Wednesday, January 23, 2013

When to start the next book?

I've had a lot of people ask me my opinion on when to start their next project.

Is it better to finish your first project first? Or if inspiration for the second one strikes, to jump into it for awhile to carry the momentum, then go back to your first? Forget the first book and focus on the 2nd? Or some other combination?

Here's my opinion, and it's just my opinion (other Scribble Chicks, please chime in!)

I think you should finish your book before starting a new one.

There's an exception to this, such as you no longer like your first book and are willing to throw it away completely and never pick it up again. Clearly, at that point, there's no need in finishing it.  :)

But here's a secret. Anyone can start a book.

Not everyone can finish a book.

And that's the difference that editors and agents are looking for. That's what sets you above, automatically, the majority of the USA filled with aspiring authors.


Now, if inspiration for your new idea has you by the throat and you can't even look at your first one (which you still like and want to finish), then give yourself ONE day. One day to separate from your previous story, and jot down notes and ideas and even brief scenes or character descriptions for the new story. Mark it down because it can be crucial not to let the details that are important slip away or be forgotten. That's understandable, and you're totally allowed!

But then go back to your first project, and get it done. Let the excitement of your next story spur you on to finish your first one even faster. Because here's how the cycle works best and allows you to maximize your time and your influence in the industry. (Again, my opinion, but I speak from experience here, guys)

1. Start a book.

2. Finish a book. (with note jotting for a second story allowed in SHORT TIME SLOTS in between 1 and 2. So, 1A.)

3. Submit a book. (and yes, you should edit and revise and get critiques or whatever before this, but you know what I mean!)

4. Start 2nd book while you're waiting on feedback from your 1st. (This is awesome, because it helps the endless weeks go by productively while you're waiting to hear. It also makes potential rejection of the 1st story easier to swallow, because hey, you're already on a new project which they're SURE to like!)

5. Finish 2nd book.

(sometime in between 4-5 or 5-6, you're going to have heard back on your 1st. If its rejections, consider revising what was wrong and resubmitting, or putting the story aside for a later focus or potential backlist for when you DO get published. If you agree with the comments from the professionals that your story and writing wasn't there yet, then shelve the book for now and keep on with your second project. If the 1st book got requests for full submissions or a contract, celebrate and carry on as directed by that professional! And eat ice cream. But not mine. Steal Erynn's.)

6. Submit 2nd book.

7. Start 3rd book.

See the cycle? This system allows you to continue to grow and learn and challenge yourself with each new project. It also builds you a backlist of books and experience to potentially carry over to a publishing house one day. It teaches you how to stay disciplined and FINISH A BOOK. It carves your perseverence and also, flat out increases your chances of getting published because you never stop. This system also is easier emotionally, as I said earlier, because it gives you new focus while your "baby" is being judged and helps ease the rejection sting.

Any thoughts? Questions? :)


  1. My plan was exactly that - start the 2nd while waiting for feedback on the 1st (mostly non professional, but still feedback of some sort!). But I'm forcing myself to finish the 1st proposal before delving into the new story.
    ...I really do dislike the whole synopsis thing though. Just...ugh!

  2. Brainstorming doesn't hurt, but I agree one book at a time...finish!

  3. This is close to my idealized writing proccess that I haven't mastered yet. I always think I'll write my next first draft during the 6 week cool down of the previous WIP. I haven't harnessed that yet, last summer I tried and panicked bc I didn't really have an idea. I was so disappointed that I wasted those six week. So now in the middle of my rewrite I'm trying to plan a little for my next first draft. I'm a little slow though on really zoning in on a story. *sigh* but im working on it!

    1. I listen to the song I posted about yesterday and think "I want to meet you" lol that aound a creepy

  4. I think this is my biggest problem. I have so many ideas, but not a lot of stamina... I get tired of something or frustrated and I want to either wipe it all out and start something new or change everything in the story -and THAT doesn't produce a book. Just a full recycle bin and a chocolate binge.

  5. Ashley, exactly! But a lot of authors struggle with that. (and chocolate binges aren't always bad hehe) That's why you have to carve out the discipline. And hey, if the story isn't right yet, then the story isn't right yet! Maybe you haven't find the right story worth it to you to keep going. That will come :) Practice practice practice. The important thing is, really, is to not stop writing in general.

    Tonya, you'll get it! I believe in you!

    Cjoy - synopsis are never fun. 99 percent of the authors of the world are with ya ;) I'm actually teaching a class on Taming the Dreaded Synopsis at a local RWA conference in Shreveport in March 1-2 :)

    1. That's what everyone says. Lol. "Don't stop writing." I try not to, but it's hard when you feel like you're just spinning your wheels. Oh well. I think I've just gotten so wrapped up in wanting to get something done and get it perfect that I've gotten away from just doing what I love... I'm not sure how to retrain myself, though.

    2. Oh, that would be a good class to be at! Too bad I can't make it to both conferences! =)

  6. That's common, too, Ashley. That's why so many professionals encourage you to "turn off your inner editor" and just write the story you love. That's fabulous advice but it doesn't work for me personally. I'm a perfectionist (God's working on me in that. LOL)to a fault and for me it's more stressful trying to not edit and tweak and fix as I go then it would be to just dump the story out. Everyone has to do what works for them.

    Sometimes getting feedback can encourage you to progress with a story, too. And setting deadlines for yourself with rewards (get someone to keep you accountable to this!) can also help you persevere and write.

    Again, if the story isn't worth it to you, revise it or dump it completely and start over with a new idea :) Revisit your passion, what makes your heart thump faster when you hear about this topic in school or with your friends or at work or on the news. What fills you with indignation or longing? What keeps you up at night? What makes you question God?

    Write about THAT. And you won't get bored or turned off from the story.

  7. Good post! It's actually something I've already been practicing. ;) And, like you, I'm a perfectionist, so writing books takes a while. :)

  8. I loved this... EXCEPT for the part about stealing my ice cream. ;)