I’m between projects and I need your help deciding what to work on next.

Not sure if I’m carefully weighing my options or being indecisive.

I’m religious about my work habits. I set aside two hours a day for writing only. I decide what I’ll work on and do that thing until it’s done or the two hours are up. I’ll add 15 minutes here, cut 15 minutes there, work on a lower priority item if I finish the high priority task, that sort of thing, but the core principle is like a rock. As a writer with only a few fiction credits, this helps me feel that I’m moving forward.

There’s one point where my little method fails. When I’m between major projects, I’m all sixes and sevens. I’m uncertain what to do with myself. Start a new project? Tinker with an old project? Get a real job?

Take the current moment. On Saturday, I finished a major revision for City of Ice and Dreams, the second novel in my as-yet-unpublished Carbon Run series. I’ve incorporated suggestions from my editor, John Paine, and a half-dozen beta readers. I’ve worked on it an average of five or six days a week for half a year or more. It’s consumed much of my waking life. I capped this portion of the project by writing a synopsis and a template query letter to agents and publishers. I’m working to push this project out of the nest, if anyone will have it.

Now what?

I’ve received notes from John Paine about Restoration, my third Carbon Run novel, and I’m getting some feedback from a workshop group. I feel the need, however, to take a short break before diving into a major revision of Restoration. I’m also following the advice of many writers: Let your draft age a bit before reworking it. I’ve found this useful for other projects. Restoration will sit on my desk for a while while I tend to other feats of imagination.

What are my other choices? I’ve had a novella in mind for awhile. I’m interested in putting our fears of terrorism, that is, an unspoken but constant fear of dying unexpectedly and violently, in the context of climate change, which is a slow motion disaster, and in some ways, just as deadly. I’m also toying with a short story idea, about the unforeseen consequences of the disappearance of a boring, insignificant, guppy-like fish that everyone tried to save, but couldn’t, because of global warming.

Both projects will take some amount of time, and once I start a project, I prefer to finish it as soon as possible, which means it’ll obsess me until it’s done.

Here’s your chance to help. Vote below for what I should do next. I can’t promise I’ll follow your advice, but it might help me get into a groove.

3 thoughts on “I’m between projects and I need your help deciding what to work on next.

  1. I recommend writing backstories for your characters. I have found it really helps me understand them–how they might react, why they do the things they do, what they fear and love. You can try to make this a short story, but beware. The backstory I just finished (while letting Tishta age before jumping headlong into the revision) ended up being 120 pages. But now, I know so much more about my main protagonist, Coltan. My new favorite technique for diving into a character’s head is to have him write a letter. My Coltan wrote one to his last victim, explaining and apologizing. Cheers, Ramona


  2. Joe,

    You made no comment on what feeds your creative energy. What do you do to replenish your spirit? You live in a spectacularly beautiful part of the world, does Nature light you up? For me, it’s wilderness, Nature’s unknown, the place where my sense of wonder is rekindled.

    You know the answer to your own question. Celebrate! Enjoy! Drink deep…

    and have a little fun!


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