I do all my research and planning and thinking and rethinking and note taking and outlining. Then I sit down and write the first three chapters, as a rule. I then write a synopsis, my first comprehensive treatment of the story. Using that synopsis, I write the rest of the novel, beginning to end, outlining each scene or chapter about a day before I write it. Once the rough draft is done, I usually give it a little time to cool before starting revision. I then do my three or five or eight revisions until I feel I can't see any changes that clearly make the book better. Then I write the proposal package, research agents and publishers, and submit. Only then do I move on to another project.
Recently, I haven't had the luxury of focusing on one project at a time. Instead, I've been bouncing around every which way. I made it about 70% of the way through my latest novel (a middle grade fantasy based on Babylonian dragon mythology) when I received the opportunity to contribute to the Writing for Charity anthology, available next month. More details here. So I put that off as long as I could to keep working on Babylon then put the book aside and wrote and revised the short story over the course of three days. I'd been thinking about it in odd moments well before that, of course, and I'm fairly pleased with the result. Not sure if they'll use it for the anthology, but I think so. If they do, look for the legal deposition of the troll from The Three Billy Goat Gruffs. That's mine. While I'm on the subject, I'd like to plug this event again: $45 ($25 half day), excellent workshops by fantastic authors such as Shannon Hale, Tracy Hickman, and Dan Wells, among others, writing critiques from these same authors, as well as a meal and silent auction on everything from manuscript critiques to dinner with authors. You should be there. More information at the site listed above.
Back to the jumble of my last few work weeks. Stopping the newest novel for the short story wouldn't have been that bad--if I hadn't received a request for a manuscript revision from one of my dream agents at the same time. That, of course, took priority, so using her comments and some very kind and rapid feedback from some great writers and better friends, I revised the entire manuscript and resubmitted. Still waiting on the result.
So that catches us up to the present. Right now, I'm finishing off a polish on my literary Korean ghost story, the manuscript revision requested in partial by the agent, and about to transition to a final revision on my latest completed work with a focus on a few specific localized issues. Then I'll write the proposal package and start submitting. And then, finally, back to my Babylonian story.
This is not my preferred method of work. But having been through it, I think it maybe should be, at least in certain ways. I'm getting a lot done very quickly, and I like that rate of production. Plus, an unexpected benefit has come from revising texts after they've cooled for weeks or even months, which I've never done before. I'm finding added perspective has come from that amount of time away from the texts, which isn't surprising in theory but is still startling to experience for the first time.
So here's what I'm thinking for the future. I still want to work on one thing at a time, as that is clearly how I do my best work. But I think I'll abandon my dedication to one work in process straight through the entire process without diverting my attention. When I finish a rough draft, I may set it aside while I pre-write and draft my next novel. I'll then go back and revise and send out, then revise and send out the second, then repeat the process. Or I may do an initial revision to address obvious problems I'm aware of after drafting before giving the text time to cool and moving on to my other project. Not sure yet. But I'll work it out.
So ten books in and my process is still evolving. Apparently, necessity is the mother of invention. Who knew?
And as you certainly did not notice, my font size on the blog is now legible.