Monday, May 6, 2013

Always Plan Ahead - Think Of Your Future Writing Career

One question I frequently ask authors when I discuss submissions with them is where they see their writing in the future. This question not only looks at how they see their over-all career moving, but also looks at future projects they are thinking about working on.

As an author, knowing future projects is a must. Although you might not be a person who can write more than one book at a time, it is crucial that you can at least think in a larger scale about future projects. There is a rationale for this.

First of all, you want to keep your writing moving forward all of the time. Authors who have not thought forward to other projects end up losing a huge block of time at the completion of a project trying to decide what they should work on next. That lag in writing time will cause you to lose that momentum you had when you were in the middle of the prior project. Think of it this way. If you work out at a gym, and then take a week off for some reason, getting back and working at the 100% level you were at is often harder than you expected.

For those of you pitching projects to agents and editors, seeing those future projects really does pay off. One of my authors, for example was able to create a 3-book deal in her first sale by seeing that future. When I had her meet with the editor at the RWA Conference, she simply had the one book. Still, she saw the next two books in her head and when the editor loved the first project, she wanted to know more. After the pitch, when I spoke to the editor, she said one of the things that "sold her" was the fact that the author had a clear vision of where she was going.

After you have an agent, or even better, with an editor, these future projects create some additional freedom for planning your future. As you look at the next project, the editor or agent can give you a thumbs up or thumbs down depending on the climate and the needs in the publishing world. Remember, certain projects will work at specific times!

So, does planning ahead mean a lot of work? Absolutely not. It is simply a matter of creating lists and constantly brainstorming. Keep a notebook going of "potential projects." You may not end up using all of them, or for that matter any of them, but knowing they are available gives you the confidence to know you have some fall back projects.

In that notebook, make lists of series ideas, characters you want to include, themes or issues you want to discuss. Pretty much anything goes. I do recommend taking the time to potentially draft out a blurb about the project. The thing is that you might not come back to that idea until months later and you need to be able to remember all of the details of what you were thinking.

My question for you now is, "How do you develop ideas for future projects? Where do you find the ideas?"

1 comment:

  1. Great post about thinking ahead. :) I've been doing a lot more of that in my own writing as of late. (My family buys me spiral notebooks just for that...)

    And I have to take a stab at answering your question about finding new ideas for future projects.

    For me, anyway it's all in the world building. I find most of my ideas inside the major world building. There's always secondary characters that take on a life of their own while I'm writing.

    And many times, there's some kind of overall arc that I need to plan out, which usually winds up larger than a single book can encompass. Again, back to world building--that includes, for me, the "good guys" and "the bad guys" and their overall motivations and goals.