Strategies for Managing Multiple WIPs

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A blessed few writers sit down, write one story at a time, and peacefully move onto the next. It’s orderly. It may even be ideal. Unfortunately, it isn’t reality for most of us. Instead of an orderly line of patrons attending the symphony, we have rowdy mosh pits of stories clamoring for our attention. That’s okay. Here are a few ways to handle the mob.

Keep Separate Alpha Readers

Many creatives find it easier to finish something and launch it into the void when there’s someone waiting to receive it. Alpha readers can be great motivators in general. Assigning specific alpha readers to projects under construction gives you a target.

Tell your reader a little of what they can expect. Maybe gift them a few pages you don’t hate or mock up an inspiration board. When they’re excited, they can help keep you excited. It’s hard to completely ignore one of your projects when someone tells you they want to see it. Separate alpha readers ensure each of your WIPs is someone’s priority.

For Every Work There Is a Season

Some people get a lot out of a good schedule. If you are one of those people, consider managing your WIP via calendar appointments. Saturday is for fanfiction, Wednesday is for short stories, and Friday is novel-writing night. You can see what free time is available and balance your obligations outside your stories with your feelings as a writer. Less-stressful projects make great weeknight distractions. Focus-intensive works require more elbow room.

Designated Burners

Some stories arrive like a hurricane and some drip like a leaky faucet. This mix is – in my humble opinion – the best, because you always have a project suited to your immediate needs. The burner system is simple: is this a story you plan to take years to finish, or is this something you want to finish asap? The slow stories go on the back burner, slowly bubbling into delicious stews. The immediate stories get flash-fried up front.

Daily angst or your latest obsession goes on a front burner. It’s best to only keep one story on the front burner at a time. Otherwise, you’ll start a kitchen fire. Even if it feels like a story is boiling over, once you give it the immediate few thousand words it craves, you can probably leave it to simmer in the back while you finish what you started on the front burner. Remember, just because other stories are on the back burner doesn’t mean they get no love. They just get little stirs and additional seasonings as needed.

Partial Prizes

If you reward yourself for finishing a story, and you have several WIPs you need to complete, consider a multi-phase reward. Each completed draft gets another step closer to the prize as a whole, but you can’t fully celebrate until you complete all the projects involved. A big example is a vacation. One WIP gets you the plane ticket. The next secures your hotel. The third lets you plan some excursions.

Simple things work, too. Want a nice tea set? One book is the pot. That short story is a cup. Your work adds up to physical rewards, and you have a reason to keep going after you make each WIP of your to-write list.

How many WIPs are you currently working on? Have you tried any of these techniques? Share your own thoughts, tips, and ideas with other writers below!

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