May 14th, 2011
What Does It Mean To Be Ready?

If you talk to successful authors, you’ll find a lot of commonality when it comes to preparation. Not how they prepare–because every author has their own way of doing things. I’m talking about what they prepare. Successful authors tend to have multiple projects ready to go out for submission at all times. We’re talking a minimum of two partials, most of the time three or four. It’s called being prepared since you never know what an agent or an editor is going to like. I have a difficult time working that way. I find it simple enough to put together partials, since it only requires writing a synopsis and a few chapters, but rather difficult switching between projects or trying to pick up old projects. By the time I get back to things I’ve lost the spark that created the idea in the first place. I think that’s why I’ve been focusing on finishing books this year. I’m tired of having partials lining my desk drawers. And yes, I have a LOT of them. Some have been shopped (they were sent to one place and were never sent anywhere else or they were sent to the wrong editors), many have not been. That leaves a lot of mental clutter. I call it mental clutter because they are still viable ideas that could be developed (some I really, really like), but I have no idea when I’ll get around to writing the books…or if I will. Because these projects aren’t in a distinctive category, they tend to linger in the back of my mind. Hence the mental clutter. When there’s too much mental clutter there’s not a lot of room for new ideas.

So is it possible to be ready/prepared and have less mental clutter? I’m sure, but I’ve yet to figure out a way to do it beyond finishing the books. They may still take up space in my brain, but at least it’s a designated space and not a scattered mess. Of course these days a lot of publishers are demanding that the book be finished before they’ll even buy it, but that depends on your writing track record. For someone like me, I have no doubt I’d have to finish the whole book if I wanted to sell something to New York.

If you’re a writer, how many partials do you think an author should have ready to go at any given time? If you have multiple partials, how do you maintain your enthusiasm for a project if significant time has passed since you wrote it?

10 comments to “What Does It Mean To Be Ready?”

  1. I’m still on a tear to finish my own collection of partials. Like you, letting them sit is often a bad thing; I would’ve been better off continuing on the momentum I had when I started.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing to have another story lined up and ready to roll when the current one’s finished, but mental clutter, you nailed it. It really does clog up the works.

  2. Charli, I think that’s the thing. If you’re good at picking up in the middle of projects, then having multiple partials is no big deal, but if you aren’t it can really destroy forward movement.

    Yes, it does clog everything up. I think at this point I’ll have to strike while I’m motivated. And I don’t mean that in a ‘waiting for inspiration’ kind of way. I mean while the story is hot. Stephen King had it right.

  3. I usually have three going. It has nothing to do with having something ready for a possible editor’s whim though. The projects are different enough that if I hit a rough patch with one, I can get a lift by working on one of the others. I’m down to two now because I just finished one, so I get to launch another when my pace with the others slow. I’m hoping when Wild Child Publishing finally launches my writer/assassin novel that’s in final copy edits now, I’ll maybe get a boost on my other submissions. It sure is easy being a starving artist in this business without a day-job. 🙂

  4. Bernard,

    I’m curious, with three stories going how long does it take you finish them on average?

    Yes, it is. I’ve never been fond of the whole starving artist concept and yet, this is where I find myself. :-/

  5. The average is 8 to 10 months for each one. It took me thirteen months to finish the latest because it was my first attempt at first person POV. I know my output isn’t exceptional… but I’m steady. 🙂 I don’t have any idea how someone like Nora Roberts cranks them out.

  6. Bernard, Oh okay. See I’m trying to write a single title in 3 mo.–not including edits. I need another month or two tacked on for those. In my perfect writing world, I’d be writing two single titles a year and three/four novellas. We all work at our own speed though, you know?

    As for Nora, I hear she can write a single title in 3 weeks. Not sure if she does that all the time, but it certainly explains how she has 9 finished books sitting on her computer at all times and those don’t count the ones she actually has due. :-O

  7. I remember you mentioning you work in a three month space. See, that’s what I think of as exceptional concentration. You don’t need any other manuscripts or ideas clogging your mind when you’re getting the WIP done in three months. I am admittedly a plodder. 🙂

    Three Weeks? Mama Mia…

  8. Bernard, Most of the time I feel like I’m a very slow writer, especially these days. LOL!

    Yeah, I hear you. Yowza!

  9. I’m with you and Charli, I think having a few “ideas” floating around is good, but as far as actual partial or proposals, I usually only have 1 if any. Mental clutter is bad bad bad.

  10. Sasha, Mental clutter and the partials are something I’m working diligently on this year.