Balancing Writing and Editing as an Indie Author

Over the past month, I’ve been engaged in two separate writing projects. I’m writing a brand new novel, tentatively titled Calibot’s Revenge, and I’m moving the sequel to State of Grace, Red Dragon Five, through the editing process. I’ve become increasingly convinced that having a broad catalog is a key component of publishing success (if they like one of your books, you should have another available for them to buy immediately), and, here in the early stages of my career, expanding my list of published works doesn’t happen quickly.

Once I finished the second draft of Red Dragon Five and sent it to the editor, I had a good chunk of time that wasn’t being used for creative purposes. So I started another book, with the plan to always be working on a new publishing project for the foreseeable future. I’d like to be publishing two books and a short story a year for the next few years.

I got 16 chapters into Calibot’s Revenge when the edits came back on Red Dragon Five. So, as planned, I stopped writing and shifted gears into editing/rewriting mode. I spent a week going over all the edits and making changes to the manuscript. Then I sent it back to my editor for another dissection. With Red Dragon Five back off my plate, I returned this week to writing Calibot’s Revenge.

That’s where I ran into trouble.

It was easy enough to shift my mind out of one world (the one I was creating) to the other (the one I’d already created and was now fine-tuning). But going back again was a lot harder.

With a fully developed novel in front of me (a novel that is a sequel), it was a simple matter to put my mind into that world. I read what I’d written. I read my editor’s comments. I made adjustments.

But the world of Calibot’s Revenge is still taking shape. I’m creating it from scratch, and, even if this is a reworking of an older project, it’s still not completely formulated.

Editing and writing, I’d forgotten, are two entirely different skills. They both require a strong command of language and are both critical to a satisfying, well constructed read. But writing requires you to fabricate something from scratch, while editing is working with existing material. Neither is more important than the other, but they aren’t the same thing. Put something on my desk and ask me to tinker with it, and I can go to work almost immediately. But ask me to start from nothing, and that requires preparation.

Another part of the issue is the nature of how I write. I blogged earlier that it took me awhile to warm up for Calibot’s Revenge. I write most successfully when I do it at roughly the same time every day, churning out about the same number of words. Once I hit that rhythm, I can crank out chapters pretty regularly and successfully. But I’ve got to get into the mode first.

I’d hit a rhythm with Calibot’s Revenge. The story was pulsing through my mind, and I had found the sweet spot was 1500- to 2000-word chapters. I got one out at day on average.

When I took a week or so off to work on Red Dragon Five, I disrupted that tempo. Now I have to get it back.

This week has not been as productive as I’d like with Calibot’s Revenge. I’ve written just over two chapters as of this morning. It’s been clunky getting going again. I’ve written scenes instead of chapters.

But yesterday, I wrote an entire chapter from stem to stern, and I’m excited for what I’ll be writing today. I’m finding the pace again.

Of course, next week, I’m supposed to get the next draft of Red Dragon Five back, and that will disrupt the rhythm again. That’s okay, though. I’m staying on target. I’m using my work time to craft a book, so I can expand my catalog. Red Dragon Five is due out in November. I’d like to have Calibot’s Revenge published in February. If I keep this up, I’ll stay on target.

But flipping that mental switch between writing and editing, between Calibot’s world and Wolf Dasher’s, is a continual challenge.

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