It's a strange feeling having worked on three books set in the same world for so long. I'm finishing up the revision on Illusion, the final book, and I'm asking myself what next? I owe my agent an adult/NA book, and I have a YA book I need to turn in for my contract option. I actually have two possible manuscripts that are partially finished and in need of revision. Either one would work.
So what did I just do? I sent my agent a synopsis for a shiny new (and completely different) YA project. One based on tons of action and built-in conflict. I'm excited about writing it. I woke up at four o'clock Friday morning and wrote the opening couple of pages, and they flowed like words haven't flowed in a long time for me.
The business of publishing is very different than you envision as a pre-published author. Deadlines, public appearances, unexpected interviews, work on covers, blog tours, the business side of things . . . All this takes more time than you envision. You're also inevitably working simultaneously on at least two books, revising, editing, or proofreading one while you draft another.
I succumbed to shiny new manuscript syndrome only once before I was published, abandoning a revision in progress to write Compulsion, because I felt it was more timely and marketable. It turned out that was a smart decision. Sometimes you have to trust you gut.
But how do you know if you are making a wise decision or if you are simply avoiding going back to--or continuing--a project because you've reached the hard part or hit a stretch of writer's block?
Here are five questions to ask yourself.
1) Are you still as excited, more excited, or less excited about the idea you are supposed to be working on than you were when you first started it? Why? Is there a concrete reason or is it a niggling doubt?
2) If you've got a niggling doubt or a loss of enthusiasm about your WIP, can you track it to a specific road block? Are your characters solid? Do their goals and motivation still make sense now that you're more familiar with them? Are the stakes and conflict big enough? Are they sitting in one place too long so that you feel like the story is stagnating? Do you feel like you're repeating yourself, restating the same conflict without having the conflict evolve and get deeper or more urgent?
3) Are you still engaged in the voice of your WIP? Does your character have a clear point of view with multiple human facets and dimensions that make him or whole feel rounded and real? Is that voice age and audience appropriate?
4) Have you heard something from agents or publishers lately that make you suspect that the market for your current WIP isn't there? Have there been too many similar books published? Can you readily place it somewhere on a bookstore shelf? Can you describe it in one sentence or a simple pitch that gets other people excited about it?
5) Is there a reason that the new idea is more marketable NOW? Is it a more evolved story with a bigger audience potential or a bigger payout?
Once you've answered these questions for yourself, you'll have a better idea of whether you need to move on and why.
As you get into a story it's normal to lose that first flush of enthusiasm. But too often, our subconscious minds try to tell us when something concrete is wrong, and our conscious minds are too stubborn to listen. That's why it's important, when you feel blocked or disinterested in a project, to do the step by step assessments in questions 1) through 3).
Questions 4) and 5) are more nebulous. Part of being a professional writer is knowing that not every project will sell, and that often it doesn't matter how well you write it or how carefully you revise it, that's not going to change.
Often, however, when you get an idea that has legs, you know. If you've gotten down to question 5) and the answer is quite simply that your shiny new project gets your juices flowing, write a one sentence and one paragraph pitch. Write a short synopsis. Share the idea with friends--both writers and non-writers--and see if they get excited about it. If they don't, you don't honestly have a need to work on that project yet. That's the simple truth. With few exceptions, a project you have to write right now, one you should abandon another project for, is one that immediately makes people perk up.
What About You?
Have you ever debated jumping into a shiny new idea or project when you needed to be focusing on something you already had in progress? How did you decide what to work on what to do?
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Curious about the Process of Writing a Novel?
I did a guest post on that very subject. I'm heading up to BookItCon with 25 YA authors this weekend--Jodi Meadows, Sarah Marsh and I are making it a road trip!--and I did a fun post to help promote this book festival that's hoping to raise money to revitalize a school library. Stop on by the blog and if you're in the New Jersey or Pennsylvania area, please consider stopping by the festival.
Or heck, just come laugh at How (Not) to Write a YA Novel.
It's a brand new month, so I've got three new T-shirt and necklace giveaways for you, along with interviews and a post on my favorite Southern Gothics. Check them all out and discover three great (maybe new-to-you) blogs!
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