On Going From One Manuscript to Another / by Ryan Hill

 

I've picked up on an interesting trend with my writing. Ever since I finished The Book of Bart - Verse 1 - the draft that was submitted to agents and publishers - I've had a tendency to bounce around from manuscript to manuscript for whatever reason. Sometimes it's from writer's block, others because my attention has been pulled elsewhere. The reasons vary, but the point is the same.

I struggle to stick with one manuscript from beginning to completion.

It's not a good or a bad thing, but it is a thing with me. Take my latest release, The Conch Shell of Doom. I wound up writing about 30k words, then abandoned the manuscript. My anxiety/depression had been gnawing at me the entire time I'd been writing (even before), and I'd had enough, so I dropped it and moved on to another book, one that was intended to be more commercial and the first of a trilogy called The Luminari Crown. I only made it 20k words into that one before the anxiety/depression got to me again, and I dropped that manuscript as well. 

I took some time for myself, then sat down to read what I'd written of The Conch Shell of Doom. Without the anxiety clouding my judgment, I noticed that Conch Shell was pretty good, and worth finishing. In between then and now, I had both The Book of Bart and my zombie novel Dead New World published, forcing me to leave Conch Shell for a time. In between edits on Conch Shell, I started The Book of Bart - Verse 2, then had to leave it for more Conch Shell edits, and wound up starting a dark, young adult mystery novel. Earlier this week, I finished the first draft of Bart 2. It's okay if you're having trouble keeping up.

The playing of musical chairs with manuscripts has paid off in an unexpected way. So many writers - myself included - can get so deep into a story they can't see the forest for the trees. Leaving a manuscript to work on something else not only gives you breathing room and the chance to use creative muscles that may have atrophied on the previous work, but it gives you perspective.

Yes, it's difficult getting back into the flow of a manuscript this way, but after a couple of days, it feels like I never left. I also feel refreshed upon return, which brings new ideas that wouldn't have popped up if I hadn't moved to something else. Sure, some continuity issues can arise, especially with things from the beginning of the novel, but that's what editing is for; to smooth out the story and flesh out portions that need more exploration. 

I don't know that I'd recommend this method of writing, but it's been working for me the last few years. If you're stuck or feeling down about your work though, it may be just the ticket to helping the manuscript get back on track.

Enjoy!