Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Learning to Switch Writer Hats

By Carol Riggs, @Artzicarol

Part of the How They Do It Series

Writers wear a lot of different hats these days, and juggling projects is more the norm than the exception. It brings me great pleasure to welcome long-time Fic-U reader Carol Riggs to the lecture hall today to share her thoughts and experiences on managing the ever-changing roles as a writer. I had the privilege of reading an ARC of her novel, Bottled, and if you're looking for a creative and entertaining take on the life of a djinn, I suggest you give it a peek.

Carol is an author of young adult fiction who lives in the beautiful green state of Oregon, USA. Her novels include her sci-fi debut, The Body Institute, as well as the newly released Bottled and The Lying Planet. She enjoys reading, drawing and painting, writing conferences, walking with her husband, and enjoying music and dance of all kinds. You will usually find her in her writing cave, surrounded by her dragon collection and the characters in her head.

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Take it away Carol...

One Hat Writer

Back in the 1990s when I first started writing, I created with leisure. I followed my muse, wrote when I wanted (frequently!), and focused on one project at a time. I was single-minded, a dog with a bone who started novels and chewed on them until they were finished. I was organized. No new projects could ever, ever begin until the first one was finished and wrapped up oh-so-neatly. That way I could keep the tone, voice, and plot details straight and consistent in my mind—I wouldn’t even read novels by other writers until I had completed my own work. My reading “research” for YA other novels occurred only in between my own writing projects.

I wore my writer hats in a very strict order: Drafting Hat first for a novel, then Revision Hat, then Polishing Hat. Inconceivable, to think of changing novels in midstream and messing up this very important order. I needed to keep the same flow and mindset to write my best for each manuscript.

The Multiplying Hats

As a newly single mother, I stopped writing from 2000-2009. But in 2009, I returned with renewed excitement and optimism. After I wrote one novel to get back into the groove of things, I wrote another that snagged the attention of an agent. Once I signed with her in April 2011 for The Body Institute (then titled Shapers), things began to change. That new dystopian I was writing? It had to be set aside while I launched into a major overhaul with her on my debut novel: rewriting the entire ending, changing the POV from third to first person, and shuffling whole scenes around. While wearing my Revision Hat for my debut, I worried I’d never be able to get back into the mood of drafting my new novel, which at the time was called Safe Zone.

Once I finished my first round of revision for my debut, I tentatively revisited Safe Zone and slipped my Drafting Hat back on. It felt strange and fit so…weird. But I re-read the entire manuscript over to remind myself of its flavor and characters, and eased back into it. After the initial awkwardness, I finished and polished it. Then I excitedly started a new novel titled Bottled, a YA fantasy novel inspired by “I Dream of Jeannie” that I’d watched as a young girl. I finished the rough draft. I put on my Revision Hat for that novel and eagerly started to work, when lo and behold, my agent’s line edits came due on my debut, which had to be done before we could go on submission. Argh. Time to swap hats!

And Yet More Multiplication

With that Polishing Hat work completed for my debut, I returned to revision on Bottled, then polishing. Whew, good timing, because I’d meanwhile been on submission with my debut, and an editor made a Revision and Resubmit request. I slapped on the Revision Hat again! After that, I made a leap back into my Drafting Hat for a new YA fantasy. Two-third into wearing that: a switch back to my Revision Hat for my debut, which had gotten rejected by the R&R editor but accepted for publication by Entangled Teen. Then back to the Drafting Hat for my fantasy. Then a swap to the Polishing Hat for my debut. Then onto the Revision Hat and the Polishing Hat for my fantasy work-in-progress. Then hey, how about the Drafting Hat for experimenting with writing a MG/middle grade novel… (Are you dizzy yet?)

But wait. I haven’t even gotten to this year, in 2016, where TWO of my books were released, one in July and one in September. This winter, the hats were switching so fast, they were a blur. Safe Zone was rewritten as sci-fi, acquired by Entangled Teen, and retitled The Lying Planet. In between Revision and Polishing Hats for that, I wore Revision and Polishing Hats for Bottled—twice I had to switch on the SAME DAY from one manuscript to the other.

The Hat of it All

Was I getting used to switching hats all the time? Absolutely. Could I manage to ease into the tone and voice of each book successfully? Well, I gave it a good old college try, because I HAD to. It was no longer a leisurely choice. Wearing hats in the proper order and not switching back and forth between manuscripts is ideal for me, but I’ve definitely quit being strict about it. And oddly enough, the more I do it, the easier it has become to switch.

Once writers are published and have multiple manuscripts going, things are in constant flux—one project is on submission, one is on the back burner, one is being drafted, one is being revised, etc. Prepare yourself to change hats more frequently once you’re published. If you’re already a multi-tasker, great! but for some of us more controlled, tightly organized types, it can be quite the challenging adjustment.

Now, I switch hats with abandon and even read other novels while I’m drafting (because if I didn’t, I’d never get any reading done). I did it. You can too! Have fun out there with all those hats.

About Bottled

At seventeen, Adeelah Naji is transformed into a genie and imprisoned in a bottle. For a thousand years, she fulfills the wishes of greedy masters—building their palaces, lining their pockets with gold, and granting them every earthly pleasure. All that sustains her is the hope of finding Karim, the boy she fell in love with as a human. When at last she finds a note from her beloved, she confirms he has access to the elixir of life and that he still searches for her.

But someone else also hunts her. Faruq—the man who plots to use her powers to murder and seize the life forces of others—is just one step behind her. With the help of a kind master named Nathan, Adeelah continues to search for Karim while trying to evade Faruq. To complicate matters, she begins to experience growing fatigue and pain after conjuring, and finds herself struggling against an undeniable attraction to Nathan.

As Faruq closes in, Adeelah must decide just how much she’ll risk to protect Nathan and be with Karim forever. How much power does she really have to change her future, and what is she willing to sacrifice for an eternity of love? If she makes the wrong choice, the deaths of many will be on her hands.


  1. Thanks for featuring me here on your blog, Janice! :o)

  2. Thanks Carol! This is something I'm struggling with now. I have the leisure to begin and stop projects as I please but I wonder if/when the day comes I'm finally published if I'll be able to do more than one project a year.

  3. Carol, good to know it's normal for multitask writers to change hats. I do that as a co-author of two books and writing one at the same time. Not published yet, all are WIPs. Glad I read your post. Made me feel better. Christine

  4. Carol, good to know it's normal for multitask writers to change hats. I'm co-authering two books, and writing my own at the same time. All WIPs. Glad I read your post. Made me feel better! Christine