For many writers, this becomes a very tough question to answer. In many ways, the balancing act hasn't been going well. It is a given that writers must be able to work on more than one project at a time. Yet not all can do this without encountering some difficulties with keeping it all organized while also being efficient. Perhaps, you may be one of the few who have a system that works and you manage to keep your productivity high. The question the rest of us have is this one: How do you do it?
A Little Common Sense
Of course, it's clear that no matter if you are writing fiction or non-fiction, taken a commissioned project or you're currently on spec, you know that each one of these writing projects needs careful attention in order to be successful. What sort of attention you can pay each will largely depend on whether you have to wade through mounds of books, notes, and drafted pages in order to work on a given project. The less organized you are with your projects and scheduling the more problems and repeat work you will encounter.
Even with the use of computers and electronic filing, there are no guarantees that you will be making your freelance work easier to do. In many cases, you may find that there will be more confusion than before since you'll have to keep both electronic files and hard copy pages or notes straight. Organization and streamlining are essential if you wish to retain control over your workflow.
A Few Ideas
In reality, your methods of organizing a writing project will probably vary some depending on the type of work you're doing or even the markets themselves. (There are some niche markets that require a very specific process so bear that in mind.) Let's look at it this way. If you produce a variety of material such as articles, stories, and other forms of copy for multiple publications, you may want to start by categorizing your ideas for each market. If this is the case, what do you do then? Well, for some of you, it might help to put things into separate notebooks or folders on the computer. Regardless of what you choose to do, you should always keep things separate and in its place.
If you're only working on a handful - perhaps one or two publications - you may want to take a slightly different approach. You are still separating or classifying your ideas, but you are including detailed categories to help you micromanage your writing projects on a different level. You may be separating ideas based on genre, subject matter, length, and by sub-category.
Now, you probably already do this, but it is good to say a few words about your filing system. Most of us arrange our projects in separate project files on the computer. (Although, some writers still keep a spiral bound notebook or an equivalent hard copy version.) Files allow you to keep everything in its place. A good idea all around if you want to be organized. The method will vary with each writer. (I have both hard copy files in a cabinet and tons of files saved on CD and flash drive.)
About The Schedule
This may be where a form of productivity software may come in handy. Many writers benefit from keeping a set schedule for each of their writing projects. The schedule has one clear-cut benefit that no writer should ignore. If adhered to, a standardized schedule ensures that you will give each project its fair share of time and attention during the course of the day or week. Another type of record kept by some freelancers is one based on their output. By recording the number of words produced or the number of hours worked can help you determine how long similar future projects will take to complete. (Don't forget to take advantage of to-do lists since these tools can help cut out nonessential information by providing a concise listing of each project's requirements or deadlines.)
I think it's safe to say that you may now have a little more insight into what it takes to juggle all of those writing projects. If you are still trying to get things into focus so you can start making schedules and categorizing ideas, then you may be on the right track. I wish all of you the best of luck in your own writing endeavors. I hope you wish me the same luck. Please feel free to add your own advice and tips to those mentioned here. Catch you later!