Maybe I’m strange but I’ve never minded working on multiple stories at the same time. That may have started with my years developing comic and webcomic stories, always planning ahead. Since becoming a novelist, I find that some of it is necessary.
Unless you intend to only write standalone short stories or books, an author must have some idea where they are going with their works. Is there room for a sequel? Should this be a trilogy? A series? Just how much story is there for this set of characters and any new supporting characters you may introduce later?
Between 1980 and 2000, I developed many (homemade) comics series, limited series, annuals and special editions, just like Marvel and DC Comics. I just never sold them. They were hand-drawn and lettered on copier paper and made into twenty (or more) page issues, stapled together and collected in a folders then boxes. I would look back through them from time to time to maintain consistency in the characters’ look, story and development.
Sometimes, I would get burned out on one series and deliberately switch to working on a different one for a while. Or I would deliberately make a crossover story, mixing-and-matching elements and characters from different series. This would inspire me to try new things and give me new ideas for existing series and characters. I would later experiment with this, coordinating between not only mine but others' webcomics in what would become the award-winning "Off Hours" webcomic. It was a series I developed with two other writer friends that ran from 2007 to 2010 and involved 26 comic creators from four different countries.
In 2013, “Mindfire” was created as a standalone novel. It was also a test to see if I could actually complete a 50000+ word book. And I did. My next project was “Jordan’s World.” I created the Jordan as a series, specifically a trilogy. By the time I finished the first book, I had the title for the second and some idea where I wanted it to go. As I wrote the second book, I went through several titles for the third until finally reaching a satisfactory one. Once I finished the first draft of the second Jordan book, I had a good idea what I wanted to do in the third.
Along the way, I was inspired to try writing Christian steampunk. I developed an idea and characters, somehow already knowing it would become a trilogy.
Once that my (and my wife’s) personal editing on the second Jordan book was nearing completion, I was feeling that old ambivalence towards the third book. I wasn’t quite burned out but was getting there. So, I switched gears and threw myself into the first steampunk book for a solid week and that really helped accomplish two things: I got to delve into a new set of characters and story elements, building a new world, if you will. And at the same time, it gave me just enough of a break and diversion to inspire me anew for the third Jordan book.
What’s more, I instinctively know I can switch back and forth between these two books at any time and not lose focus on either. In fact, I’ve been developing an idea for another book! Quite frankly, it’s exciting.
One might ask “how do you keep track of all these characters and story elements? Wouldn’t that get confusing?” I make a point to keep detailed notes about my stories and can refer back to them at any time. Also, once I’ve begun writing a story, I can use it as reference. These things tend to build on one another. Another thing I’m grateful for is having a photographic memory. It’s not as pinpoint as it was in my late teens and twenties but it still allows me to visualize a scene or remember something I’ve written or said before and work from it.
Every author has their own way of storytelling. I realize mine is somewhat complex but it’s surprisingly fun and what ultimately matters is how it comes across to you, the reader. I endeavor to make stories that are worthy of your time and attention -- or at least will entertain you. Time will tell.
About the author
Allen Steadham is a nondenominational Christian, happily interracially married since 1995. Father of two sons and a daughter. He and his wife have been in the same Christian band since 1997. He plays electric bass, she plays strings, they both sing. It's all good.