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Friday, May 10

How to Write New Novels When You’re on a Deadline

By Jodi Meadows, @jodimeadows

Part of The Writer’s Life Series


JH: Juggling projects is hard enough before you're published, but it becomes even tougher after that dream comes true. Please welcome NYT Bestselling author Jodi Meadows to the lecture hall today, to share tips on writing new novels while handling the ones you've already written (or sold).


Jodi Meadows wants to be a ferret when she grows up and she has no self-control when it comes to yarn, ink, or outer space. Still, she manages to write books. She is the author of the INCARNATE Trilogy, the ORPHAN QUEEN Duology, and the FALLEN ISLES Trilogy (HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen), and a coauthor of the New York Times bestsellers MY LADY JANE and MY PLAIN JANE (HarperTeen). She lives in rural Virginia.

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Take it away Jodi…

Publishing can make it really hard to write new things.

Jodi Meadows
Before I was published, when I had a new idea, I could either drop what I was doing and write the new thing, or—more commonly—just finish what I was writing and then get started on the new thing. Since I wrote drafts pretty quickly, I could move from story to story with very little waiting for the Shiny New Idea. I didn't have publishing schedules to juggle. There were no deadlines followed by nothing followed by tight deadlines followed by nothing followed by copyedits due in a week. Not to mention that I didn't have to do the marketing and other author work!

Post-publication, I have to squeeze new drafts into those in-between weeks. I don't get to sit in the story for months at a time, letting it dominate my thoughts throughout the day. No, that all-important daydream time has to get scheduled like everything else. It's not really convenient for how my stories prefer to work.

Since I'm sure I'm not the only one who struggles with juggling, here's what works for me:

1. When the new idea sparks, I don't wait—I take notes right away.


I try to be clear about how I see the story, the big ideas, the small ideas, what really interests me about it. If I have an idea about it, I write it down. There are no guarantees I'll remember it.

(Here’s more on Why OneNote is One-Derful for Writers)

2. I rely on outlines.


I'd been shifting to a planner before I got published, but now I really rely on outlines to make sure I never forget where I'm going. If I have time to make a full outline, I do it. Even if I don't have time to make a complete outline, I make notes about where I want to go and any ideas I have about how to get there. But seriously, on the last project I had to squeeze between contracted work, my outline saved the story.

(Here’s more on A Quick Way to Outline Without Outlining)

3. Sense memory is really powerful.


I use music for this, and you can too, but you could also try scented candles, or locations, or even foods. I recommend against getting into the habit of needing something in order to write, but using a sense to get you back into the mood or world of the story can really help.

4. Use pockets of time wisely.


Have a few days after a deadline but before edits come in? This is your time to write a chapter, or go back and edit what you already have. (I find it easier to hop in and edit for a few days than hop in and draft, but you might feel differently.) This can both help you get into the mood to work on the story again, and give you a cleaner draft when you do finish.

(Here’s more on Write in the Small Spaces)

5. Be ready to revise.


Writing a book in chunks—10k here, 24k there—is different from writing it all in one go. Obviously. But for me, the problems that show up in my finished drafts are different from those I end up with when I can just write the whole thing at once. I have to trim out redundancies (useful for me but not good for the story), or go back and make sure the tone flows throughout, and check for (sometimes major) inconsistencies between chunks.

It can be tricky to figure out how to go back and forth between projects and fit the new thing into your publishing schedule, but I hope these tips give you a place to start!

You've got this.

About Before She Ignites

Before

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

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