Have You Written More Than One Book?

Katie asked: I have written three books that I’m hoping to finish revising this summer, all in the same genre. When I’m ready to start submitting, how do I decide which one to submit? And let’s say I submit a book to an agent, they say no. Can I query the same agent with a different book? And if they say no to that, can I query again with my final book? Or is that just beyond annoying? Is that unprofessional?

and…

Shen asked: I am currently about finished with two books. They are of entirely different genres. Would it be wise to submit them under different names, or are my chances of being read by an agent greater if I submit them under the same name?

***

Let’s start with the obvious. Why are you writing two or three books at once? Don’t you find your focus is hampered? Are you sure that writing more than one book at a time is the way to do your best work? Personally, I think multi-tasking is over-rated and I believe people do their best writing when their focus isn’t divided. This is especially true when you’re unpublished and still learning the craft of writing for publication.

I understand many people are still trying to find their place as a writer, and much of the writing at this point is experimental. Am I a historical romance writer or am I better at contemporary suspense? What do I enjoy most? Is my heart more in fiction or non-fiction? These are valid questions and it takes some experimentation to find out the answers. The part that makes me worry is when writers assume all their “experiments” are worthy of publication. You’re probably better in one genre than another.

But I’m probably wrong about all this, since so many people send me these same questions. So let’s answer the questions. Here’s the most important thing to remember: Query each agent with only one book at a time. Wait for a response before sending anything else to that agent.

How do you decide which book? Start with your best one. Get objective input from others who will be honest with you, and decide which one represents your very best work. You should also take a look at the market and try to determine which of your books is most saleable right now. Lastly, consider platform. If you have two books, one fiction and one non-fiction, take into account that your non-fiction might require a platform in order to be desirable for publishers, whereas your novel just needs to be a terrific book. Where is your strength? Start by querying in the area of your strength, and meanwhile, work on building your areas of weakness, whether it’s platform or writing ability.

If an agent says no to one book, there’s no law against submitting a different book to the same agent. But please, wait at least a couple months, maybe more. It’s definitely beyond annoying when I pass on a book, and the very same day, the author sends me another one. It just comes off as desperate or too eager or something. In that second query, mention that you’d previously queried a different book (otherwise the agent may go crazy with some weird sense of déjà vu from recognizing your name but not the project). As for a third book to the same agent, well, it’s up to you. It might be annoying, but it’s not against the rules or unprofessional.

If you’re writing in multiple genres, make your decision about whether to use a pseudonym based on your long-term career plans, not on some idea about it being easier to get an agent to read it. The work stands on its own, regardless of your name. The same principles apply: submit your best work first. One at a time. And if you submit twice to the same agent, say so in your query.

So let’s just get this out in the open: How many of you are unpublished and working on multiple projects simultaneously, with an eye toward publication for all of them? Are they the same genre or different? Why are you doing this? Inquiring minds want to know.

Rachelle Gardner, Christian Literary Agent, Colorado

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  • Anonymous

    >I have thousands of stories in my head clamoring to get out, of course I'm working on multiple books! :) I can't *NOT* write. So some days I want to work on the funny one, some days I want to work on the serious one, some days I want fantasy, some days I don't. Sticking to just one would be boring.

  • liz fenwick

    >I think it depends on how you define work on multiple books – I have 3 books in different stages. One is a dirty first draft at 80% – Two is a complete manuscript out in the market – Three is the rework of a previous book to bring it more in line with I have discovered is my style and voice (and now needs polishand review).

    Each of these is on-going and requires different parts of my brain so I can work on them together but I try and focus mostly on one (right now the push to complete the wip).

    A question following on from this for me is about the work in the market. I am looking to rework it but the feedback has varied (each agent has said a different things). Several published writers have advised me not to touch it as it is clearly publishable as is (it was rejected after a full read at Avon- from the slush pile- and 2 agents want to see again when I have reworked it according to their suggestions). Any thoughts on this situation. Do I keep submitting or stop now and revisit it?

    thanks

  • wellreadrabbit

    >I am, but maybe not in the way you're thinking, Rachelle (and it may be the same for the people asking these questions).

    I have three novels I'm working on, BUT I can only really work on one a time (in order to keep the characters and their motivations and all the plot complexities firmly in my mind). I'll do the first draft of one over a few months, then have a break from that and do the third draft of another. That way I've always had a few months breathing space between each draft, so I can come back to the story with fresh eyes and be much more objective.

    So LITERALLY I can only work on one at a time, but I do have multiple projects at different stages. Clear as mud? :)

    Katherine

  • Adam Heine

    >When I decided to get serious about getting published, I made a decision to work on only one project at a time. Otherwise, I'd never finish anything.

    In practice, that means outlines, brainstorms, and the occasional random scene are okay on any project, since I can't control when cool ideas will pop into my head. But active drafting is only allowed on one at a time.

    I write all with the intent to publish. After the first novel, I learned that may not happen. That's okay, but each one carries all my hopes and dreams as it goes out the door. I can't help but feel otherwise, unfortunately.

  • Gwen Stewart

    >Just one at a time for me, and in one genre. Though it may not reflect on the page, I try to throw many emotions, experiences, thoughts and angles into just one story. If I worked on more than one at a time, I'm afraid that one project work would get this part of me, and the other work would get another part. I'd rather pour it all into each book.

    But I'm often odd woman out in the way I do things. My mind does not work in a linear fashion. Writing from multiple outlines would melt me down in minutes–but I think (hope) there are as many ways to write well as their are writers. That's the beauty of creativity!

  • Glynis

    >I really needed to read this today. I have been reading of others advising that, it is good to have 2 or 3 novels to hand when submitting the first. I am writing my first, I put my time and energy into that one. I did have an idea for a second and have written it down, but have no intention of writing it until my first is finished. I was worrying that I was not up to scratch as a writer, if I could not produce more than one at a time. You have saved my brain, thanks

  • Timothy Fish

    >Anonymous 12:28, Thousands of stories? Really? Maybe you should talk to someone about that.

    I’m sure we all have multiple story ideas floating around in our heads. I’m working on a story I love right now, while paying attention to a few elements that I will need for the next one, but I’ve also got a couple more orphans out there. One that I think will work and one that I don’t know if it will work but it presents an interesting challenge. Then there’s my idea file. But I’m not working on all of those at once. They’re just floating around in my head and there’s not much I can do to stop it.

    But this weekend I started a new project without finishing the other one I’ve been working on, so you might say I’m working on two projects or at least have put one on hold. I came upon this subject the other day that has been covered by others but one that I thought would benefit from my point of view. I might have talked about it in my blog and to some extent I already have, but I couldn’t cover the topic in a blog the way I wanted to cover it. I’ve made it to page thirty-one. My plan is to complete that project and send it on its way, so I’m better able to focus my undivided attention on the novel. If I didn’t do that, I really would be writing two books at once.

  • Sharon A. Lavy

    >I thought my first book was finished before I started book two. When I got stuck on book two I went back over book one, editing and polishing. Then I went back to book two and made a bit more progress. When I got stuck again I went back to edit book one some more.

    I finally finished book two this spring and am just now putting book one down for a rest and doing the first major edit of the whole of book two.

    I have wanted to start book three as soon as I wrote the end on book two. But the muse won't let me start book three until I have edited book two.

    I was feeling bad about book three's non cooperation until I read your post.

    Thank you again for wonderful advice.

  • Ruth

    >Wow, I can't imagine working on several books at a time. I much prefer to focus just on one.

    That being said, of course I have other ideas. I have two ideas for sequels to my current WIP, and occasionally if I get a good short story idea I'll write that. But I wouldn't write two novel-length manuscripts at the same time – I don't think splitting my focus would help at all.

  • Lisa Jordan

    >I have two books in different stages–one is a women's fiction that is in the final edit/polishing stage and one is a contemporary romance that is being revised because I started it when I began writing a decade ago, but never completed it. I have a stronger grasp of the craft, so I'm making necessary changes and adding more changes.

    I'm not working on them side by side. Right now, I'm focusing on my contemporary romance, but when I get stuck for words, I will open my women's fiction and work on that one. Once I have a publisher's deadline, I will focus on one project, but even published authors have said they will be writing a book and edits will come back on a previous book so they set their current WIP aside to complete the edits on the book being published. I guess it's all in how you're able to work.

  • Holly Bodger

    >I have written four books: the first was women's fiction, the second chick-lit, the third children's and the final YA.

    I would not say that I work on more than once, but I have jumped back and forth. For example, after I wrote the second one, I went back and re-wrote the first. Then I worked on the fourth and now I am back on the second.

    I originally tried to find an agent for my first two books, but I am now glad that I was told to work on my writing before trying again. I absolutely hope to publish at least one of these one day, but at this time, I am still trying to discover in which genre I am most comfortable.

  • Krista Phillips

    >I'm unpublished, and here's what I'm currently working on:

    I have a FINISHED WIP that I've been revising for some time. Because I just added a small subplot to help beef up my sagging first chapter (I know I know… most have sagging middles, I had a sagging beginning, go figure!), I would like to go through and weave that throughout the book and do one last edit. I'll be working on that on and off all summer. It shouldn't take me long, and that's what I plan to pitch at ACFW in September.

    I have two other books that are going to be in that same series that I've partially finished. I started on the 2nd, but put it aside to start on the third because, well, that's a long funny story:-)

    Anyway, I've been encouraged that sometimes it's best, when pitching a series, to have the first book done and just proposals for the other two and maybe the first three chapters or so, so that's what I have. I still want to go back and finish it, but for me, I need a little time away from them so I can come back with fresh eyes.

    Given that, and the fact that a new story idea was bubbling in my head, I've just started my, technically, 4th book geared towards the "Love Finds You" series. I'm still editing my first book, but most of my time is focused on this new one.

    I guess, the answer for me, is that while I can't write "two books at the same time" I can edit one book and write another.

  • Wendy

    >I'm liking that idea file organization. I have one women's fiction completed and am currently writing my second women's fiction manuscript. After the first one, I started in on a non-fiction book, but the characters in this second novel (and the original idea) took over and I put the non-fiction piece aside. I'm certain I'll return to it.

    As far as getting them all published–a hope, something I'll work toward, but I refuse to become fixated on the publication process to the point I'm wasting valuable writing time. I also have two other solid book ideas waiting…waiting for me to work on them years down the road.

    I will say that I admire Katie's love of the craft and how she continually places herself in positions to learn.
    ~Wendy

  • Jason Crawford

    >I agree about multi-tasking…way overrated. But I also understand the need to take a break from a story and work on something else. I've been polishing my MG SF piece for about a year, now. And I'm starting to get the feeling that now it's time for something COMPLETELY different.

    So I plan to finish polishing the MG piece this year, then start another work–an historic romance (I know, it's sad). Then after a couple of months I'll pick up the MG piece again and polish a little more before submitting.

    Basically, I'm going to be done (relative term, I know) with the MG piece this year. Doesn't mean I won't market it and accept updates. But I'm not going to focus much more non-solicited energy into after this round of edits. From a writing perspective, it'll be time to move on…

  • WindyA

    >I'm one of those people who has multiple projects going on at the same time, so far all in the same genre, most at different stages of completion. I write as inspiration strikes, so depending on what project the thoughts in my head fit best with, that's the one I work on. If I'm just not sure, I settle the thoughts into a document where I keep ideas.

    I'm generally at least halfway through a project before a new seed plants itself in my head to start something new. So during revisions of one project, I may be working on the second half of one, beginning of another. For me, this has just seemed to work best. When I've focused on just one project, I ended up losing steam.

  • Gamer Girl

    >I'm currently unpublished, but what I do have is more than three books that I think are actually good enough to polish and submit in progress.

    I'm working on a series of probably seven books total. Right now, I'm working on 1, 2 and 3 of that series because they're sort of intertwined. It's an urban fantasy. And it's the first of the books I've worked on that I feel is saleable. (I finished my first novels in HS. While my friends enjoyed them, they are *not* publication quality.)
    Then, I have the a detective story with some characters I love to pieces and an unrequited romance as well.

    And last, but not least, I have an urban fantasty – cop novel that bit me. I thought it was a short story, but I'm not so sure anymore.

    (Of course, that doesn't count the hundreds of WIP's (works in progress) that I have floating around on my hard drive and in hard copy.)

  • Stina Lindenblatt

    >I have one book that is complete and has been requested (and rejected) by a number of agents. One agent asked for revisions, which I'll be sending shortly and another agent also has that version (full). And there is also a partial out there in agentland, but it's the out-of-date version.

    But as I wait, I've been working on a new novel (same genre) that should be ready this fall (after my writer's group has given me their valuable feedback). My plan is to query those agents first who were interested in my previous novel.

    Of course, here comes the tricky part. My initial novel was rejected for weak characterization and less than compelling writing the first time. It has improved immensely thanks in part to agent feedback and the book, Manuscript Makeover. But will that hamper my chances of requests for my new novel by those agents who had previously rejected novel #1? Or are they likely not going to remember the reasons for rejecting that novel? And do I mention that they requested the previous novel (which is basically setting me up for rejection)?

  • Kristen Torres-Toro

    >I write books one at a time because I simply can't focus on more than one story. However, because I am still actively seeking publication as opposed to having a contract, I currently have two completed manuscripts. Both are undergoing final revisions/evaluations. Ironically, the "last" book written has become the first book queried, simply because it makes a better "first book". And I haven't tried querying my "first" manuscript because of timing. Both stories I believe in and it doesn't matter to me what order they are published in. I figure it can't hurt to have a few "ready" for whenever I hear, "We'll take that first book. So what are you working on now?"

  • Kristen Torres-Toro

    >I write books one at a time because I simply can't focus on more than one story. However, because I am still actively seeking publication as opposed to having a contract, I currently have two completed manuscripts. Both are undergoing final revisions/evaluations. Ironically, the "last" book written has become the first book queried, simply because it makes a better "first book". And I haven't tried querying my "first" manuscript because of timing. Both stories I believe in and it doesn't matter to me what order they are published in. I figure it can't hurt to have a few "ready" for whenever I hear, "We'll take that first book. So what are you working on now?"

  • Katie

    >Hi Rachelle,

    Thanks for addressing my questions. Just so you know, I do only write one book at a time. I'm an excellent multi-tasker, but I'm not THAT excellent. My mind can only focus on one story, one set of characters at t time.

    The reason I say I'm revising three right now is because I'm constantly revising what I've already written…it's a never ending process. I only revise one story at a time as well. I'm going to put my foot down and say this summer is the last time I revise these stories…. I need to just stop revising and start submitting already or I might just drive myself bonkers. I've revised them so much that they are starting to blur a little.

    So, technically, I'm not working on more than one story at once. I have three stories that I've written. I just finished revising one, and now am working on my second. Once that's finished, I'll focus on my third. Then start submitting.

    Thanks again for the answers. I am not published. My goal is to be finished with revisions by the ACFW conference and let that be the beginning of my venture into submissions. I think I will submit my most recent story, since that is my strongest one.

  • David A. Todd

    >I am unpublished, with my first novel in the drawer (after eight rejections), and my second novel 20 percent done, and currently dormant–well, I have one untyped chapter to type, otherwise dormant. I'd love to get back to it, but given that the best advice I've seen is that even for novels you should have some type of platform, I've put book writing aside to do platform-building activities. I suspect that will consume the next couple of years at least.

    Meanwhile I'm working on several Bible studies. I co-teach an adult Sunday School class, and when it's my turn to teach I prepare my own lessons from my personnal study. I'm working all of these up into Bible study books for possible publication.

    Why go these multiple routes? Basically it's following where the creative juices take me, sort of like water seeking its own level. If I get home from work and a Bible study calls me, I write on that. If a novel calls me, that gets my attention. If non-fiction platform-building articles, then those. Occasionally a poem just won't wait.

    Confusing? Heck yes.
    DAT

  • Katie

    >I just want to echo wellreadrabbit's (Katherine's) comment, as she is exactly right. That's how I go about my writing. I'm not working on three stories in the sense that I think was assumed.

  • Karin

    >I have three completes MSS, but I'm only working on one. And each is in a separate genre, but here's the story:

    #1 was my first attempt, my "Can-I-write-80,000?" try. It's women's fiction (kinda dramatic). When I finished an edit, having people read it/suggest thing, and editing it again, I started #2 while submitting #1.

    #2 is a women's fiction with humor and romance. I'm still editing that one.

    #3 is speculative, and I wrote it during NaNoWriMo, just for something different. I haven't touched it since.

    With each MSS I didn't start the next until I had the previous one completed to my best ability. Now, however, I've learned so much more that I need to revise them all…but I'm only doing one at a time.

    These characters are becoming alive to me. When I think about going from one to the other it feels like I'm talking on the phone to a friend and constantly taking another call with someone else. I think each one deserves my undivided attention until we're done.

  • Jessica

    >I work on one manuscript at a time, usually, but I have more than one. It's actually because things move slow, I think, in the publishing world.
    I wrote my first one, it got rejected, so I paid for a critique. The harlequin critiquer wanted to "stress that you have written a beautiful and intriguing story." I had been prepared to shelve the manuscript… but that kind and encouraging comment convinced me to try to market the story. That was a year and a half ago and I'm still querying it. LOL
    BUT… I started a new book as I queried the first and the new book finaled in a contest. I finished that one, sent it to an editor and started a third one.
    Anyways, my writing has been fairly linear but things move slow, so unfortunately, once I exhaust my agent/editor submissions for the first book, I'm going to have a second ready to go. LOL Well, imo it'll be ready. Ha! We'll see what happens.
    Interesting questions. It was fun reading the answers here.

  • Teri D. Smith

    >I have a novel that is 90% edited, but even while I'm working on it ideas and bits of dialogue pop into my mind for the next one.

    I jot these ideas down and slip them into a file. This allows me to continue to focus on the one I'm editing, but gives me freedom to enjoy all the ideas that I can't stop for the next one. It seems like the closer I get to being done with the edits, the faster the ideas come for the new one.

    This is a blast!

  • Jess

    >I am a definite one-project gal. I tried to start a short story to hand in for a writing group, but found that it distracted me from my as-yet-uncompleted novel too much!

  • Dee Yoder

    >I have an old, half-finished project moldering in my laptop somewhere, but no–I haven't touched it since I began my new project. I can't think of any reason to go back and touch it either. It is THAT awful.

  • Aimless Writer

    >I have a few going but usually I just work on the stronger one. I've found that scattering my energy gets less done. I pick the one I love and run with it to the end.
    However, ideas pop up all the time so I'm forever writing a blurb and few pages about the new idea and filing it away for later.

  • nieshies

    >It's more of a "working on one, can't seem to drop the other five" situation.

  • Jeanie W

    >I write books one at a time, but I begin jotting down ideas for the next novel while I'm still working the first draft of the one ahead of it. I've tried writing short stories when I'm in the middle of a novel, but I find that leads to two mediocre projects instead of one strong one. I'm happier with novel-length, so that's where I now concentrate my energy.

    Although I read in a wide range of genres, middle grade adventure is my favorite to write. I expect to be sticking with it for a long time to come. I want to get really good at it.

  • Yvonne Blake

    >I think every writer has lots of ideas bouncing around in their noggin. They don't all have to be books.

    I have finished one historical novel (unpublished) and I'm working on its sequel. I have sold a few articles, and I'm writing a series of missionary stories. (maybe complied into a book someday)

    I participate in FaithWriter's and Christian Writers Forum's mini-contest challenges. My blog also helps to "release" some of the random ideas that don't fit anywhere. These ideas may someday be part of books, but in the meantime, they keep me growing and sharpening my skills.

  • Horserider

    >I know it sounds crazy, but I have three novels in progress, one that I'm rewriting and polishing at the same time, and two more on the shelf that I'm considering doing rewrites on (later though, when I'm not so busy.)

    The only problem I really have with multi-tasking while writing is having trouble remembering what the characters look like. Which I have when I'm only working on one at a time anyway.

    As long as the plot lines and genres are different so it's harder to get confused on where each story is going, why not? I started each project within two weeks of each other in the hope that if I had writers' block on one, I'd be able to work on another and get through it.

    One of my projects is a YA romance, and the other two…I'm not sure yet what they would fall under. But they're all different enough that it's quite impossible for me to mix them up.

  • Betsy Ashton

    >I definitely agree that you have to submit your best work. And what makes it best? Not that you like it more than the others — repeat after me, we all love our children equally. Submit the work that you have polished until it shines, have received impartial feedback on, and have reviewed every word for relevance. Only when you can do no better should you consider submitting your novel.

  • lynnrush

    >Interesting topic. I'm a one-book-at-a-time-writer….but, if I hit a slump with the project I'm currently writing, I'll jump into an older project and edit.

    I have two books going through critique groups right now…so I'm editing those as they come back, but working on a new project in the mean time.

    Now, I'm unpubbed as of right now, so maybe my process isn't the most polished yet, but I'm always open to suggestions from my writing mentors, that's for sure.

    Thanks for the post, great topic.

  • JStantonChandler

    >Hi Rachelle!

    I have always worked on more than one book at a time. It helps me figure out which story
    I'm "feeling" at that particular moment. As soon as one of them grabs me and won't let go, I know that's the one to focus on and I put the others away.

    That being said, I have four books currently written. The first was shopped around unsuccessfully for a year. I put it aside to work on a young adult series that had been running around in my brain for several years. Since it's a series, I finished all three books instead of finishing one and shopping it around. And I'm very glad I did! I discovered things in book two that helped clarify things that happened in book one. This forced me to go back to book one and better form those ideas. Also, I discovered that an initial idea I had which I removed, did work and I was able to go back into book one and shape the narrative around it.

    Short answer: I can only focus on one book at a time, but with a series, I have to look at the whole picture.

    And I wanted to have the first part of the series completed before I queried. If I'd sent out queries for book one before I'd finished the series, it would not have been as tightly woven as it is now.

    ~Jennifer

  • Arabella

    >I have been writing here and there on several novels for years and, because I've never focused on any of them, I know I will never finish them. They exist as a panacea for boredom.
    I have to be inspired–passionate about what I'm writing. I have, so far, finished several novels that sprung from inspiration. Out of those, I only feel that one is worth marketing. Inspiration does not necessarily make for a good novel–good idea, yes, but no guarantee on the other. (Honestly, I was just too young when I wrote my first books.)

  • Lisa Lawmaster Hess

    >I am published in the educational market and am working on a new book for the same market. In addition, my agent is trying to find a home for two works of fiction I have finished – a 'tween novel and a Christian chick lit novel. I'm working on a second book in the Christian chick lit market, and have a sequel for the first chick lit book started and on the back burner.

    It is sometimes confusing working on multiple projects, but I find it helpful to have more than one thing "cooking" at a time. If I get frustrated with one project, I can turn to another one where I might be more productive. I think that's a habit I developed because I started out freelancing for magazines, which often meant having several irons in the fire simultaneously.

    While I do agree that multi-tasking is overrated, I think writers with full-time day jobs are already accustomed to multi-tasking, and so this habit naturally extends itself to the writing life.

  • Kori

    >I've got one fantasy novel complete to the first draft, and I'm taking my 'breather' from it by working on a paranormal suspense. Also in the works are a 'crime' novel (mystery? suspense? what's the official term for that?) a YA novel featuring anthropomorphic animals, and a historical romance.

    I'm not working on all of them at once (except for maybe jotting notes down here and there as they occur to me) but they're all on the list. My excuse is, I read extensively. My book pile (i have no room in my bedroom for shelves) consists of Piers Anthony, Teresa Medeiros, Stephen King, Thomas Harris, Michael Crichton, J.K. Rowling, Tanya Huff, and that's just a brief skim of the top of the piles. Asking me to write in just one genre would be akin to asking Beethoven to compose a symphony using just one note. (Uh – not that I'm as good literately as Beethoven was musically. Just an example. XD)

    Something I've wondered about was is it considered uncouth to query to multiple agents for different projects? Ehh… If I query Agent A with a fantasy Book 1, but Book 2 is a mystery novel, and Agent A doesn't accept mysteries, am I allowed to query Agent B with the mystery? Or is it a … 'one agent per person' kinda business?

  • Terri Tiffany

    >Interesting post. I've finished two books and have begun querying those. The third one is in the revision stage. Two romance, one women's fiction with a romance thrown in.Must be I do romance best:)
    But each one took more than a year to write and prepare–and now I'm finally at the point to get them out there.

  • Jean

    >I flip between projects. But only between two. I have one that is in fine edits and the other needs bigger, first draft sort of edits. If I get burned out on one, I switch to the other.

  • Sharon Norwood

    >I have two books in the works but am only actively working on one, and will continue until it is finished (currently in the first round of rewriting). I do keep notes as ideas come to me for other works, but I leave it at that. I also work on articles and blogging as my "dessert" for a good day at noveling or if I need a break.

  • B. Jason Roer

    >Hey Rachelle,

    Evilgenius333 here! I've had my first book completed for just over 3 months and it's off to agents and editors. I've had plenty of requests for partials and fulls, and even a requested revision on the MS to cut word count. That agent also had fabulous ideas about the story! But I am as of yet unrepresented.

    So I decided to write another book for the time being. It's still the same genre – MG fantasy/adventure, but a whole new world completely unrelated to The Kringle Khronicles. My thought was since I don't know whether Kringle will get published, I should have something else prepared to send out.

    Cheers,

    Jason

  • Kathryn Magendie

    >I finished my first novel, and while I was letting that simmer, etc, I decided I needed to build up a "portfolio" of web and publishing credits, esp since my novel is "general" or "literary" fiction and that's harder to sell.

    So, I volunteered for Rose & Thorn ezine, sharpened my editing skills, made contacts with authors, published a few essays, stories, poetry, photography, built blogs, etc, and, while all that was happening, I challenged myself to write a novel in 30 days – and I did – 75,000 words in 30 days (of course, that was just a rough draft!). The character kept poking me, so I needed to write it.

    I think you can get too scattered if you aren't careful, but if you are prolific, and Honest with yourself and your goals and what you can accomplish, it's hard not to go on and write something else while you are figuring out what you'll do with the first effort, or are sending out queries. That said, I don't have multiples of novel manuscripts floating about half-finished -if a short story wants to become a novel, I put it aside for later.

    Now that the debut, first, novel is published, I'm working on the next one – and that 30day novel is still in my files: I'll wait until it's the right time for that one.

    I do agree that when you first start out writing "seriously" that you want to find that "voice" or style that is uniquely yours. Mostly, I just feel writers should do what makes them happy, what feels right to them, when they feel that excitement for the work there is no greater joy and feeling of accomplishment.

    As an aside, the only time I would submit another work to an agent or publisher is if they asked for more, or express some interest in my work; otherwise, I figure they just aren't interested in my style or voice.

  • Christian Mommy Writer

    >I have several ideas that I am mulling over in my head. I write based upon which one I get the best idea for throughout the day. :-)

    I'm still trying to get a feel for the market and determine which ideas would be more marketable.

    Your blog is very helpful and I recommended it to my blog readers.

  • SM Blooding

    >I've written SEVERAL books, at one time, I was writing at least three at the same time. However…my multitasking button is broken. I can't do it anymore! To many characters getting mixed together in the wrong books and being in the wrong places and…it's just a mess if I try to do that now.

    I still have a LOT of book ideas. I think I could write 2-3 books a year until I'm 90 and still not be done with all of them. BUT I write them one at a time now. I revise them one at a time…or I'll revise one on the computer as I'm editing the other hard copy. *shrug* But that's revisions and only when there are no more major revisions left.

    Do I sell more than one at a time. Heck yeah! I have…well, lots of books. I have two series that are going out the door now that have been revised at least three times. I have a bunch more that need to be revised again if I feel like they're a good idea again. Just because I wrote it doesn't mean it needs to be sold.

    So…to get back on target. I don't write them at the same time anymore. I just can't. I still write multiple books in a year. Multiple genres. Already have my pen names picked out. But I still sell them at the same time. No. I ATTEMPT to sell them at the same time. Haven't accomplished that yet.

  • Toni Anderson

    >Rachelle, so glad you touched upon this subject.

    I am published with a small press and I have several manuscripts finished and I'm currently working on two others. One of the reasons for this is I had an agent and we worked on one manuscript together for a LONG time and then we parted company (amicably). While I was waiting for her comments I wrote a second manuscript, so when we parted company I had two finished manuscripts (not counting a couple on my hard disk that I am not sending out). And while querying new agents with the first two projects (which to choose???), I've written another manuscript (first draft). Because aren't we told not to waste time, but to keep homing our craft while we wait for responses?

    It can get tricky :)

  • Lynda Schab

    >Great topic! I have one complete ms, Mind over Madi, that took 2nd last year in the Genesis chick lit. It's a mom lit (no, wait. It's women's fiction with elements of humor) and I'm currently doing some major editing on it, getting it ready to (hopefully) pitch in Denver.

    In the meantime, I started two other novels – I entered both in the Genesis this year. One got two almost-perfect scores and one pretty-far-from-perfect score that put me out of the running for finalist. It's a Women's Fiction and I love it but it has been transferred to the back-burner for now.

    The other is a chick-litty-type mystery (sorry for the term. I know you cringe when you hear "chick lit". :-). This one actually finaled in the mystery/suspense category. However, it is only a few chapters in and that one sits on my other back-burner until I finish and pitch Mind over Madi. Incidentally, MoM is a projected series. So I guess I'll wait and see what type of feedback I get at the conference before I decide whether to start on book #2 in the series or move on to one of my back-burners.

    So I guess you could say I DO work on more than one at a time. And when I'm working on one, I can focus pretty well, so that's a good thing.

    Here's another questions for you, Rachelle. When entering contests that only require the first 25-35 pages, do you recommend having the entire ms finished or doesn't it really matter? Mind over Madi actually finaled in a RWA chapter contest in 2007 and was requested by an agent but I didn't have it near done. Even though I finally finished it, she would probably never remember me, although she will be in Denver. Should I approach her with it?

    Sorry for this extremely long-winded comment. Thanks for all of the awesome info you include on your blog!

  • Jana

    >When I began reading this blog about a year ago, I promptly put away a non-fiction "self-help" that I didn't have time to promote. The 45K worth of meandering historical fiction got shelved because I'm not good enough to write that one yet and don't want to waste a single bullet.

    I started completely fresh with something fun and new that will sell. Am halfway into the first draft. All incoming inspirations and ideas go straight to the idea file, where they may get their turn. Thanks Rachelle for your good advice along the way, it has helped me focus.

  • Toni

    >I finish them one at a time, but the query process intimidates me, so my finished-and-critiqued manuscript pile just keeps growing.
    Thank you for answering this question. The timing is uncanny.
    Next will you explain how a writer who is confident in her work can get past insecurities about queries? The pressure of having to sell the book without letting the book sell itself is too great for me.

  • Rose McCauley

    >I am doing a partial rewrite on my WF after speaking with Rachelle at WTP. In the mean time, I am still plotting the second book in that series in my head and even brainstormed it this past weekend with a couple other writing buddies, but I want to finish the re-write of the first book before I actually start writing the second one. That said, I am also doing the brain work for an anthology proposal with 3 other authors that I need to write one chapter and a synopsis for by the end of Aug. And I also need to do a rewrite of another fisished MS soon, so I have a busy summer ahead. But I will work on one project at a time as far as the actual writing goes.

  • jill

    >I have three books in various definitions of 'completed' and three in progress. I queried one of the completed ones a few years ago while writing others, got no responses and took the book apart a couple of times to make sure the plot wasn't the problem (still trying to decide if that's the case).
    Am currently working on chapter-by-chapter edits of another finished book with a crit group and writing another. When it gets finished (or stuck), I'll move onto one of the other two currently stuck waiting for something to gel in my brain.

  • Liana Brooks

    >I'm an unashamed plot whore. I work on multiple books at once.

    My main WIP is being edited and redrafted. When it's done I'll hand it off to be beta-readers for a month and work on the first rough draft of another novel.

    This way I'm always writing, but I get a break between major edits for a project and some necessary head space.

    I have previous novels tucked under the bed in multiple genres. But sci-fi is my main interest and so I'm focusing on writing, editing, polishing, and querying those first. If, after I've been published, the other genres still grab my attention I'll talk to my agent about dusting them off and seeing if they can sell. But that's years down the road :o)

  • SM Blooding

    >Toni said: Next will you explain how a writer who is confident in her work can get past insecurities about queries? The pressure of having to sell the book without letting the book sell itself is too great for me.

    I recommend writing pals. I have several in The Novel Workshop and we just finished going over each others' query packets and support each other through the submitting process. Each of us have our querying "buddies", I guess you could call them, so that if someone–namely ME–starts to slack on querying (I go crazy. "Oh, I'm being rejected because my pitch sucks and my chapter one needs to be at chapter 5 and chapter 6 needs to be the new chapter 1." I can go insane!) then we'll whip each other into shape.

    Air is my buddy. She will–GADS. She's awesome. She'll tell me to shut up! Stop what the frell I'm doing. My freakin' query letter is just FINE the way I have it. Chapter 6 works better as Chapter 6, so leave it alone. And get that stinkin' book back out there! Dang it.

    *nods* Honestly, that's what I need.

  • rasheeda

    >I'm working on multiple projects at once, but I can only actively work on one project at a time, if that makes sense.

    While my first novel was out for reads with my critique groups/friends, I started working on a second novel. I'm about 50,000 words into that second novel and delaying working on my revisions for my first novel until my vacation next week, when I plan to hunker down and do a final edit.

    I think it's fine to have several projects in the hopper, but realistically, you can only devote real time to one project.

    However, I think when that second project really gets going, it can be hard to tear yourself away to focus on the project that is in the final stages and should be focused on.

  • Dara

    >I used to be a "one project only" person–until recently.

    I'd been focusing so much on my other novel the last three, almost four, years that the creative juices sort of ran dry for that project. Anything I wrote sounded forced and fake.

    Then another idea popped in my head–one that I couldn't ignore even though I tried–and now I've switched gears. I still work on my first project and in fact, the new project help get some of those juices flowing again (even if at a trickle) for the other novel.

    I suppose it also depends on my mood too and which characters decide their story is more important at the moment :)

  • Rachel

    >I can only work on one thing at a time. I find writing to be all-consuming, and my real life provides ample distraction…

  • Marie

    >Wow, I'm glad to know I'm not alone in working on multiple books at once! I don't jump back and forth too often, though. For example, right now I have 2 WIPs that are both about 40% done, but my energy is currently focused on finished manuscript #1, for which an editor has requested revisions on the full. Usually I will work on several manuscripts until each is about 25,000 words in. Then I tend to pick one (i.e. my favorite at that time) and take that to completion. Then I go back and finish up a second one, and so on.

    I do like working on several stories at once because it keeps my brain and writing nice and loose. Sometimes I will dig myself into a deep rut or block with one story….I find that if I take a break from that story by working on a different story, the words start flowing again and I feel refreshed when I return to the first story.

  • Carradee

    >*raises hand* I have LOTS of projects on my bookshelf. Most only get looked at when I get epiphanies or need a break from the worlds I'm in.

    I'm focusing primarily on 2 projects, with a 3rd shorter project sidelined for when I hit writer's block, which means something's wrong and I need a break so I can find the problem:

    1. a high fantasy YA novel that's on revision #3 or 4 (depending on how you count it)

    2. an urban fantasy YA novel that's in the first draft, plotted out except for the hiccups that are appearing in the drafting

    3. an urban fantasy serial novelette that's based in the same world as a currently shelved novel idea. It's helped me with the worldbuilding for the shelved novel. I know basically what I want in the plot, but I'm still working out how to get there, so I'm a rougher first draft stage with this one than with project #2.

    It's nice to have the variability, because when I feel like smashing my head open instead of spending one more second in one world, I have another all ready for a visit. (And a few others that I can dream about visiting when I get done with what I'm currently working on, including a few that I know I lack the skill to pull off.)

    Unfortunately, projects 2 and 3 are similar in genre, and both worlds have vampires and werewolves. It takes some concentration to remember which type of vampire/werewolf goes with which story.

  • Frances Davis

    >I have a memoir of my thirty years as a Labor nurse which is completed, but is now in the revise and polish stage. I don't think it is ready for submission at this point, and I know my platform isn't ready yet.

    I have also been working on parts of a novel, but that will be quite a while before it will be finished. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

  • Miss Mabel

    >I focus on one at a time. When I was in school and couldn't give a lot of focus to my novel that needed editing and re-writing, THEN I allowed myself to start planning and brainstorming out my next novel. But since I graduated, I only spend time on the one that needs editing. And that's the only one I'll work on, until the queries go out. :-) Then I can reward myself by getting back to the new one!

  • D.I. Telbat

    >Well, it looks like I have plenty of company! I too work on several projects at different stages at a time. If I'm writing the first draft of a book, I'm pretty focused until it is finished. But during that project, I might get excited about another idea or two, so I stop to write up an outline and character sketch, then I go back to project #1.

    I only write with publishing in mind, but realistically, I know many are not publishable. I've written in several genres, but I've narrowed my interest down to mostly action/adventures.

    I finally found someone to work with me on editing and to get my projects out the door. We chose one novel that my editor felt had promise, but it was over 600 pages. It needed to be split, so I suddenly had two novels. As my editor worked on bk #1, I started writing bk #3. When I got the edited version back on #1, I wrote the next draft. I gave it back to her then wrote #4 in this series. The queries for bk #1 are out the door finally, and as bk #2 is being edited, I am writing #5. There is nothing I would rather be doing. It's a good thing, because I can't stop.

  • Heather

    >I guess I read this as related to a series. I did full-length first-push (need serious editing) of all six books in the series that I had planned before I went back and reworked/revised and then eventually submitted the first one. The primary reason being that there was an over-arching story-line that needed to get put down on paper with things in book #1 affecting things in book #4 and so on and so on. (I didn't want it to be a series that just went on for the sake of going on or that the books didn't seem inter-related or had timeline or plot inconsistencies.)

    So, when I query, should I indicate that this first book that I'm submitting is intended as part of a series with full length drafts of the next five manuscripts available for review? That's my take on this question, but maybe that's just me.

  • Sharon M. Smith

    >I have three books in me just panting to come out, but I decided to just concentrate on one until it is completed and, hopefully, published. After that, my next one is ready and I interview here and there on the second one when the opportunity arises. The third one, well I think about it every time I am going on a walk or driving alone. The plot thickens and I can't wait to write it down! So, I’m back to completing the first to finish the next two.

  • Lill

    >I'm not completely unpublished. I have a fair amount of magazine and work-for-hire pieces under my belt, as well as a picture book from a new small publisher. Over the last fifteen years or so while I've mainly written to pay bills and have a bit of spending money, I also have been working on my true love .. middle grade novels. And I've worked on more than one over the years. Some have been abandoned or put on the back burner. But there are three front runners. Excerpts of one won a contest judged by a well known and revered author in that particular genre. I finished that one and it is currently being shopped around to agents. Another, which got a a request after a paid conference critique, is undergoing I don't which number of revision, and I predict it will be finished soon. The third one … well it's waiting on the second one to be finished.

    So I'm one of those writers who writes, but doesn't sub. My game plan, a mistaken one perhaps, was to finish a body or work before I began submitting to agents. But in the meantime, bits and pieces of these works have been winning contests and getting very positive agent/editor critiques at conferences.

    I've been writing for a long time and assembling my best work, and not venturing out into the market until I had a fare sampling of my wares to show. That doesn't mean I'm trying to publish everything I've produced in fifteen years. It means I have a small collection of the best, representative of many years of honing my craft.

    As far as the multi-tasking goes, I write the way I cook Thanksgiving dinner. If you didn't start the pie and the sweet potatoes until AFTER the turkey was done, you'd be in trouble. Various manuscripts are in various stages of preparation. After a draft or revision, I set a piece aside and work on another, so that I always have something cooking even if something else is cooling.

    (My apologies if this comes out twice .. I thought I sent it .. but here it is on my screen again waiting on word verification.)

  • carolinestarr

    >I work on one, submit, start another. With many pieces in the mail, I'm not left haunting the mailbox.
    Rachelle, your comment on genres is interesting. I write for children but work within many "sub genres", I guess you could say: middle grade, a YA novel-in-verse, and picture books. Too unfocused in your view? I love the swing from novel to picture book from a creative standpoint.

  • akira

    >I almost complete my book and may be someone can help me:
    Can I submit my book to more than 1 literary agents at the same time? This is to save time just in case my proposal is rejected by the agent.

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  • Tina

    I am working on 3 books. One laying on the backburner till my first bok is done is a non-fiction book.

    Currently, I have one main- a book that is planning to start a series, as long as the agent likes it.

    I also have my distraction, a mystery. If I loose track on my series, I”ll transfer over. Sometimes I’ll spend time working on that.

    It’s a mystery, and I think it’ll be worthy.

    WHen my main series book, I’ll turn to PST as a distraction and my mystery as my main. Then I’ll head to my second book as my distraction.

    I am keeping two on the focus, a fiction series book. It’s my first book, and I think it’ll be worthy, even though I’ll have to arrange the series that comes with it.

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