Interview Across a Breakfast Table: Keeping Several Books Straight

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As a couple in the same line of work, my wife and I frequently talk shop — not just about writing itself, but about the inspiration, organization, and promotion that go with the territory. Jenny has written novels for young adults and — coming next spring — middle-grade readers, and my titles have all been picture books and/or nonfiction. So, there are lots of things about how we each do what we do that intrigue — or even mystify — the other.

We have questions, but rather than keep those answers between the two of us, we thought we’d let you regularly listen in at her blog and here as well, starting with:

Jenny: How do you balance working on several books at once — especially those written for different age groups — without confusing yourself?

Me: There’s a difference between having several books in the works at once, and working on several books at once. I don’t know how I’d manage the latter, but luckily it’s the former that best describes what’s going on with me.

For instance, I do have four picture books under contract, but one project is out of my hands and awaiting illustration, one needs from me only an author’s note, one is waiting for me to make a research trip this fall, and one is awaiting notes from an editor. None has taken much sustained effort from me lately, which has freed me up to tend to other projects.

I’m not trying to work on those other projects simultaneously, though. Our life has too many other things going on — personally, parentally, professionally, politically, and in other realms that don’t even start with “p” — for me to be able to swing that. Instead, I try to pick one project at a time, work on it exclusively, move it as far forward as I can, and then pick up something else without much downtime in between. That might mean writing a nonfiction proposal for our agent to consider while I work on completing chapters for another project, which I’ll then submit to our critique group. And while I’m waiting on the crit group’s feedback on those chapters, I’ll try out an idea for a new picture book, or tinker with something that hadn’t been working quite right a few months ago — something relatively short-term, if I expect a higher-priority project to land back on my desk sometime soon.

That may sound like a lot, but it’s really one thing at a time, even if it’s a different “one thing” than it was just a week or two ago.

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