business of writing,  Publishing,  random,  the writing life

The Art of Focus

For years now I’ve had people in awe of my writing output. Some people have asked, “How do you keep it all straight?”

I’m never sure how to answer this. The reality is that working on 2-4 projects at a time with more on the back burner is never easy. If I told you I navigated my chaotic writer brain flawlessly all the time, I’d be lying. Some days it comes easy and I can focus on one or two things. Other days it’s a real struggle and I find myself jumping aimlessly from one project to the next.

While this latter haphazard method may produce large word counts and may appear rather chaotic, it often manifests as several projects releasing in a short period of time, making me appear to be some kind of writing rock star. It also opens the door for random projects to slip in here and there.

I do have a formula I use for working on multiple projects. I never have more than the following on the burner at any given time:

  • 1 Novel
  • 1 Non-fiction
  • 1-2 Novella(s)
  • 1 Short story.
  • 1-2 things in editing.

There it is – my “magical formula” for writing productivity. I can’t manage more than that.  If you’re a writer who can manage more than this – bless your heart. Of course the reality is that a lot of writers can’t manage more than one project at a time, and that’s okay, too.

I think it’s very important a writer know what she is capable of and what she can realistically manage. Otherwise one can end up with a lot of started projects and not a finished one among them. I have more books and stories outlined than I may ever be able to write, and I’m adding to it all the time, but I am good about not starting any of them until there’s room in the schedule.

But how do I choose what to work on with so many projects to choose from? That’s actually the easy part. I usually take what most inspires me at the time and run with it. I know writers who write more than I do. I know some who can write six books a year. I seem to be able to put out at least 2-3 novels and at least 1 NF, plus some shorts and novellas each year. It usually rounds out to around 300-400K of publishable material per year. This does not include pre-writing, blogs, things that will never see publication, things that are waiting for editing to be published,  outlines, synopsis,  or all the crap I cut from what I’ve written.  That’s NOT a lot of published material if you think about it.

The constant writing makes some years seem slow and others seem productive based on what finally makes it through the production process in a year’s time. For example, Saving Sarah May (my upcoming romance novel) was finished and submitted to a publisher in September of 2015. It won’t come out until this year, though. A lot of the stuff I worked on the last half of 2015, will be published the first half of this year.  Just like I am working on stuff now that likely won’t see publication until the end of this year. So it goes. This is what I mean when I say I have a lot of material in different stages of production at any given time. The first half of 2016 will see a huge rush of releases, making everyone else feel like a slug. But the reality looks like this:

  • Temple of Lilith ( written late 2015)
  • Danbury Ghost (written early 2015)
  • Temple Apophis (written late 2015-2016)
  • Ascending Darkness (written late 2015-2016)
  • Saving Sarah May (written mid 2015)
  • Daemonolater’s Guide to Daemonic Possession (written January 2016)

So I’ve given you all the illusion that I’m balls to the walls writing like a mad-woman when in actuality – I’ve been producing at a relatively consistent pace of an average of 1500 words a day or thereabouts.

The beauty of having so much going on is I never have writer’s block. If I don’t feel like working on one project, I move to one that is more inspiring for the moment. But there comes a time when you need to focus. Especially if you have a deadline to crush… I mean, meet. And this is the point where you have to decide which of the projects can wait, and which ones need immediate attention.

Then you grab one, work it to completion, get it into editing, then grab the next. Lather, rinse, repeat. So for my writer friends – this is how I do it.  If you like, share with us how many projects you work at once!  I’m sure fellow writers would love to hear how you work!

Steph is an award winning and bestselling author of thrilling steamy and paranormal romances, dark urban fantasy, occult horror-thrillers, cozy mysteries, contemporary romance, sword and sorcery fantasy, and books about the esoteric and Daemonolatry. A Daemonolatress and forever a resident of Smelt Isle, she is happily married and cat-mom to three pampered house cats. Her muse is a demanding sadistic Dom who often keeps her up into the wee hours of the morning. You can contact her at

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