My all time favourite type of stunt in a movie or TV show is when a character has to jump from one fast moving thing to another fast moving thing. Ones involving trains I especially love. Of course if I tried that I’d be killed on the spot. But there is a writing equivalent and it really kicks in after you have a book accepted.
Back in 2010 I had Liar’s Waltz, which would be my first published book, book, all ready to submit. I’d read all the advice about querying, which emphasised that this process takes months. Don’t sit around biting your nails and stalking your inbox, says the advice. Get on with the next book. So I did. Once I’d clicked send on Liar’s Waltz I knuckled down to drafting Stowaway. I figured I’d at least have the draft done by the time I heard anything back about the Liar’s Waltz submission.
But the thing about the advice I’d read was that it didn’t hold true for the new world of digital publishing. Everything moves a lot faster with small presses. Within a month I had a contract from Loose Id. OMG, etc. Meanwhile I was bang in the middle of the draft of Stowaway. So now I knew edits of Liar’s Waltz would be along at some point. But when? How long would they take? How long would I have between each round? It was all new to me. The only thing I could do then was keep on drafting Stowaway and wait to see what happened next.
When the edits arrived they had to be my priority and I had to put Stowaway aside. I have a day job, I simply wouldn’t have had the time to work on Stowaway and also get the Liar’s Waltz edits back in a timely fashion. So for a good week or so Kit and Raine were left hanging around twiddling their thumbs. Or possibly twiddling other things. That made me nervous. Momentum is important while writing a draft. If I take too long away I can lose my connection with the characters. But there was no choice.
I finished the edits, decided to read through the Stowaway draft so far and do any tweaking to the outline needed. That helped me get back into the minds of the characters. That’s the tricky bit, jumping from one set of characters to another. Shifting from the dynamic between Broody MacBroodypants and the Champion of the Angst Squad in Liar’s Waltz to the one between Sergeant Stick-Up-The-Butt and Mouth Almighty of Stowaway took a crashing shift of mental gears.
Then of course eventually the next round of edits showed up and I had to do it all over again.
I’ve been doing it over and over again for nine books and four years now. It’s an essential skill to cultivate because once you’re published you’ve no longer got the luxury of deciding what to work on when. So if you’re just starting as a published writer, be ready to learn how to drop a project, spend some time on another one, then switch right back without falling down the gap and being run over by the train wheels.
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