A writer’s mind rarely rests. If a writer isn’t in front of the computer, their brain is most likely composing, editing, or solving a plot problem. It’s more than enough for a mind to manage if there’s just one story floating around, but what happens if another one steps in and tugs at your sleeve?
Referee or Mediate
Perhaps the stories vying for their time need to learn how to take turns. Setting aside specific days for each story will give your mind a chance to focus on one story at a time. While that’s happening, the plot of the story-in-waiting will have a chance to percolate new ideas or plot points that might not have happened otherwise. New characters might emerge, conflicts might arise, or an unexpected romantic interest might shake things up a bit!
As a writer, cut yourself some slack, and be patient with yourself. Taking on another story is a lot for a mind already immersed in your current work. Find a way to keep them quiet while they wait their turn, and give yourself time for a break from both of them! Stepping back for a break will actually help you once you return to whoever is next in line. New details may come to light, a plot problem may be solved, or a new, exciting twist might give your story the boost it needs.
With two stories going at once, it may be helpful to have a detailed outline, a plot calendar, or some other way to help you pick up where you left off and have a vision of where each story is headed. With these mechanical aids, you will have a clear picture of where things started, what’s happening now, and what’s to come without racking your brain to recall not one, but two sets of story details. It may also help avoid story intrusion or infiltration – the unfortunate experience where one character inadvertently ends up in the other story. Yikes! Cut and paste might help here, but your characters need to stay where they belong unless YOU decide to move them.
It’s a mixed bag when characters come to you at the same time with great stories to tell. It would be a shame to turn anyone away, because the characters have come to you to tell their story. They have faith in you. Have faith in yourself and your abilities to get it down on the page and into the hands of readers.