunch, submit stories on Saturday morning, work on a novel during the week and a short story on the weekend.

    I’ve also been keeping a week-by-week task list so I don’t forget to, say, work on the outline for novel B because I’m busy revising novel A.


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