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?