Shut down the boiler; I want to get off the boat!

Monday, February 6, 2017

I always have a list of possible subjects for my next book, and the one after that, and the one after that . . .

That’s fine, and even good, as long as those subjects know when to stay silent. But it’s bad when they decide to speak up at the wrong time.

After writing several books, I’ve come up with the routine that works best for me. It goes something like this (WIP stands for work in progress):

  1. Write the first draft of WIP #1.
  2. Put the first draft of WIP #1 aside to breathe while I catch up on various projects and/or research WIP #2.
  3. Do additional research for WIP #1, if necessary.
  4. Write the second draft of WIP #1.
  5. Make minor edits to WIP #1 and give it to my beta readers.
  6. Research and/or write the first draft of WIP #2.
  7. Go over beta reader comments on WIP #1 and rework it (the third draft).
  8. Polish WIP #1 and send it to a freelance editor.
  9. Write the first or second draft of WIP #2 (depending on how much I got done in step 6) and do additional research, if necessary.
  10. Make the edits in WIP #1 and submit it to publishers and/or agents.
  11. Continue the process with WIPs #2 and #3.

That’s the way it’s supposed to happen, although research can occur at any stage. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to keep the WIPs in their places. I begin to get excited about WIP #2 while I am working on a step dedicated to WIP #1. Right now, I am in the middle of Step 4 for my book about the Great Chicago Fire, and that’s what I should be concentrating on. But the other day my Great Courses lecture finished before my walk did, and I started thinking about ideas for fleshing out a story about a riverboat disaster, which was one of the subjects on my list for future books. And once ideas start flowing, I have to write them down or I’ll lose them.

But now I need to shut down the riverboat’s boiler and get back to the Great Chicago Fire.


The photograph was taken around 1860 and the author is unknown. It shows the riverboat America traveling down the Mississippi River on its way to Angola Prison in Louisiana. The photo is in the public domain because of its age, and you can find more information about it at

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