Bookus Interruptus

Nancy J. Cohen

You’ve all heard of another type of interruption in the middle of a certain act which I’d rather not mention here, yes? Consider this one similar, except we’re talking about interrupting your writing process when you’re in the frenzy of storytelling. How disconcerting when you’re working on book number 14 in your series, and you get an email announcing that edits for number 13 have arrived. You have to disrupt your train of thought and put aside the current WIP to go back to the previous book. Two weeks are gone to the winds while you answer your editor’s notes, polish each scene, and perfect each sentence for the umpteenth time. This book takes over, and you think of nothing else until the job is done. With a sense of relief, you send this version back across cyberspace, aware that you still have rereads of the copy edits and page proofs further down the line.

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Nudging at the edges of your mind is the reminder that you have blogs to write and interviews to do for your upcoming new release of book number 12. Have you ordered swag yet to promote this title? Designed your contests, newsletter, Facebook launch party, and other activities as the release date nears?

Book number 14 calls to you. It’s sitting front and center on your desk, and you yearn to get back to the story. But your mind tells you to get these other tasks done, and only then will you be free to resume the joy of storytelling. When you’re finally able to return to writing, you face the blank page with a blank look on your face. You’ve lost your train of thought and your place in the story. So how do you get your head back in the game?

Hopefully, you’ve made detailed notes on where you left off in your WIP and what comes next. Review these plot points when it’s time to resume the story. Line edit what you’ve already written. This will save you time later and reacquaint you with what’s come before in the story. Then set a date when you must begin your writing schedule again.

It’s hard when you have interruptions, whether for edits of other works or for conferences and events that you have to attend. Prepare for your departure as best you can by noting the next scene and any surprises you have planned along the way. It helps to have a synopsis. Then you can see where you left off and continue from that point onward. What technique do you use to get your mind back in the story?

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10 thoughts on “Bookus Interruptus

  1. Good advice, Nancy. Among the many reasons I love Scrivener is that it instantly gives you an outline and synopsis of what you’ve written, whenever you need it. If I have to be away from a project for some reason, I can come back and look at the outline (color coded) and know exactly what’s been going on.

    • Yes, that would be helpful. Sometimes I’ll do a chapter by chapter outline in addition to a synopsis. Either one helps me jump back into the story.

  2. Nancy, thanks for the tips.

    Like JSB, I use Scrivener, an outline, and a synopsis.

    Your thoughts and discussion come at a good time for me. I just took two months off to write four short stories for two charity anthologies. All made it in for publication.

    And as for returning to my WIP, I’m hoping the break will help me look at my story with new eyes.

    Thanks for your post.

  3. Congrats on your short stories making it to publication. A fresh viewpoint is always helpful for line edits and polishing. So maybe you can revise what you’ve written and get back into your story that way.

  4. First — I was commenting on another blog and their captcha was a simple box to check that said, “check this to prove you’re not a robot.” No math involved (and I think that coding is invisible to bots, so they don’t see it to check it.) But I digress.

    I keep a ‘tracking board’ of post-its with the main plot points of each scene (AFTER I write them) which helps. But I know what you mean, and it’s even harder when you’re working on a different series/genre and have to switch focus. Some people can work on more than 1 project, but I can’t.

    • I used to keep a plotting board, Terry, but not lately. Now I rely on my notes and synopsis. The hardest part is remembering what day it is in the story.

      • The day (and approximate time) are on my tracking board, on their own separate sticky notes so I can see them from across the room (and see that I’ve written 15 chapters and it’s still before lunchtime on day 1!)

  5. This is a killer problem! Bless and thank the writing gods for any notes, descriptions, and clues you’ve left yourself. Curse the doom of any cool hints or things you left in your story – especially a cliffhanger right where you ended -without sufficient notes. Trying to get back into the flow can be more than daunting. It can be more than a pregnant pause in a really undesirable conversation. It is debilitating.

    I have always been a pantser, but my lesson this year has been to begin to love at least a modicum of plotting (especially for more complicated stories) … the more you’ve set yourself up to work with (even if you completely change it around) the more you have to flow with. It’s hard to flow in the desert with nothing to drink and the sun frying your brain cells into a thirst-induced coma with accompanying migraine.

    I am working on convincing myself that the “real” creativity happens in the prep and the writing is just getting it done. Lesson learned and being earned here. 😀 Remember: always be most kind to yourself, leave yourself both a cliff-hanger and enough clues to finish it up!

  6. I love Scrivener too for organizing my stories so I can keep track of where I am. I like the versatility of the Inspector pane. I use the Status field for keeping track of week and day. It’s labeled Day. My stories have relatively short timelines. Usually less than a month, so I keep track, using Tuesday–week 1, etc. I keep track of POV in the label field, color coded, of course. I write romance with a hero and heroine each with a POV. In the notes field, I keep track of any changes I have thought of for a particular scene. In the outline field, up above, I do a mini synopsis of the scene and also put time of day, such as afternoon, etc.

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