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Transitioning Between Book Projects

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 27, 2011

Do you have a hard time jumping from one series to another when you’re writing in different genres? How do you fade out one set of characters and their world from your mind and switch to another?

I just made the transition from a contemporary mystery to a paranormal romance. It didn’t happen overnight. I took a few weeks off to catch up on emails and promo activities, to work on the book trailer for my next release, and to focus on household matters. But as those things receded from my priority list, the empty space in my head told me it was time to start the next book.


Although I had a rudimentary synopsis and plotting notes and already knew the background from the previous two volumes in the series, I didn’t know my main characters well enough to start writing the story. So first, I filled in my character development sheets and my romantic conflict chart. Next, I watched a couple of movies that have scenes in Las Vegas where the story begins.

My synopsis didn’t seem complete enough, nor was the villain clearly defined, so I added in some complications to the plot. I’ll rely on my critique group to tell me if the story flows logically and if the emotional highs and lows of the romance are adequate. At this point, though, I am ready to begin writing.

After a hesitant start, the story picks up. I finish the first chapter, eighteen pages long. This is rough draft only. I’ll keep writing daily at a steady pace without looking back until I hit the finish line. Then I’ll spend a few weeks on polishing and revisions.

So here’s my advice on how to transition between projects:

• Take a break and recharge your creative batteries

• Review your plotting notes on the new project

• Develop your characters

• Perform any necessary research on the setting

• Write the synopsis

• Begin Chapter One

It’s okay if you don’t know how your characters will react yet. I only learn that when I’m writing the story and see them in action. That’s when story magic comes into play and your subconscious takes your story in unexpected directions. You can revise your synopsis later; for now, just keep writing.

Seasoned writers, please share your experiences. How do you get one book out of your head and the next story simmering in your mind?


10 Responses to “Transitioning Between Book Projects”

  1. This is great advice, Nancy. I use creative visualization when I’m completely finished with one book and am ready to move on to the next story. I imagine my manuscript as a print book that I’m reading and when I close that back cover to the book, my characters now live there and not in my head. I imagine my writing slate in my mind being wiped clean and I ask my next set of characters to make an appearance when it’s time for me to start on the next book. If characters from a previous book in a series need to make an appearance, they’re welcomed to do so but otherwise, the new slate is for the next story. This has always helped make the transition really easy for me.

  2. Thanks, Melissa. That’s a great tip! It also reminds me that some writers use collage boards to get ready for the next book.

  3. Jeanne Meeks said

    A very timely post! My backcountry mystery, Rim to Rim, is in the hands of an agent. Before I obsess over that, I must start a new project, switching to a YA historical. Big flip. Thanks for the tips.

  4. So Jeanne, how do you plan to get your head into the new book?

    • Jeanne Meeks said

      To get into my new book, probably a historical YA, I’ll read about the era, visit a museum, and begin to visualize the characters as real people, memories that need to be put on paper.

  5. June Shaw said

    Great ideas! When I finish a book, I also take some time to catch up on the world. Of course soon I’m promoting the book. Ideas for the next book seem to come to me while I’m working on one. By the time I’m ready to get into them, they’re already fairly well fleshed out.

    • June, your post reminds us that it’s a good idea to jot down ideas for promo when writing a book, and perhaps just after you’ve finished. Then it’s easier to get the whole project off your mind.

  6. I think research is a great way to switch gears. I always look up something pertaining to my new idea. Often I find little gems about the subject that inspire me to get going. Great post, Nancy.
    Cynthia Thomason

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