I have a dozen books going at any given time. I've had authors see my method and think it was nuts, chiding me saying "Don't start a new project until the first one is finished." They will wail and rant and moan about how they could never multi task on so many projects at once.
I look at them and say: Maybe for YOU it's impossible, but, maybe too that's why I've published 170+ novels, 600+ short stories, 2,000+ non-fiction articles, 30+ non-fiction books, a few dozen stage plays, some Disney Duck comic book scripts, and some adult colouring books, while they are still struggling on their 2nd novel.
Yes, maybe it's beyond them to work on multiple writing projects at once, but I'm the one publishing, publishing, publishing, publishing, publishing, publishing, publishing, publishing, publishing, while they sit around twiddling their thumbs and MAYBE, someday, in a year or two, they might, possibly, finish writing something.
What is the difference?
The difference is, as soon as an idea hits me, I jump on it. I grab every idea and write it down. I do not allow myself to lose any idea.
I write my drafts in LibreOffice5. I open up 5 separate files at once, cacaseding them. I write back and forth in each story. When a new idea pops up, I open a new file, yes, a 6th one, and start writing it. I have had as many as 14 LibreOffice files being worked on at once. This is just how I work.
Do I finish them? Uhm... well...I've published 170+ novels, 600+ short stories, 2,000+ non-fiction articles, 30+ non-fiction books, a few dozen stage plays, some Disney Duck comic book scripts, and some adult colouring books, so yes, I do finish them and publish them. And those are just the ones I've published. I finish but do not publish three times the total I do publish.
Do I have those I do not finish? Yep. Of course I do.
Do I ever abandon the ones I did not finish? Nope. I have an "idea box" folder, where I file everything not finished. Because I never know when suddenly that "abandoned" project, sparks a new idea.
Does my style of writing work for everyone? No. Certainly not. I'm not saying it's the one way or the right way or anything like that. What I'm saying is, is that this is what works for me. Maybe it'll work for you, maybe it won't. But you know what? There is no one right or wrong way to write. You have to custom tailor your personal writing method so that it fits you. Figure out what DOES work for you.
How can you finish the book you're writing when you keep getting ideas for another book? What should you do? First, stop writing your book, and write down the idea. Don't lose the idea. Even if you don't write the 2nd story now, at least make sure you don't lose the idea, so that you will have it for later use.
Why do I do this? Well, I've found that I simply can not work on my current project if the new idea is bouncing up in front of me. Once I have written it down, then I can set the new idea aside and go back to my current project, knowing that the new idea is there waiting for me when I get back.
What happens, if I write the new idea, but I still can't get back to my first project because this new one is needling at me waiting for me to work on it? Easy. I set project #1 aside and work on the new one, until I have the need to work on it, out of my system, so I can go back and work on the first one.
Is it a sporadic way of working? Sure it is. Does it work? For me it does.
If you are working on a contract for a publisher, that's a different matter. If you have a deadline, you MUST meet that deadline. What do I do then? Same thing I do otherwise, BUT, I then assign myself overtime. (I treat my writing like a business, with office hours. I work with a set schedule - I don't just write when I feel like it.)
My work schedule goes like this:
I get up around 5AM and write for 4 hours (until 9AM). Then I eat breakfast and go to work (WalMart 10AM - 2PM) for my 4 hour shift. Eat lunch and go home. 3PM to 6PM run errands, live life, take nap, etc. Eat supper. 7PM it's off to edit for 4 hours (until 11PM) then off to bed. Repeat the next day.
You will notice here that, I do not own a TV. I used to. I also used to watch 4 or 5 hours of TV each night and not get my writing done because of it. Getting rid of the TV had a big impact on my work production.
I devote 8 hours a day, each and every day to writing. Divided into 2 segments of 4 hours each, one for writing in the morning and one for editing in the evening. Phone off, TV off, no one allowed to disturb me unless it's an emergency. I write 3,000 to 5,000 words an hour (depending on many factors such as mood, interest in project, health, etc) ending most days with around 11,000 words written and edited each and every day, for a grand total of about 60,000 words written and edited each and every single week, all year long, for a total of about 3 million words written each and every single year. Yes, that is the secret to being able to publish a novel each and every month and a short story each and every week, year after year. It's called having a work schedule and sticking to it.
Now, when I'm working on my own projects (stuff I'll be self-publishing), I can toss the first asind to work on the new one, and finish both at my leisure. Because I'm not working against a deadline, I'm able to switch back and forth between projects, knowing that eventually I will finish both, but am not required to do so at a certain time.
But I'm also a work-for-hire writer (for Disney) meaning I get given an assignment with a deadline. (We need you to write a story about this, in this many pages, and we need it before this date.) In these cases, I MUST follow my publisher's assignment.
Okay, so, say I'm working on a comic book script for Disney, and it's due in 3 days, but suddenly, I've got a new idea for a story I'll be self-publishing on my own. What do I do? I stop my Disney assignment JUST LONG ENOUGH to write down the new idea, so that I don't forget it and lose it.
One of two things happens next:
1: I write the idea down, toss it aside, and head back to my deadlined project.
2: I write the idea down and get carried away, writing more and more into it, and forget to keep track of time, and suddenly 3 or 4 hours have passed and I'm: OMG! What did I do? I was supposed to be doing this other one, it's due in 3 days, and I've just wasted 4 hours writing something else! Argh!
If #1 happens, I finish the project on schedule, no problem. If #2 happens, (and it often does), now I have to give myself overtime.
Remember my work schedule? I get up around 5AM and write for 4 hours (until 9AM). Then I eat breakfast and go to work (WalMart 10AM - 2PM) for my 4 hour shift. Eat lunch and go home. 3PM to 6PM run errands, live life, take nap, etc. Eat supper. 7PM it's off to edit for 4 hours (until 11PM) then off to bed. Repeat the next day.
Well, because I've goofed up and am in danger of missing a deadline, I now have to change that. I need to adjust into overtime. How? Do you see that 3 hour space of: 3PM to 6PM run errands, live life, take nap, etc? Whatever errands and activities I planned to do between 3PM and 6PM, is now deleted from my day, because I have to finish my deadlined assignment instead.
I MUST finish that assignment, and because it was my mistake, my goof up that caused me to be late, now I have to take out my free time to make it up.
Discipline is what is required.
Discipline and priority.
I do prioritize my projects.
All those LibreOffice files I open up? I decide ahead of time, which ones I'll work on, by assigning each of my projects a scale of importance. While I'm working on all five projects the same day, I'm putting more work on the #1 priority project.
I know if you look at my scattered around method, it at first seems undisciplined, what with the way I jump around between ideas and run back and forth between projects, but if you actually do a detailed look at it, you see that there is a method to my madness, and because I am prioritizing, budgeting my time, working on a schedule, and have the discipline to see all my projects to the end, even if it means cutting into my private free time, I do succeed in getting my projects finished, on time, and still able to have time to stop in between, to work on those new ideas that keep popping up in between.
Now, I'm not sure if this helps you out or not, but, it shows you that it can be done. You can write your project AND work on the new ideas that pop up, at the same time. It just requires prioritizing your projects, budgeting your time, working with a set schedule, and have the discipline to see all your projects to the end, even if it means deleting some of your "fun time" activities in order to do so.