Durham author Jen McConnel is the author of the new adult novel The Secret of Isobel Key (out from Bloomsbury Spark and Audible for Bloomsbury) and most recently of Daughter of Chaos, a contemporary Durham-set young adult novel of witches and choices just released from Raleigh-based Month9Books [IndieBound | Kobo| Kindle]. She’s also published in non-fiction, as we briefly touched on in a Carolina Book Beat interview last month, and has a few more novels already well on the way. For “The Hardest Part”, the prolific McConnel tackles the juggling act of pursuing shiny new projects versus the hard work of revision.
By Jen McConnel: The Hardest Part: Writing After Publication
For me, writing is always my center. Whether I’m drafting, revising, or simply courting a shiny new idea, I often refer to my writing work as “play”. Perhaps because of this lighthearted approach, I wasn’t prepared for the hardest part of my writing journey: writing after publication.
Some writers have talked about the sophomore slump, the fears and joys and insanity that come with writing your second book after you make a sale, but luckily, that hasn’t been something I’ve experienced. The biggest reason I’ve avoided the sophomore slump? I took that old advice to heart, and kept writing and writing and writing, no matter what. I wrote so many “next things” that by the time I had sold my first book to a publisher, I had a substantial backlist of finished, polished, manuscripts just waiting for homes.
It’s that same writing process, however, that has led me to the hardest part of the journey. Because I have so many finished books, and so many contracted books, I can no longer keep going at my old pace. I’ve got tantalizing ideas waiting for me to play with them, but I also know that I will be expecting edits on upcoming books, and so instead of plunging ahead and writing another draft, I’ve been caught in a no-man’s land of waiting.
Sometimes, I know a pretty detailed editorial schedule for a project, and I can plan accordingly. Other times, however, I find myself anticipating edits for a week…a month…maybe even two, putting off working on anything new to keep my head clear and ready to dive back into the old project when the time comes.
For someone who’s used to fast drafting, this new situation is incredibly challenging. Sure, I could putter away at a new project, but ninety-nine percent of the time, I write chronologically through a draft, only stopping and moving on when the entire story is down on the page. I really hate leaving projects in the middle (because I have a bad habit of not coming back to them when I do that), but I also know that I’m happiest (and at my most sane) when I’m writing or working on my books in some way.
Recently, I’ve tried using novellas to fill the space between making a book deal and diving into edits, and that’s been a lot of fun, but I write novellas even faster than I anticipated, and now I’ve added to the bulk of back work. It’s a vicious cycle. Stopping writing isn’t the answer; I’d break if I stopped playing with words. However, I’m slowly trying to train my brain to branch out and include other things in my “writing” category. Today, I made a collage of the setting of one of the stories I’m getting ready to edit, to help me find the visual head space to begin re-entry into that world. Maybe later this week, I’ll take some time to revisit some of my favorite books on the craft of writing, or perhaps I’ll do some character charting. There are possibilities aplenty, as long as I can move away from feeling like I have to be putting words on the page constantly. Eventually, I’ll feel more caught up, and then I can dive back into drafting, but right now, that’s not what my writing needs to look like.
The hardest part about writing after publication? It’s not just about writing anymore.
About Jen McConnel
Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. A graduate of Western Michigan University, she also holds a MS in Library Science from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches college writing composition and yoga. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time. Her fiction titles include the Daughter of Chaos (YA), The Secret of Isobel Key (NA), and the forthcoming sequel, Her Secret Inheritance. Beautiful Curse, McConnel’s contemporary retelling of the myth of Psyche and Cupid, is due out in December from Swoon Romance.Visit http://www.jenmcconnel.com to learn more.