What To Do Between Major Writing Projects

(Reed’s Playlist for the day: Photograph by Def Leppard)

So if you didn’t see two posts ago, I finished Symphony of Legend, my high fantasy novel. And oftentimes (or at least every time I’ve finished a project before this one), I get the last words on paper and I go on a multi-month hiatus from writing of any kind. Usually, it’s under the pretext of wanting to wait so I can jump right into editing the novel I just finished.

I’ve decided that I’m wrong for doing things that way.

There are a few reasons why. First, the reason why we need to wait several months in between finishing a first draft and starting a second is so that we can look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. If all we did during that interim month or two is sit around, play videogames, and think about the novel, then we really aren’t going to be looking at it with fresh eyes. However, if we’re writing something else in the interim period, we will definitely be taken away from the mindset of the previous project and, upon returning to it, we will be able to see with less bias and more clear evaluative thought process.

The second reason is that being a new writer means trying out a bunch of different writing styles, and the middle of a serious project is the perfect time to start a not-so-serious one. If you’re anything like me, you have ideas for stories that range from an epic series all the way down to a cute and low-maintenance short novel. If you’re not like me, chances are you still have ideas that are occupying the forefront of your mind, and some that occupy the back.

When we dig out these back ideas, we allow ourselves to obey the maxim of the writer’s profession – WRITE EVERY DAY – without making it super stressful on ourselves. Since we don’t care about them as much, we can have fun with them, experimenting with new styles, POVs, and tones. And it’s a great feeling of accomplishment to finish a story even while you’re waiting for your previous story to cool on the windowsill.

So, at the very least, that’s what I’m trying to do right now. I just finished Symphony and I’m working on a new idea I’ve had for a little while, the working title of which is Sordid Tales of a Callous Reaper. It’s going to be a low-fantasy, high-sarcasm novel which combines dark themes and light humor in the Pratchet-esque fashion. As a matter of fact, for any Discworld readers out there, it’s intended to be kind of like Mort if Mort were a Pixar film.

I’ll keep you all updated through the process – whether writing of any kind burns me out during this period, whether I feel more refreshed when coming back to edit Symphony after I finish Sordid Tales, and whether I think it is overall helpful to toggle projects like this. All I know is, Brandon Sanderson wrote Mistborn as a throwaway side series while he was working on his Stormlight Archives, and many other authors have given the advice to move on to a new project for a few months after you finish an old one.

Remember, screw what I say and screw what the world says; it’s about what works for you. But for any people finishing up Camp NaNoWriMo, I challenge you to try something similar – take a bit of time when you’re at your most exhausted to work on something lighthearted that you don’t have to stress out about as much, and see how it changes your editing experience.

As always, if you’ve tried this out or had experience in this area, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Yours, enjoying the snark of his new project,

-R.R. Buck


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