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Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Juggling Act! On Managing Multiple Projects

By Bonnie Randall

Part of The How They Do It Series


JH: Keeping up with multiple projects can leave a writer's head spinning. Bonnie Randall shares tips on how to manage and organize your writing projects.


A recent hit by Luke Combs is called “When It Rains It Pours” and YOWZA! That’s been my theme song lately.

I have a paranormal fiction project on the go, a series of children’s books that’s garnered a bid from a mainstream publisher, a consultative engagement with a Traumatic Response agency who’ve contracted several articles on COVID-as-a-traumatic-event from me, and if that wasn’t enough, two complete plots for a ‘drama-edy’ series I’ve been writing hit me out of the clear blue sky this past weekend.

Oh, and I write this column once a month.

How am I attending to all of this? How can I keep track of all of this?
 
Well, I certainly won’t profess to be an expert, but I will share what has been working so far, as perhaps some of these tips will work for you too.

1. Organizing My Time


Gone are the days of writing what I want, when I want. These days I triage, using the following formula:

What Has A Deadline? If a deadline—or multiple deadlines—are involved, they hit my calendars; electronic, and on paper, and the project with the nearest deadline takes priority over all…even if it might not be my preferred piece to write.

TIP: When you are writing something you have to write instead of something you want to write, make sure to set aside time in your day (even if it’s only 15 minutes!) to devote a bit of space for the project you are most passionate about. That could mean banging out a quick scene, a rapid exchange of dialogue, or even just a wee bit of research or vision-boarding (which I will speak to momentarily) for that project. Why do this? Because after a hard day at work we need a reward—in other words, after writing what pays the bills, our brain deserves a jolt on its reward pathway that helps it to remember why we love to write in the first place. It keeps us engaged in the craft, and reminds us that writing is an exercise that gives us joy.

What Projects Are The Money Makers? Perhaps you don’t have a deadline, yet know that one of the many pieces you’re working on will generate a bit of the green stuff. For me, those projects take precedent over any others because just like writing for joy is its own reward, writing for money is not too shabby either.

Which Project Am I Most Passionate About? Third on the triage is the project I am most passionate about or feel most ‘in the zone’ of. If there’s ‘flow’ when I’m in that setting or with those characters, that’s what’s going to generate the most pages, and a project with word count is a project closer to not only completion, but also to being off of my ‘to do’ list altogether.

(Here’s more with The Art of Juggling Multiple Writing Projects)

2. Organizing My Material


Time is one thing. Research, notes, backstory, scenes and, visual cues…those are quite another, and when multiple projects are on the go, things can get pretty ‘Post-It Notes Exploded In My Office’ in quite a hurry. Organizing materials is key—not just to keep all the stories straight, but also to save me time when I am pulling the file on any one particular story or article. Here’s some of the methods to my madness:

One Daytimer To Rule Them…. Yes, I mean old-school daytimer, and yes, that means pen and paper. I have one daytimer that is for writing ONLY. Deadlines go in there. Daily wordcounts for specific projects go in there. Notions for where or what to research—also in there. It is my project Bible that keeps my pieces present and accounted for.

TIP: I mentioned daily wordcounts. These are important because they don’t just provide visual evidence of accomplishments, they also serve to light the brain’s reward pathway up—for even a wordcount of 100 words is an accomplishment compared to no words at all, and the brain is CRAZY for accomplishments—just like a puppy getting a Beggin’ Strip. So keep your ‘reward tank’ filled by always noting word count. Over time, it will also help you track of which days of the week, times of the month, or seasons of the year are the most (or least) productive for you, and that builds some powerful insight into your own process.

Colors: Whether you use an electronic filing system or a retro paper system, colors are crucial. EVERY project needs its own, specific color—and every scrap of paper, article, list of hyper-links…all of it needs to be swiped with that project’s color in order to help keep you from going “This article is about mulching flowerbeds in West Virginia! What’s it doing in my Transylvania locusts pile?!”


The brain very quickly assimilates color-to-assignation That’s why color is such a helpful strategy in allowing material to be sorted quickly or found easily. So never start a project without immediately assigning it a color.

(Here’s more with Why OneNote is One-Derful for Writers)

3. Re-Orienting Cues


Beyond mere organization, one of the trickier things about simultaneous projects is re-orienting your ‘head-space’ from one to another—especially if you write multiple genres; fiction to non-fiction, paranormals to literary pieces. It can feel wildly disorienting when I move from the childish rhymes of my board-books back into the grim, paranormal world of my romantic hero and heroine. A couple things help me:

Playlists: Just like every project needs a color, every project also needs a playlist…or at least a theme song. Music is a powerful vehicle to pull forth memory (only smell/scent pulls forth a memory faster than music). So something I do to get ‘back into the groove’ of any one particular project is to queue up its playlist.

Vision Board: I mentioned this earlier (and you thought I forgot!). Vision boards can be detailed or simple, elaborate or plain. They can be pictures tacked onto poster-board or an electronic file of photos on your phone. Any and all ways you curate them, vision boards offer visual cues that place you into your project. So is there a pic of a cafĂ© that resembles the one your characters swap gossip in? An actor who resembles your leading man or lady? A scenic shot of the geography where your story takes place? Those are the types of pics for your vision boards—a place you can ‘go’ to re-immerse yourself back into your project.

Okay! Whew! That’s all I’ve got. 

Now it’s your turn: what tricks or tips did I miss (or might I not even know about) that you’d like to share that can help us all manage our multiple—and sometimes wildly eclectic—projects?

Fire Away!

Bonnie Randall is a Canadian writer who lives between her two favorite places—the Jasper Rocky Mountains and the City of Champions: Edmonton, Alberta. A clinical counselor who scribbles fiction in notebooks whenever her day job allows, Bonnie is fascinated by the relationships people develop—or covet—with both the known and unknown, the romantic and the arcane.

Her novel Divinity & The Python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the downtown core appeared to be the buildings, releasing their souls. The series continues with her newest release, Within the Summit's Shadow.

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HE’S HAUNTED

Andrew Gavin knows he's a train wreck. Before he even became a detective, Andrew’s first trauma—at only seventeen—occurred when he witnessed a gruesome suicide. Ever since, a delusion he calls The Dead Boy appears when his anxiety spirals too close to the edge…

HE’S HUNTED

Goaded by The Dead Boy, Andrew shoots and kills an unarmed teenage bully in what appears to be a fit of rage. Suspended from the force, and awaiting a possible murder charge, he retreats home to the Rockies. There The Dead Boy taunts him daily. Except…

HE HUNGERS

Elizabeth McBrien, the childhood sweetheart he scorned, is back home in the mountains too, and shocks Andrew by revealing that she too sees The Dead Boy. Astonished that the spirit is not a delusion, but real, Andrew is further unnerved when he learns that The Dead Boy has ‘befriended’ Kyle, a gravely ill kid Elizabeth adores.

Now it's specter vs. cop in a race to save Kyle's life, and The Dead Boy insists that Kyle’s survival hinges on secrets Andrew holds about that long-ago suicide. Yet Andrew knows the entire truth will destroy him, and also annihilate any new chance he may have with Elizabeth. But they are running out of time; Kyle is dying, and The Dead Boy is ready to sacrifice anything in order to once again walk among the living…

Within the Summit’s Shadow is a paranormal romance unlike any you’ve ever read. Set in the resort town of Jasper amid the splendor of the Canadian Rockies, this novel combines love, mystery, and a persistent, deeply psychological, very personal haunting. Randall really delivers the goods with this one.”

4 comments:

  1. The flowerbed article never moved. Did you honestly expect a Transylvania locust pile wouldn't start swallowing things up? :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for these tips. Right now my biggest challenge is organization.

    ReplyDelete