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Five things to do when you’re between projects

1. Read! Read, read and read. Read YA. Read literary fiction. Read picture books. Read non-fiction. Learn about whatever random thing takes your fancy: volcanoes! Hat making! Existentialism! Orang-utans! Psychopaths! After all, you never know. You could very well end up writing a book about a hat making psychopath one day. Cultivate that library of random but fascinating things inside your head.

2. Get outside. Wander round your neighbourhood. Find a street you’ve never visited before and imagine the lives of the people who live on it. Catch a crowded bus and eavesdrop on the passengers around you. And go find some nature. (Hint: nature usually contains green stuff, like trees and grass.)

3. Spend time with friends and family and loved ones. You know, those people you neglect when you’re in the throes of working on something. Track down the people you love talking with most and hang out with them.

4. Write as often as you can. Not writing a novel doesn’t necessarily have to mean not writing at all. In fact for some of us – the ones who are even crazier when we’re not writing than when we are – it really, really shouldn’t mean not writing at all. Experiment. Try writing short stories, poetry, blog posts. Try keeping a journal. Write a letter to a friend who lives far away. Have a notebook next to your bed so you can write down the weird thoughts that come into your head late at night and first thing in the morning. If any new ideas turn up, play around with them and don’t pressure them to turn into anything too quickly.

5. Avoid the angst machine. The angst machine is that thing where it gets very late at night on a day when you haven’t done anything much, and you just so happen to be on the internet, and then you read someone’s blog post about how they’re working on forty different projects and writing ninety million words a day, and then you start telling yourself off for not getting anything done, and that tomorrow you have to do something about all this. And then tomorrow comes and you haven’t slept well and your brain feels all fuzzy, and you don’t do anything much, and it gets very late at night, and you just so happen to be on the internet, and so on. It’s very easy to get caught up in the angst machine when you don’t have a current project. Instead, be grateful. This time right now you’re not writing, just living, is just as valuable as the time when you’re at your most productive. Enjoy it while it lasts.

What do you do when you’re between projects?
Leila Austin

Leila lives in Middle Earth, also known as New Zealand, and writes YA fantasy.

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  1. thank-you for these tips! they were sooooooooo helpful!

  2. This is such a great post! Very useful tips. I've found reading incredibly helpful when I'm not writing, both for generating new ideas and for examining how other successful writers create exciting books.

    And I definitely think it's important to carry a small notebook with you wherever you go. I can't count the number of times I've been hanging out with someone and they mention something that would be perfect in a novel, and I've had to scramble to find something to write it down on. And FYI - in-laws don't really like when you pull out your phone when they're talking, but they don't mind as much when you grab a notebook, at least in my experience. :)

  3. Between projects?? How do you get there?! Definitely positive ideas, though. If only I could figure out when to use them.

    Be-tween project ts? You mean like when- no, that can't be it. Between ... Projects...

  4. Great post! When I'm between novels I try to catch up on reading and also tend to focus more on my short fiction projects. And house cleaning... there's always that. ;-)

  5. Great post! I am battling my way out of writer angst right now and I think I needed a little validation that this exists and isn't just me! Thank you!! :)

  6. I feel like in order to be a successful writer I should be saying "I drink [insert name of highbrow liquor here]. Sometimes it feels like I just spend more time arguing dumb logic on Facebook, but the truth is, I'm never between projects. When I'm not working on a novel, I'm writing short stories or starting crap novels I don't finish. I have at least three novels that are about 50-70 pages into that just went nowhere. I just keep projectifying until something sticks. Meanwhile, I'm chalking up agent rejections. All part of the game.

  7. OMG, avoiding the angst machine is the hardest part, for sure! You're so right about that bit. And I wholeheartedly agree that "other" writing is great, too. I started delving into my blog some more while I wrapped up my latest manuscript (and before starting my next) and found blog-writing so much more fun than in the past. Great idea!

  8. You mean there's such a thing as between projects? I always just take a weekend off to sleep and then start another project.

  9. The only time I'm "between projects" is when I'm a little burnt out. But when I'm burnt out with novel writing I dive into world building or journal writing.


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