“I have multiple fairly well developed story ideas. There’s a main story I’m focusing on now but when I struggle with it I’ll jump to another one and start trying to write for that. Is this counterproductive? Would I be better of focusing and sticking to one thing?”
I don’t know that it would be better exactly. I don’t just stick to only one story either. While writing, I never just stick to working on only one project. I’m working on a novel, but also I’m working on short stories. When I’m having a bad day with the novel, I write something else. My laptop is full of scenes from half-started novels and stories from days I didn’t want to write my novel. I have a few projects I just set aside and tinker with whenever I’m frustrated. I never abandon my novel, I just work on something else for a few day or two until I can figure out how to get over the hurdle in my novel that was giving me so much grief.
I did somewhat recently stop writing a novel I’d been working on for a very long time. I was constantly frustrated with it and one of my mentors told me that I didn’t have to be writing it. It was like a lightbulb flashed on above my head. I could write something else, I could think on it for awhile and come back to it. And I will. I was so attached to it I can’t just give it up. But I need to sit on it for awhile. Figure things out. These things happen.
Putting that novel aside was a lot less difficult when I had dozens of other ideas I could take up and run with. And I did that, I picked a project, thought about it for a day or two and then started writing. There’s still a lot I haven’t figured out, but I like to think on my feet, plan the next scene only in the midst of the one before it. I don’t think it’s a problem to jump from project to project. With that said, when I set out to write one project. It takes a lot of convincing for me to stop working on it. It’s not a decision I make lightly. So while I might be tinkering with a number of different projects, I always have the novel that I’m trying to figure out and actively working on.
It can become an issue if you never resolve to finish a project. I like finishing drafts. They might not all be great the first time around, but it feels like I’ve accomplished something – and in a way, I have. If you get stuck in a cycle of beginning new things and never finishing them, it will not really help you reach that finish line in the long run. It can become a cycle. It sounds so obvious, but when I was young I think I started writing about a hundred different novels and never really got past the first few chapters. Part of it was that they weren’t great novels. I didn’t have the interest or the love of any of them to stick with them beyond those few chapters. As I got older I figured out more what I love and what I wanted to really take time and energy to begin writing about. I started finding projects that I could really care about for more than a few weeks at a time. It took awhile to figure this out.