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Dear Just About Writers Q&A                  

I have a manuscript, such as it is, that just needs one last go through and it (hopefully) will be ready to send off. Here's the thing...I have these other stories banging at my brain to be worked on. But I know I have to get the first one finished. How do you all handle it when you got multiple stories running around in your head and you need to focus on one? Or am I a freak well on my way to becoming the next Sybil?

Dear Sybil,

This is a common problem among madwomen in the attic. But, may I warn you not to berate yourself lest one of your personalities should grow impatient and attack one of the others. Believe me, it is difficult to work if someone has plucked out one or both of your eyes. But never fear, there *is* a key to let yourself out of this particular attic if only you can get the attic shutters open enough to let in some light so that you may see a glint on the skeleton key and know where it lies.

Snatch it up and run for the lock! You will find something amazing. Written upon the side of the key are these words: Go Forth and Multi-Task.

First you work for a few hours - or a day or two - on the new project, busily writing up ideas, short scenes, hunches about beginning, middle, and end, and so forth. You may wish to organize a notebook or a 3-ring binder so you have a place to jot periodic notes or include bits of research. Then after you have rested sufficiently, you simply shift back over to the odious older project that MUST be finished, even though now it is exactly like a giant weight around your ankles as you try to stay afloat in the Sea of Creativity. It *must* be completed, so you have to pay it at least a certain amount of diligent attention periodically.

Remember that the thing that separates the hobbyist from the professional is that while the hobbyist often finishes a draft, she doesn't do all the steps needed to bring the book to published fruition. The professional is the one who finishes the book, revises, works on edits, and proofs the whole thing - and then is ready to rinse, lather, repeat at least one more time when the publisher gets their hands on it.

You may grow to despise, abhor, hate, and/or run screaming from the older project, but that is why the Story Goddess gives you new ideas - to tickle and tantalize your tired brain and to give you hope that although you can no longer see the forest for the trees in the old manuscript (in fact, you can't even see the dirt for the dog poop!), you will at least know that there is somewhere new to travel, something new to consider, some other realm possibly more interesting and challenging to recharge and energize you . . . if only you finish up the damnable old thing and get it out the door.

You will be rewarded if you can do that. You will be soundly beaten about the head by the other members of this Merry Little JAW Band if you don't. So get to work! Work hard . . . but don't forget to play a little when you can't stand it anymore.

Lori L. Lake

Got a question about writing that you want answered? Send it along to Nann Dunne at Please put "Dear JAW" in the subject line. We won't tell anyone who you are unless you want us to. ;-)

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