Can a Drafting Cycle Help You Juggle Multiple Manuscripts?
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Have a million amazing story ideas swimming around in that head of yours?
You may not be able to write them all at once, but you can speed up the process of bringing them to life. By utilizing a drafting cycle, you can juggle work on multiple projects without feeling overwhelmed, unfocused, or unproductive. This technique won’t be the right one for every writer, but if you often struggle to finish projects because others get in the way, it may be time to give a drafting cycle a try.
What is a drafting cycle exactly?
A drafting cycle helps you manage work on multiple projects by focusing on one draft at a time. Though it may be tempting to juggle multiple stories on a daily or weekly basis, few writers are able to do so without detriment to their creative processes. By fully completing one draft for one project before switching to another, you’re far more likely to remain focused and finish projects.
With all your energy focused on one project at a time, you’re also likely to complete drafts more quickly, boosting your productivity and increasing the sense of accomplishment that keeps many motivated to write. As an added bonus, the time you spend away from one project while working on another will help you gain the objectivity needed to complete your very best work during revisions.
Still not exactly sure what a drafting cycle looks like? Here’s an example of the order in which you would work:
• Complete project #1, draft #1.
• Complete project #2, draft #1
• Complete project #1, draft #2
• Complete project #2, draft #2
• Complete project #1, draft #3
• Complete project #2, draft #3
And so on. Again, this is just an example. Depending on your stories, schedule, and creative process, you may wish to add an additional project(s) into the mix. Or, if one project remains ongoing when you complete a manuscript, you can add a new project to your drafting cycle or use the break between drafts to work on publishing or refilling your creative well.
You don’t have to limit your drafting cycle to literal drafts, either. You may wish to spend a month researching one project, then take a break to draft another, then return to the first to outline your plot and craft characters. You can also spend one cycle working on your marketing materials or publishing your latest complete project, as we mentioned above.
The beautiful thing about drafting cycles is that they’re meant to work for you, so make use of them however best fits your creative process, both in terms of tasks and time. Some writers may complete one draft each month while others need six or more to cycle between projects. It’s all okay. And if implementing a drafting cycle isn’t right for you, that’s okay too!
How can you best implement a drafting cycle?
Think you’re ready to take on your very first drafting cycle? Here are a few tips to consider before diving in:
Tip #1: First Establish a Routine and writing Intentions.
Drafting cycles work best for writers on a mission, for those who’ve made writing a priority in their lives and who know exactly what they want to achieve with their work. Before getting started with your own, take a moment to establish what writing success means to you, to build a routine that leaves you feeling free, and to learn how to maximize the time you have to write.
Tip #2: Only take on what you can handle.
Though cycling between three or more projects is certainly possible, I don’t recommend doing so if you’re working on long-term projects like novels or plays. Though some writers may be able to knock out a draft in a month or less, most of us need a bit more time — and too much time spent away from one draft can actually prove just as detrimental as never taking any time away at all.
To maximize the objectivity you’ll gain through implementing a drafting cycle, I’d recommend rotating between projects every six months or sooner. Any longer than that and you may need to spend more time than you’d like reacquainting yourself with your original project.
Tip #3: Don’t forget to work self-care into the equation.
Drafting cycles are all about improving the efficiency of our writing lives. And while chasing productivity can certainly be conducive to achieving our writing goals and dreams, it can also lead us into burnout if we aren’t careful. Rather than seeing how far you can push yourself before caving in, take the time to adopt a few writerly self-care techniques instead.
Tip #4: Learn to be Flexible with your process.
Our writing lives are often messy things. Revisions prove frustrating. Story ideas fall apart. Characters refuse to reveal themselves on the page. Not to mention the many obstacles everyday life drops in our path to success.
Through it all, remember that drafting cycles are meant to be a tool, not a whipping post. You don’t need to adhere to a specific cycle or timeline so strictly that you beat yourself up when the littlest thing goes awry. It’s okay if one draft takes two months when the last took one. It’s okay to trunk a project if another needs more attention. And it’s okay to ditch your drafting cycle altogether if it just isn’t working. Do you, writer. Always.
Writer, I hope you found this article helpful as you work to manage multiple ongoing projects. I’m often overwhelmed by many ideas myself, and nothing helps me make dedicated progress on one project like knowing I get to work on another the moment I’m done. No matter how you personally choose to implement a drafting cycle, here’s to building our very best (and most efficient!) writing lives.