What I learned about writing two novels at the same time.

NaNoWriMoFor NaNoWriMo 2018, I wrote two novels at the same time: Revelation Stones and Beyond the Myst. I didn’t plan it that way. My goal was to complete the first novel. The second one started as a homework assignment from my writers’ group.

I focussed on the book I wanted to complete first, writing a minimum of 2,000 words a day for it. I wrote 1,500 words a day for Beyond the Myst.

To keep the stories separated in my mind, I wrote Beyond the Myst in the morning between 5:30 am and 7:20 am. If I didn’t reach my goal, I spent a few minutes after the morning chores to complete it. I wrote Revelation Stones from 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Often I finished early, so I was in bed by nine o’clock. I get up at 4:35 am, so I need to go to bed early.

Before each writing session, I’d envision the scene I was about to write. This put me in the mood to write and provided details I might not have considered. I run scenes in my head like movies, so I get a clear idea of what I want. The scene is basically written before I sit down to the computer. I just record what happened.

I’ve never tried to write two full novels at once. I have written a short story while writing a novel, but usually I’d write the short story in a few days, then return to the novel writing. This whole experience of writing two in one day was completely new to me. Here’s what I have learned listed under the benefits and the drawbacks.

What were the Benefits

Dragon Tea Mug
A perfect cup of tea in an awesome dragon mug helped keep me writing.
  1. When I got stuck for ideas or where I’d go next, I had to only write to the word count, then focus on the other story. This gave my imagination a break. These breaks gave me time to think about the next scene or reconsider an idea.
  2. My mind is always churning out ideas, and the challenge of writing two stories gave it a boost I hadn’t expected. Ideas were coming from everywhere, tying the stories together in ways that couldn’t have been done if I was writing one at a time.
  3. Since these two novels take place in the same fantasy world at different times, I could feed one story from the other. Why was the medallion Isla recovered so important? The reason, for now, is in the other book. Why must Willow get to The Land of Ath-o’Lea? She plays an intricate part in bringing two characters together. When Isla is trapped, who comes to her rescue? Someone from the other book. Why make up new characters when there are many standing around waiting for the call?
  4. Inspiration: Revelation Stones takes place after Beyond the Myst. Running full speed ahead to finish one forced me to think about what happened in the other. Both need to be written, edited and published this spring. It was as if I hit the perfect wave, and there was no way I was jumping off.
  5. In an ideal world, all books in a series should be written before they are ever published. This would allow authors to tweak the books earlier in the series, so everything is consistent. Because I was writing two books in the series, I could easily go back and change or add something to make the other match.

What were the Drawbacks

  1. There’s a lot of thinking involved. If you’re a planner, this would sink your boat. I entered November with an idea and a destination for each book in mind, little in between. If you have to plan every scene, you’d never do all this in one month. There were times I’d scribble a scene on scrap paper while cooking supper or washing dishes. It recorded the basic list of items I wanted to happen so I wouldn’t forget, leaving me to concentrate on the other story. Otherwise, the story just came to me through envisioning it in my mind.
  2. When exciting scenes happened, I didn’t want to stop writing and go to the other story. I argued with myself, telling me I’ve reached my word count, now move on. But sometimes I stayed. I had to write the complete scene. Sometimes I woke in the morning with the excitement of Revelation Stones on my mind, and I didn’t want to write Beyond the Myst, yet I had to force myself to do it. It was painful.
  3. There was no time to review. A few times I’d scan a passage I’d written days earlier and wonder what happened in the scene. I had written it so fast and had so much on my mind, I had forgotten it. I can’t wait to read these books again in late winter. I think I’m going to have a few surprises. I actually enjoy this part.
  4. I had no time to fill in some details. This means a few places and people were left with NAME as their name. I’ll go back later and find interesting names for the inns and restaurants my characters visited and find special names for the characters who entered the books unannounced. I have a file reserved for unused names, but I had run out of shop names. One of my older kids was talking about the trucks coming from the Piggery, a place they haul used soil to, and at that moment, I was looking for a tavern name where dwarfs frequented. Guess what? It’s called the Piggery. They must serve lots of pork there.

Would I Do it Again?

No. Why? Mostly for reason number 2 in the drawbacks. I disliked that feeling of having to rush through one story to get to another, or leave a story when I’m high on what’s happening there to write the other. When I’m deep in one emotion, I prefer to ride the wave.

However, I will say it was either luck or energy from the other story, but I found my main character in each often suffering similarly in their stories. When one was bedridden for a few weeks recovering from a dragon attack, the other was recovering from Geata Syndrome from jumping through more than three portals in one day. When one was freezing and needed to be warmed, so was the other one.

Conclusion

Now that’s it’s done and I can look back, I’m happy I accepted the challenge. As of today, Beyond the Myst needs only 32,983 words to see 100,000 words and the end. The writing is more relaxed, and it is easy to reach 2,000 words in a day. It’s like walking a mile a day instead of running a marathon each day.

Will I ever write 143,770 words in 30 days again? I don’t know. Let’s see what January brings.

9 thoughts on “What I learned about writing two novels at the same time.

  1. What a challenge you set for yourself, Diane. I’ve always shied away from NaNoWriMo. What can I say? I hate deadlines, and NaNoWriMo is the epitome of self-enforced deadline torture.

    Your approach sounds interesting, though. It might be worthwhile investigating just for the experience–without the deadline pressure.

    • Deadlines get me motivated, so I love them. But I can understand how some freeze when a deadline is given. We all write / work in our own ways. Thank you for visiting my blog.

  2. I can’t imagine being organized enough to write two at once. I completely get the reasons–as a break, fresh imagination, stuck for ideas. I regularly mix up my novel with the freelancing I do for those very reasons. But they have no overlap except the joy of writing.

    Excellent post, Diane.

    • I’d like to say I’m so organised I can do it all, but the truth is, I’m only organised when it come to writing my novels. I have a routine of sorts, but I’m completely unorganised in life.

      Because I’ve worked to deadline for 20 years, that carried over to other aspects of my life: Christmas: deadline December 24th. That’s what I work for, and what doesn’t get done wasn’t important enough. 🙂 “Mom, this is my last pair of clean jeans.” deadline for laundry: tomorrow morning.

      Thanks for visiting, Jacqui.

  3. Were there moments when you blurred one story with the other? … I can work on the ‘meat’ of one story and take notes and/or even scenes on another, but if I delve too deeply I have to pull myself back from losing the plot, literally as well as figuratively. 🙂

    • I didn’t have that problem. I think for two reasons. Before I sat down to each story, I rolled the story, the scene over in my head, so I was clear on what had to be written. I mentally kept the stories separated.

      The second reason is because in the big picture, both books belong to the same story. One provided insight to the other, so I was deliberately connecting them in places. If they were two totally different stories, this may have been a problem.

Please Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.