Monday, January 21, 2013

3 tips for the multitasking writer

It's a national holiday here in the U.S., and in the spirit of taking a day off, I feel like re-running a blog post from a few years ago. It's one I revisited last week when I wanted to remind myself of my own strategies for jumping between multiple manuscripts. In case it's handy to my fellow writers – or to anyone struggling with multitasking – here are my top tips for bouncing between books.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Three tips for bouncing between books

I’ve seriously considered suing myself for whiplash. I might do it if I thought I had any money and wouldn’t look really stupid in a neck brace.

I have a three-book contract for my romantic comedies. When the contract was offered last February, I had already written the first two books.

I started writing the third a few months later, but had to slam on the brakes mid-summer – just a chapter shy of completion – to polish the first two before they were due on my editor’s desk.

I worked on book one, sent it off for critiques, polished book two, got the critiques back on book one, sent book two out for critiques, implemented critiques for book one, got critiques back on book two, implemented those changes, sent both documents off to my editor, and then stumbled blearily to my bed where I slept for a month.

I wish.

What I actually did was dive right back into book three. I was just hitting my groove again when my editor sent revision notes for book one.

As you might imagine, it made me a bit dizzy.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled with my editor’s suggestions. It’s just the process of bouncing back and forth between books that’s making me feel like someone is slamming my head into a wall (which can actually be quite erotic if done right).

I know some authors can change gears effortlessly, but I’m not one of them. In case you share my struggle, here’s what’s making the process a bit easier on this round:

Mood music. As soon as I knew I’d be leaping into MAKING WAVES again, I made an iTunes playlist of all the music I listened to when I first wrote it. Then I thought about the elements my editor was asking me to add. More sex? A deeper sense of conflict for the hero? I perused iTunes for songs that had that tone, but still fit the mood of the story. It shifted me back into the right vibe, but the new additions got my brain thinking about what needed to change.

What’s that smell? The olfactory senses are powerful memory triggers, and I often use them for writing. When I originally wrote MAKING WAVES, I had a Pacifica Tuscan Blood Orange Soy Candle burning on my desk. Guess what I went out and bought when I knew I’d be jumping back into that book?

A font facelift. I write manuscripts in Courier, but my publisher requires Times New Roman for a final submission. Not a big deal for me or for them. But this is the first time I’m looking at MAKING WAVES in a different font. It’s like seeing a whole new story. Awkward words I glossed over on my 100th read-through suddenly leap out like perverts flashing me in a dark alley. I’m catching things I never have before, and that subtle shift has been a great way to wake up my tired eyes.

Have you had to bounce back and forth between stories before? Do you have any tricks for returning to the mindset of an old story or shaking it up when that’s required? Please share.

And please let me know if you think I could get anything on that whiplash lawsuit. Maybe a free massage?


Raley Blue said...

I meditate before going to sleep. I think about the ms I'm going to be jumping back to and I ask it what I need to know...I generally wake up with the right feelings. I like the candle idea. Scent is SOOOOOO powerful.

Anonymous said...

Perfect advice. Thank you! I'm working on two manuscripts right now and often feel like too many characters are speaking to me at once. Music and candles seem the perfect way to keep those other voices quiet. Also, I recently found out that a book playlist will work great for writer's block.