If I could give one piece of advice to writers hoping to gain some momentum with their work, then it’s this:
When you finish a book, don’t have a blank page waiting for you. (Yep if you haven’t finished a book yet this probably isn’t the blog for you – you should be writing!) In my opinion, you should already have started the next book. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve done – maybe that means you’ve got an outline or you have some rough chapters already sketched out (as rough as you like, it’s better than a blank page!)
But avoid that blank page at all costs.
Writing a book is exhausting. It really is. I couldn’t imagine finishing a book, going through the publishing process, doing the promotion and then when you realise it’s time to keep writing – returning to the desk, turning on the laptop and staring at a blank page.
Starting from scratch? Nope. No thanks.
How many books will you release in an average year? There is no ‘correct’ answer to this of course. From what I can tell, the number varies greatly between authors.
I released four books in 2016 and that’s the target for 2017.
For some that’s a crazy number while for others it might even be lazy (yes these people exist). If you think it’s crazy then you’re probably one of those authors who take at least a year to write a book. Fair enough. If you think it’s lazy, you’re probably one of those berserker authors who put out a novel a month. What are you people on?
Fair play. Each to their own. Who am I to judge?
I don’t think I write that fast. I also write novels that are on the slim side, averaging between 45,000 to 65,000 words. I don’t think I’d be able to stick to the release schedule that I’m on if I was doing 80,000 plus words. That’s just not me.
But whether you think I’m crazy or lazy, I can only keep this output up by avoiding the blank page when I move onto the next book. I do this religiously. And how do I do that?
I use something that I call the A/B Project system.
(As with the vast majority of writing advice, feel free to disregard it if it doesn’t work for you. This is just something I thought I’d share.)
I’m always working on two projects – the A Project and the B Project. The A Project is the main focus. This is the one that takes up about ninety percent of my creative time. This is the actual writing and rewriting and all the really tough stuff that makes your head rock and roll. This is the grind. This is the one you loved when it was a B Project but now that it’s the A Project and things are getting hard, you hate it.
And you can’t wait for it to end.
The B Project on the other hand is light and easy/bright and breezy. There’s very little going on here in terms of pressure or hard graft. In fact, you’re hardly doing any writing at all – you’re thinking for the most part and making notes at best. BUT – when the A Project is in between edits or if you’ve sent it away to a professional editor, that’s when you need to step things up with the B Project. Just a little. Otherwise when the A Project is published, you’ll be coming back to that dreaded blank page.
But I always try to avoid making the B Project feel like hard work. So if the A Project is ninety percent of the heavy lifting, the B Project is the other ten. You’re working on it, but you’re not sweating bricks.
When the A Project is temporarily on the sidelines, have some fun with the B project. Relax your mind after the gruelling slog of working on the A Project. Loosen up and let your creative muscles fly. Write your ideas down, start working on the outline, picturing scenes in your head. Jot them down but don’t work too hard.
Remember A Project = Torture. B Project = Fun.
Save your energy, infinite patience and loathing for the A-Project. Enjoy the B Project now ‘cos soon the B-Project will be the A project and you’ll hate it.
That’s how I keep my momentum going. That’s how I hit the target last year and that’s (hopefully) how I’ll do it again this year.
Two projects, one heavy, one light. That’s all there is to it.
I’m super-duper glad when I see those rough chapters waiting for me (when the B Project turns into the A Project). Sitting down to a blank page would break me. Dramatic, but true. No need for anyone to break however – I have an outline/story map and I might even have some rough chapters – my minus first drafts as I call them – already on the page. It’s encouraging. I can work from there. And when I start from there, it doesn’t feel THAT long until I’ll have a first draft on the go.
Avoid the blank page. Did I mention that already?