Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The Inner Crowd

Oh my, it’s getting crowded in here.

Last week, I had a conversation with Agent Carrie about my last project. As you may (or may not; I can’t recall if I shared this or not) know, at the beginning of summer, said last project went out on submission. Generally speaking, I adhere to the policy of “what happens on submission stays on submission”–except when I don’t. Like any writing rules, there are times when it’s okay to break the rules, and I think this is one of them.

This project was my second manuscript to go out on submission, and I think I did a better job this time around of forgetting about it. Until August. That’s when Carrie sent me an e-mail that said “Keep your fingers crossed.” She also forwarded an e-mail from an editor who liked my project! Someone was considering it! Someone was shopping it around inside their house to see what others thought! Needless to say, at that point, it became hard not to think about it.

Ultimately, the project got turned down. With all the editorial rejections in, Carrie and I looked them over, talked about them, decided that we were close with this one, but there were a couple of things I could do on a rewrite to make this THE ONE that editors just had to have.Now it’s time to get to work, do some refinement, and turn in a manuscript that cannot be turned down.

There’s just one problem: I’m working on another project.

I’ve written before about projects that grind on and are difficult to work on for various reasons (too often to go digging through and find the links; you’ll have to find them yourself if you want).  The last one was one of those; this new one is one of those. Chances are good that every single thing I ever write will be one of those. At any rate, I wrote about 175 pages between the end of June and now, which is makes it about half a book by my usual standards (though I do actually have the ending written). I’m at a stage where I think I need to go back to the beginning and start filling out–and cleaning up, because a lot of it is, frankly, a mess. Since talking to Carrie last week, however, my head is now filling up with other people: the people from the last project.

Though I am a wingman, I do a lot of “writing” in my head while doing non-writing things. Showering. Washing the dishes. Driving. Walking the dog. When I sit down at the keyboard I often have something of a plan for a scene or section, because I’ve been over it in my head, sometimes multiple times. Instead of those scenes from the current WiP, a lot of that non-writing writing time is being taken up with the last WiP–which I guess needs a new name. Maybe Revision in Progress, i.e., RiP, will work?

I suppose the thing to do here is to compartmentalize my brain in some way. Maybe early morning can be time for the WiP and evening can be time for the RiP. The tough part is getting my brain to devote the precious non-writing writing time to the most important task. Maybe I need some kind of inner office manager to keep the people and events from the RiP and the WiP in separate rooms, and to shuttle them from the front room to the back room when appropriate without getting anyone or anything mixed up.

Do you have any tricks for keeping your various projects separate? Do share!

9 Responses

  1. My main thing is to never keep two books that are similar to each other in the same creation stage. (So I try not to have two fantasy books in rough draft phase, for example.)

    But that's the advantage of writing different genres. Not sure if you have that luxury. 🙂

  2. I thought I could work on two projects at once. I was wrong. I work on the one that has the better chance (or earlier chance?) of getting published and put the other one off to the side. I'm guessing the revisions of your RIP will be quicker than writing the first draft of your WIP anyway.

  3. This can be a tough one for me, since I tend to be a focus-on-one-thing-at-a-time person. I do know others who can juggle two projects quite well. Good luck!

  4. -Misha–I don't have that luxury, though these two books are different enough that it *shouldn't* be a problem!

    -Stacy–Theoretically, the RiP shouldn't take as much time as the WiP, so I'll definitely have to get that to the front burner. Though I am a slow reviser, too….

    -Donna–I guess it all depends on the kind of ability you have for compartmentalizing. I'm not that great at it yet.

    Thanks for commenting!

  5. RiP – I love it! I wish I could help. I really can only do one thing at once or I get confused. I would go with putting the revisions to the forefront, just for now, and seeing where this goes. Good luck!

  6. All writers have this problem. Writing vs rewriting vs promoting vs having an ACTUAL LIFE! I'm crap at handling it. I can only do one thing at a time, so all else gets put on hold. I hope you're better at juggling things than I am. Good luck with RIP!

  7. -Nick: yeah, probably best to work on the RiP, which will give the WiP time to simmer a bit. Thanks!
    -Lexa: You seem to be doing pretty well with juggling! Good luck with your launch on October 4!

  8. Oh dear, what a pickle! It's great that you've got the chance to revise a manuscript (RiP–that's amazing), but I also get why it would be really hard to stop work on the new project.

    Getting an office manager for your brain sounds like a swell idea. I am now envisioning characters from Inside Out running around in your head. Best of luck with both the revision and the new works!

  9. -Bonnee–I didn't see Inside Out but it sounds conceptually like the old TV show . Fortunately, things aren't quite so chaotic up there!

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