Do You Need a Time-Turner?

I can’t stand another year like this one. That Time-Turner, it was driving me mad. I’ve handed it in.”            – Hermione Granger

Are you like me: a writer who works on multiple Works in Progress at the same time? If so, you can probably understand why sometimes I wish I had a “Time-Turner” like Hermione Granger had in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban—the one she used to go back in time so she could take additional wizardry courses.
With this nifty device, I would be able to work on one WIP, then use the Time-Turner, to go back in time to work on one of my other WIPs. Because—wait for it—I am currently working on not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 WIPs.

Wait! Before you tell me I’m already mad—even without the Time-Turner—hear me out. 

If you’re a nonfiction, business, academic, or freelance writer, then you certainly already juggle multiple shorter projects and maybe even longer ones. 

But book-length fiction? I know some writers who feel strongly about this. Some think you should never, ever work on more than one book at a time. Others think it’s perfectly fine (or even preferable) to juggle multiple WIPs.

Here’s my current line up:

WIP#1 is an adult mystery novel

WIP#2 is women’s contemporary fiction

WIP#3 is a middle-grade fiction (in revision)

WIP#4 is a non-fiction reference-type book (in research stage)

I know for some of you, I’ve already crossed a line—that is, a genre line—and some writers have strong feelings about this, too. My blogging friend Cynthia Robertson has an excellent post about that here.

Although juggling these four projects is a challenge, one of the reasons I do it is exactly because I do enjoy the variety of the different styles and genres. I like the challenge of stretching myself and learning new things. I also like to work like this because if I’m bored or stagnating on one project, I can switch to another.

I think one of the reasons it works for me is because the non-fiction book is in the information gathering stage and the middle-grade fiction is in revision. The other two I’m writing concurrently, working on each of them every day.

Still, if I had a Time-Turner it might be a whole lot easier. (Or maybe I’d be like Hermione and it would end up driving me mad.)

My question for you: How do you feel about multiple WIPs? Do you work on multiple projects? Or do you work on just one project at a time? If you had a Time-Turner, what would you use it for?




  1. Cynthia Robertson says:

    Thank you ever so much for the blog link, Julia!:-)

    I would have no problem being that prolific. Unfortunately when I am working on something my brain can think of nothing else. At least in the first draft stage. I think I would get tham all mixed up and they would bleed over into each other.
    If you can write more than one project at once, then I tip my hat to ya sister. Go for it!

  2. Cynthia, You are so welcome! Loved that post (and it’s quite a hot topic!!). As for me being prolific…. I’ve not yet been book-published, so we’ll wait and see. I think my ability to write like this has most to do with my unusual ease with getting bored or restless with a project … and the way I’ve learned to cope with it.

  3. lisa says:

    Hey Julia!

    How very coincidental that my upcoming Friday post is related to this topic — how to keep your brain from turning to mush when juggling projects! Those are my translation projects, anyhow. I don’t even talk about the creative writing projects…

    I’ve actually been struggling with this debate. Internally, that is. I feel like I should focus on only one project, but several are calling out to me: a non-fiction book on literary translation and a creative non-fiction food memoir. I feel none gets my full attention, and yet when I’m pulled one way or another I feel I should follow my instinct. Sigh. No right or wrong answers, I suppose, only what works best for each, and that can change with time.

    Thanks for raising the topic, though. It’s great to hear what others think and do!

  4. I usually have a few projects going on at once. I think it distracts me more than it helps me, though. I need to be more monogamous. =)

    -Miss GOP

  5. Lisa, I will definitely look forward to your post on Friday! As you say, no right or wrong answers, so ANOTHER writing quandry, I’m with you! Let’s hope for some interesting POVs in comments!

    Miss GOP, Soooo funny that you used the word monogamous in your description of your work — I came SO close to using that word as I wrote this piece! I couldn’t decide between the time-turner or the relationship metaphor and in the end went with the time turner. So glad you brought up the other one!! 🙂

  6. CMSmith says:

    I think it’s a brilliant idea. Especially since most are in different stages.

    If you count everything I’ve started, I have four WIPs too. Although I am currently focused on getting one out the door.

    I have interviews I did with my father a few years ago — most are transcribed. Some are not. I’m saving that one til later. I probably can do a lot of the historical research I need to do on this one soon.

    I have a few interviews and comments from a women’s group I plan to do a non-fiction book about as soon as I can get back to it.

    I have a notebook of transcribed interviews from a friend about her son who suffered from mental illness. We did these interviews 5 – 10 years ago. Her son died earlier this year. I’ll have to see if she feels like taking this project up again. Mostly likely this will happen later.

    But if I had a Time-Turner, I would use it to go back and hold each one of my babies again. Then I’d go and spend a day with them when they were 6 months, and 1, and 2 and 3 and . . .

  7. Christine, Your WIPs sound so interesting! I really enjoy interviewing and research, so that’s why I’m drawn to my non-fiction project. I see you are too. I’ve actually done some interviews for one of my fiction works as well. p.s. You brought tears to my eyes with your comment about how you would use the Time-Turner… I am so with you on that one….

  8. Ann says:

    Hi Julia! I think, if they are in different stages, the juggling may be easier. Other than that, I’m not technically a “writer” so I can’t help with the rest.

    From a cooking / blogging perspective, I’ve usually cooked something, start blogging about it that night and the next night, while I’ve cooked another dish, I’m revisiting it to make sure it’s good to go out. Then I’m double checking my notes & recipes for the next day and researching for the following week!

    From that angle….I get where you’re coming from…..make sense?

  9. I can only handle one WIP at a time. Otherwise, I fear severe ADD would plague me. A deeper reason: I haven’t got another story in me. Yet. So I’m content with (and immersed in) the current WIP. Even so, I find it hard to switch back and forth from fiction to non-fiction (blogging). I also spend a fair amount of time writing short studies for an online Bible study group I’m in (non-fiction, obviously).

    My final thoughts on all that you’re juggling:

    1.) You’re crazy.

    2.) But if there’s anyone who can pull it off, it’s you. 😀


  10. WOW!!! I had no idea you were working on FOUR though I remember you mentioning working on more than one. I’ll work on a novel and short stories, but I don’t think I could handle more than one novel in my brain. I’m impressed!

  11. Ann, Your comment makes perfect sense! You may not juggle writing projects, but you juggle cooking/blog projects!

    Barb, Thanks for the compliments (yes, crazy in a good way)…sounds like you do some juggling yourself — just not of the same nature I do!

    Nina, I think I probably have a lot more unstructured time on my hands than you do — yet you still accomplish an impressive amount of writing that any of us would be wowed by!

  12. I think your point about being able to switch to another WIP if you get stuck is a good one. In that sense, I completely understand why you work on so many projects at once. Right now, I’m working on several articles and projects that focus on food, business, the arts, and health. Having various projects keeps things fresh for me too.

  13. I don’t juggle more than one book at once. I will work on a number of short stories and a book at the same time though. But more than one book would probably drive me crazy.

  14. Sounds like WAY too much (for me.) But then, I’m working on a novel, teasing out in my head ideas for a non-fiction book, writing two blogs, popping out short stories here and there – and oh, working a full-time job.

    I knew there was a reason I don’t watch much TV.

  15. Jen, That’s great that you have multiple projects on “your plate” — and I agree it keeps life fresh and interesting! (p.s. sorry, couldn’t resist the cooking humor with reference to plate 🙂

    Kelly, I know what you mean about being driven crazy by more than one book — I sometimes think the way I do it is a little crazy!

    Beverly, I am so very impressed by anyone who can even think of writing a book while also working full time, let alone do what you’re doing with two blogs, a nonfiction book and short stories to boot? You’re AMAZING! Wow!

  16. Chris Fries says:

    Wow, Julia. FOUR WIPs?!?!?

    If I had more than one novel-length WIP I know they would all turn into WMNPAAs! (“Works Making No Progress At All!”)

    I do intermingle my WIP novel with short stories, and I may work on some multiple short-stories at once, but even then, it’s rarely more than a couple. The short stories allow me to dabble in other genres and take a break from the long death-march of the novel, but I can’t split my focus much more than that.

    Maybe if I was a full-time writer, but as a part-timer who also has a full-time job, a family, a house, and other demands on my time, it’s just not productive to spread my efforts too thinly.

    At least that’s how I roll…

  17. Chris, I do have the “luxury” (right now) of being a full-time writer, although I am also writing other things, AKA paying gigs! Still, you are right about the WMNPAAs….a problem frequently encountered. My life as a writer is a quandry, what can I say. (Unfortunately at times) that’s how I roll…

  18. Oh, I could NEVER do what you do (but you do make a good point that I’m DOING that by working on freelance while working on my WIP). But for the creative stuff, I simply have to stick to one storyline. I’d be waaaay too confused otherwise. It’s hard enough for me to keep track of the characters, events, plot points in ONE story, let alone multiple.

    But I say, “Hey – do what works best for YOU.”

  19. Melissa, I would imagine that you do more diverse writing than I do in a given week! Still, I hear what you’re saying about the creative “made up” stuff…. I guess it isn’t hard for me to keep the two creative works separated because they are so different in tone, scope, and character. Still, I obviously wouldn’t be blogging about it if I weren’t curious about what does and doesn’t work for others, and how it might work better for me! So I really appreciate all the input!

  20. You aren’t messing around! I have one WIP that is kicking my arse, let alone four! I am very impressed. I have other projects like short stories and freelance articles which help me switch things up. But the thing that works for you is that your WIP’s are all very different. For example, it would be impossible to work on four historical fiction novels at once.
    Novels might resemble Alice In Wonderland!

    If I had a time-turner, I would work on my WIP, rewind then work on my freelance stuff, rewind then work on short stories, then rewind and work on learning the craft. My time is so limited with kids that I need to recycle my writing time. Let me know when you find Hermione. I’ll jump her from behind while you snag her time-turner! 😉

  21. Multiple WIP’s? CAN’T DO IT! I’m not even leaving the current world I’m working with until all three books in the trilogy are finished. Second one editing, third one plotting, and I’m a permanent resident until they are all done. Not that I wouldn’t like to delve into something else, I just feel like I need to keep the flow going.

    You must be the ultimate multi-tasker! Go girl!

  22. Hallie, LOL — I love your comments! For all I know my novels may well resemble Alice in Wonderland! Writing with young kids takes a lot of dedication and organization and perseverance, so I know exactly what you mean about recycled time. (p.s. I’ve got you on speed-dial for when I find Hermione!)

    Stephanie, Interesting that even though you don’t view yourself as working on more than one WIP, you have three planned out in your mind…. and even working on them in different stages! I know they’re in the same story family and world, but I’d contend they are different WIPs! So you also are a major multi-tasker! Thanks for your encouragement and support!

  23. Lisa Ahn says:

    Julia, I love this idea — and wish I had a Time Turner too! In my own writing, I switch back and forth between short creative non-fiction, short stories, a revision on Novel #1 and research/writing on Novel #2. I think it helps me keep ideas flowing, but I also know that once I really dive into the writing of Novel #2 (ah, will my courage ever arrive on that one?) then that is where I will stay for awhile. When I really get going on a longer project, I tend to immerse myself in it completely.

  24. Lisa, You sound similar to me in your writing habits! I completely and totally understand what you mean about diving in and staying there with Novel #2… I’m exactly the same way. In fact, that’s how I can tell that a given work is really completely solidified in my mind: I cannot stop thinking about or writing it! Glad you enjoyed the post; now let’s get those Time-Turners!

  25. Coming East says:

    I’m so impressed that you are working on so many different things. I have enough trouble coming up with something to blog about every day. I have ideas for other writing and a short story that has needed finishing for years now, but I can’t get myself in gear. I admire you for your diligence. Now that I finally have the time to write, I don’t have the inclination.

  26. Susan, For me, it’s less diligence and more obsession (for lack of a better word)…. but I know *exactly* what you mean about more time to write often leading to less inclination. That is often the case for me as well…. too much restless undirected energy or something.

  27. Nancy Kelley says:

    I would kill for a Time Turner; however, I think violence would make the Ministry of Magic less likely to give me one. *sadface* Right now, I’m trying to juggle a full time job with about 25 hours a week of writing/editing. It would be incredible if I could actually be in both places at once!

    But, like Hermione, the timetable is driving me mad. I need a break. My original intent was to take the whole three day weekend off, but I’m not quite finished with the section I’m working on (story of my life), so I’m taking Sunday and Monday off. I’m going to read something not in my genre and hopefully come back much refreshed on Tuesday.

  28. Hi Nancy, You *don’t* need a Time-Turner! You get an amazing amount done — 65 hour weeks plus all the rest of stuff we all need to do in life? Absolutely incredible. I wish I had your energy and drive! I hope you do get a chance to take a much-needed break this weekend! Cheers, Julia

  29. I think your line-up of WIPs sound fascinating and I’m jealous of all that genre variety. Your writing life sounds enviable – but I know you have your challenges. It’s just that you make them so darn readable! :~)

    I’ve done it both ways – practiced severe focus (such as when I was taking my first screenplay through rewrites) AND scrambled around doing multiple projects. I don’t have an actual stance on which it should be (I enjoy having a choice) but right now I’m focusing on travel writing pretty much to the exclusion of all else, except what I need to get done for my writing services. My totem animals told me I need that focus ;~)

  30. Milli, The line up is great — not a whole lot of writin’ goin’ on, however…. I think I’ll write a book about a writer who never really writes but just writes blogs about writing…. probably been done! I’m so glad you’ve decided to focus on the travel writing; I know you love it (and are so good at it!). I wish I were more focused but I think you’re right that the life challenges are a little bit inhibiting to comfortable writing!

  31. Maybe you’re getting more writing done that you think? I would imagine with four WIPs that even a few paragraphs each time would be reasonable progress. Plus it will add up over time. . . .

    (But I don’t mean to talk you out of your feelings. You sound kind of depressed about it? Or not happy with yourself. Maybe you’re too hard on yourself?)

  32. Dear (Abby) Milli, Yes, I think I may be a little depressed about it, not happy with myself AND too hard on myself 🙁