1. You're querying agents. Congratulations! As we've talked about before, this is a distinct stage in your career, worthy of celebration. But here's the thing: agents can be slow, and this process can take forever. Years. (If you've got a horror story, share it in the comments. Don't name names, please!) I know from talking to my authors that this stage-- the waiting game-- can be incredibly painful, because it feels like your most cherished dream (and your novel! your baby!) is now in someone else's hands. Start the next book. If I love the project you queried me about, I'm going to ask you what's next, because I'm looking to build your career, not just sell one book. If you're midway through your next book when you get The Call, you'll have something great to tell me about.
2. Your novel is on submission to publishers. So now you've got an agent on your team, or maybe you've taken matters into your own hands and are submitting the novel to publishers who don't require that their submissions are agented. Again, this is a stage worthy of celebration-- but again, it can feel like everything is in someone else's hands. Take your mind of the submission process, since there's not much you can do at this point, and start another novel. Best case scenario: you've got the next one underway when your publisher wants to make the next deal; worst case scenario: the one on submission doesn't sell, but you're hard at work on a new novel so you can try again soon.
3. You've stalled out on your WIP. Opinions vary on the efficacy of multitasking. (That was maybe the worst sentence I've ever written, sorry.) Some people like to focus on one task at a time, seeing it through to completion without so much as thinking about the next task. Some people, myself among them, prefer to have a lot of different things going at once and toggle between tasks when they get bored or need a break. If you're stuck on a tough scene in your work in progress, open a new Word document, or take out a new notebook, and start playing around with something new. The break from the WIP may mean you come back to it with fresh eyes, and that tough scene might not feel so tough anymore.
4. The WIP is fine, but your new idea is noisy. Now, I don't want you doing this if you're on deadline-- if you've promised the manuscript to your publisher by a given date, please move heaven and earth to keep to that schedule. But if your schedule is a little more flexible than that, give the new idea a chance to breathe. You never know which of your manuscripts will turn out to be The One.
5. You've got writer's block. Change your usual writing spot-- take your laptop to the kitchen table instead of sitting at your usual desk. Try writing by hand if you usually type everything. Try typing if you usually write by hand. Steal a plot from Shakespeare or a fairy tale or Jane Austen. Don't worry about whether it's any good. Just start writing.
6. The novel's been accepted for publication. Congratulations! Not only have you sold the book, but your editor's told you that your revisions look great and they're sending the manuscript for copyediting and typesetting. It's pretty much out of your hands at this point. Start the next one before you get too busy promoting the book's publication and obsessing over its Amazon sales ranking.
7. You're scared to start. Start.
8. You've done six books' worth of research. If you're the research-y type, it's never going to feel like enough research. Just dive in already. I promise you can go back and look at more primary source material if you really need it along the way.
9. You're revising your WIP. One of my authors and I had a discussion last week about how the writing brain and the revising brain are two different, well, brains. I think shaking up your processes can be really good for your creativity-- for both the manuscript you're revising and the one you're just starting.
10. You've just self-published your latest. Congratulations! Time to start the next one. One of the upsides and the downsides of self-publishing is that everything moves so much faster; to build the largest possible fanbase, I think you'll find you need to write faster, too.
11. Because you'll never run out of excuses not to.
So what's your next book going to be about?