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Back Pocket Projects
Tuesday, December 21, 2021 by Cindy Sproles

MabelAmber and picabay.comI hear it every conference. It’s not uncommon for conferees to ask, “How many projects do you work on at once?” The number varies but I continually have numerous writing projects that keep me busy.

The question that follows is, why?

The short answer. I’ve learned that it’s time to move ahead when one project is complete. The long answer is, any writer needs to have a back pocket filled with possibilities. Those possibilities need to be developed enough to make sense if a publisher requests them.

It’s essential to have a file ready if the current project just doesn’t work. For example. My agent recently presented a full novel and proposal to my publisher. They liked the work but didn’t see that it was a current fit. “Does she have anything in the back pocket?” And my agent was happy to present them a second project “idea” that the publisher ended up contracting. Are you seeing the importance of working on more than one idea at a time?

Rather than have the deer- in-a-headlights look on your face, have the next idea ready. It may not be completed, but there is enough that the publisher gets a strong idea about the project. Back pocket work is valuable, and every writer needs several.

These back-pocket projects may lack development, but you do have an excellent synopsis and three chapters that you can present. A proposal is not necessarily crucial at this time because publishers are simply looking at a style twist they like and if there is a project that can develop into a work that fits their needs.

I frequently see writers with one completed project who pitch the same manuscript year after year. I know what they are bringing to me before they sit down. There is a time when an author accepts they have done their best on the project and move ahead. Stop spinning their wheels. It doesn’t mean you give up on the project, but you lay it to the side and begin a new project while you wait for the opportunity for project one. As the song says, let it goooooo! You start project two. You’ve learned to write even better in project two, and maybe that project lands you an agent. That agent will ask you if you have any back pocket ideas? The why goes back up to paragraph three. Project two may be a great idea, but it doesn’t fit the publisher’s needs. Still, they love your writing and your twist on things – it’s fresh and unique, so do you have any other projects? It would be a grave disappointment to have your agent say no to the publisher. When you hear conference teachers, agents and publishers talk about moving ahead, understand this is why.

Work on your main project to completion, but along the way, entertain those new ideas that spurred your work. Take apicabay.com and Aymanejed day to write one to three chapters while the concept is fresh in your mind. Put a brief synopsis together that describes the plotline brewing in your head. Name the characters so that you will remember. Title it. Save it in your back pocket file. Take a break from project one and let it percolate from time to time. Work on a back pocket chapter or even a new idea. Build that reserve. Too often have an idea that slips into la-la land because we don’t give it enough respect and develop it enough, so it’s useable.

When you develop back pocket projects, you are expanding your writing career. It may not be a novel or a non-fiction book. It may be articles or a children’s story idea. Give it life and allow it to brew.

It’s easy to write one work and then get hung on just that one, never making an effort to move ahead. I’ve heard, “God told me to write this” a zillion times. And though I never doubt that God has placed that story on your heart, it doesn’t mean that this is a story He will move into publication. It may be cathartic for you, or it might be a tremendous series of articles instead of a book. It may actually be a subject that is dear to you, and you’ll stick to it to completion and “learn the craft.” The point is, continue moving. God may tell you to write something but don’t put words in His mouth as to the use. Write. Write. Write. Turn the projects over to Him and trust that His timing is perfect.

Keep those back pocket projects growing. You may be pleasantly surprised how your career begins to grow.

 

 

Photos courtesy of www.pixabay.com, MabelAmber & Aymanejed

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Comments

Claire O''Sullivan From Grants Pass OR At 12/22/2021 9:01:05 PM

This is exactly why I like NanoWrimo. I did five, and working on the now 8 novels I've come up with in the meantime. Promoting one, editing another for the publisher's editor, and rewriting another. And came up with another and well, I have a long list now. But you are so correct.

Charles Huff From Aurora, Illinois At 12/22/2021 7:20:27 PM

I read recently that Red Skelton not only had his weekly show, painted, wrote letters to his wife daily, but also wrote a short story outline. On Sunday, he would choose one of the seven outlines to complete. At year's end, he had 365 ideas and 52 stories. He had a full back pocket.

Mountain Breeze Writer


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