Writers seem to split into two camps when it comes to working on projects. On one hand are those who focus on one book at a time, giving it all of their attention. Often these writers will jot down new story ideas or maybe even a scene from a different idea, but for the most part, they focus on one book.
I am not one of those writers.
My main romance blog is called "The Variety Pages" because when I first turned it into a writing-themed blog, I couldn't decide what to focus on. Such is the story of my life. I tend to get bored easily if I don't keep my brain moving. So I work on several projects at once, and while I'll be the first to admit that I'd probably finish things faster if I focused, this is how I maintain that forward motion I need to stay engaged with my work.
The first thing I do that helps me keep things straight is to have a specific schedule for when I'm going to work on which project. My normal writing time is Monday – Saturday, 10:30pm until midnight (or whenever I finish that night's work – often 1am or so). Here's how my week breaks down by project:
Monday: Tuesday's scene for romance serial (The Biker's Wench)
Tuesday: Friday's scene for romance serial (The Biker's Wench)
Wednesday: 2 scenes for the erotica serial (The Fantasy Party)
Thursday: 2 scenes for the erotica serial (The Fantasy Party)
Friday: 1 scene for romance novel (The Minister's Maid)
Saturday: 1 scene for the thriller serial (Angel Eyes)
Note that I edit better earlier in the day, so I work on the edits for Desert Heat whenever I have a few minutes at work, in the early evenings while watching my favorite TV shows and on the weekends when I have time. When I get closer to the end of the edits, I'll put a few things off for a week or so to finish editing. I get impatient when I'm close to being done with a project.
I'm not a "muse writer" – I never wait on the muse to show up to start writing. If the words won't come, I go back over what I've already written, and try to figure out why. Normally it's because I'm trying to force the story in the wrong direction. If that doesn't work, I just ask myself what the absolute worst thing is that could happen at that particular point, and I write that. Many writers won't "force" the writing...but if I have a deadline (say, a serial installment due the next day), I push forward. Most of the time it's the starting that's hard...once I get moving, the words start flowing again. I think it helps that I have a regular writing time each day – my brain is "programmed" to be in writing mode during that time. It's pretty rare that I'll just walk away if the words won't come.
I've only confused character names in a WIP once so far – while I was writing Tempest, I was also working on a now-trunked novel, and both characters were "J" names – Jake and Jeff. Upon proofreading Tempest, I found a spot where I'd interchanged the names, and had to go back and fix that. Overall though, I find that since my characters are so distinct in personality (in my head, at least), I really don't get them confused too often. Writing in different genres helps keep things separate as well.
That's really all there is to it – no real tricks, just a good schedule, discipline and some flexibility. This is what works for me – your mileage will vary.
Are you a juggler? Or do you stick with one project at a time?