Transitioning Between Projects: How Do YOU Do It?

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been pretty darned immersed in revising my picture book. People talk about which stage of writing a book we like best–early drafts, major revisions, final polishing. I’ll take any and all of those, as long as I get to a point where I can be and am totally immersed in that project. Where I go to bed thinking about it, wake up on the same path, and–whether I react with excitement or nerves–know for certain that this is the fictional world I’ll be stepping into today.

And then came “the end”–at least the end for now. The picture book has hit the email & the snail-mail, on its way to get critiqued by a couple of people in the publishing world. Despite the fact that I’m not querying or submitting yet, there is a wonderful wing-like feeling to thinking about the story out there, being seen, being read. And I’m letting myself enjoy that feeling.

In pretty much every other sense, though, I’m closing the door on the picture book for a while. I won’t be getting those critiques back until April, probably, and I’m going to wait to see what they tell me before I take the book back to my critique group. I’m also not revising a word of the story until then.

Which means, back to the other stuff. Time to shift gears.

In a way, the transition comes at a good time. My son is out of school for a week, which always throws life onto a different schedule. I’ve got some editing to do, along with prepping a few Power-Point presentation for a local SCBWI workshop series I’ll be doing. That’s the plan for the next week. And then, when my son heads back to school, I’ll head back to my historical.

I said that this is a good way to shift, in some ways. In another way, because I pushed these other things out to get the picture book done, they’re going to pretty much take up this week, which means I’ll be away from Caro & Chicago for that much longer. I’ll be away from the segment of my brain that thinks in terms of creating worlds with my own words. Sometimes, when you’re gone too long, the bridge back can look spindly or like it’s missing a few planks.

I’m thinking, to keep that bridge stronger, I’ll be getting back into my research during non-editing/powerpointing time. If I can’t write about Chicago in 1912, I can read about it. And immigrants. And automobiles. And photography. Obviously, research is its own form of immersion.

What do you do when you’re moving from one project to another, or when you’ve had to step away from the fiction altogether? How about sharing some tips in the comments!


  1. Sonia M. says:

    At them moment, I’m working on short stories while my manuscript in progress sits around waiting for the little guys in my subconscious to come up with solutions to its difficulties. I’m finding that editing something or working on a new short story has been a great way to fill that in-between time and keep my muse active.


    • beckylevine says:

      I think you’re right–doing something that uses a different part of the creative brain can be a good way to keep projects alive when you can’t give them total focus.

      Thanks, Sonia, for stopping by. 🙂


  2. This is a great topic for discussion, Becky. Here’s what I do. I try to keep all my plates spinning at the same time right above all the little ducks that I have lined up in a row. When one plate starts to wobble, I run to twist the stick. And when one little duck starts quacking really loudly, I toss it a handful of grain. I must say, I’ve gotten pretty good at it all, but there are times when a plate topples and a duck goes hungry for a while. That’s when I put all the dishes in the washer, take the little quackers out back and head to yoga class or take a long bike ride or hike. Nothing like changing the focus to help refocus. And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
    Michelle Parker-Rock, Author of Books for Young Readers


  3. Lani Longshore says:

    I, too, have a lot of greedy, quaking ducklings poking at my ankles. When I need to transition between projects I use the calendar – morning for one thing, lunch to decompress, afternoon a new project. Lunch needs to be something totally distracting – going out, making something special, reading a chapter of a book I’ve been meaning to start. The key is to clear my mind for the new project.


    • beckylevine says:

      Yes, I just looked at my what-on-next-week’s list to be done, and I’m definitely going to have to go back to my “the first hour is for fiction” every day to get it all done AND stay connected to my story.

      And, yes, clearing the mind helps tremendously.


  4. Julie Long says:

    I’m transitioning from one novel (queries/chapters out to agents) back to another novel I started two years ago. Since all of my character/plot notes are all over the place, I decided a good place to start would be honing my novel-organization skills with The Project Bible course by Catherine McLean through Of course life is particularly crazy right now so I’m already behind a few days! But when I can catch up, I hope structuring a Story Bible for my novel will kind of springboard me into it full steam!


    • beckylevine says:

      Julie, you’ll catch up! It’s not like you’ve got a conference to run, too, or anything. 🙂


  5. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Sometimes I clean my desk! It’s practically the only time it gets cleaned.


    • beckylevine says:

      Jenn, I do this, too. The only problem is, I usually unearth another one of those projects I want to work on!


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