I read more than one book at a time, so it shouldn’t be surprising that I would try to write more than one story at a time, too. While reading multiple pieces at once seems to work for many people, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should curb my multi-story writing habit right now.
Reading multiple books at once can help save a book from rejection due to my flagging attention. Having permission to visit another story gives me a breather from a piece that might be dragging a bit. It can even give me time to think and change my opinion about stories that require more thought and effort. But, to be truthful, I think this reading habit is born of a need to screen. I read lightly until I’m convinced the book deserves my love and attention. I usually find myself doing multi-reading while I’m in the first quarter of any book I’ve picked up. Then, if I’m in, I’m in. I’ll stick with a “good” book ’til the end. If I’m not in, I will keep reading but in a sporadic fashion–unless, of course, the book is so awful I have to drop it altogether.
Writing more than one story at a time is another thing. I have recently been working on the first draft of a novel, and three different short stories. Now, looking at my writing over the last two weeks, I know this was not a good idea. The writing stinks, and it is because I have completely allowed quantity to take precedence over quality. When there are multiple open stories, I can justify leaving a project that is stumping me and going on to do some fill work on another story. Doing this once in a while is okay–anything to make the mind work–but doing it all the time, every day, just to feel productive is a big cheat.
For, in the end, what do we have? A novel and three different stories that are several pages longer but not any truer or better because the problem I had in the beginning remains. Some aspect of each story was not clear to me and I just skipped ahead and wrote out possible story lines without solving the problem. Time to rein myself in. I’ll set two stories aside for now. Until draft one of the novel is done, which I hope is soon, I will divide my attention between it and only one short story.
Meanwhile, to satisfy my fickle nature, I’m looking forward to a pile of new books arriving next week that should take me at least half way through summer.