I've been home from Vermont for a week now, and have read four novels, four picture books, and one non-fiction chapter book. I wrote a critical essay and worked a little on my creative work, which is a BRAND NEW story, which is kind of exciting and sort of scary.
The thing is, I never planned to try to write two novels at once. I thought I'd be totally finished with my old (I don't want to call it old...can we say original? That's nicer.) WIP by the time I started at VCFA, and the faculty and other students encourage you to start with something fresh so your mind is open to changing things around, slashing characters, etc. But my mind if pretty open to that anyway, so when one of my readers made an excellent case for redeeming a character who didn't make it to the end of the book (and, let's face it, who I was pretty much looking for an excuse to save anyway), I decided to go for it. Which left me with a new book to start for VCFA, and another round of revisions on my original WIP.
Since they're totally different stories, with different voices, I'm making it work. It's just very, very slow going. And I'm trying not to neglect my husband or my tiny dogs in the process, because even husbands and tiny dogs need love.
My key for success to working on two stories at once is to take time in between. Generally speaking, I never work on both stories on the same day, and if I do, there will be a work shift or some other long gap if time in between me opening the documents. During that time, I stop thinking about the story I was previously working on, and start getting into the head of my new character. One story is mostly a present tense POV in a contemporary setting, and the other is a past tense in a future setting, so when I switch to the future setting I think about the jargon and slang they use, examine the maps of the area I created, etc.
Before I pull up the documents, I completely shut anything related to the "wrong" story, and pull up all my images from the "right" one, so that I won't be tempted by anything unrelated to my current writing. Another thing that helps is that my original WIP is much further along, so I have to push myself to get better, more polished writing out. My new WIP is still in the drafting stages, so I can be a little messier -- though since it's for VCFA work, I want it to be cleaner than I would normally produce for a first draft. Basically, I think this is working because the two projects are so very different in terms of plot, characters, setting, and even the stage in the writing process -- if they were at all alike, I would be failing miserably.
Also, on an unrelated note, I think I need to finally cave and spend some time converting that weird, empty third bedroom into an actual office space, because right now there are library books consuming my end table, dinning table, dresser, and the bookshelf in our pseudo-office is about to topple because it's so front-loaded. Which is probably a safety hazard.
What about you? Can you balance multiple stories at once? Or do you, like my usual self, tend to have a one-track mind?