Process: Finishing One Book While Starting Another

A metal bridge stretches ahead. The post by Elizabeth S. Craig is on the process of wrapping up one book while starting another.

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Some of my more popular posts have to do with something pretty ordinary and (unfortunately) boring … process.

Everyone’s process for writing and publishing books is different. Maybe that’s why we’re curious about what works for other writers.  I know I like reading those types of posts, too.  I never know when there’s something that might be helpful to try or something that I could work into my own writing process.

Keeping all of that in mind, I thought I’d share my own process for finishing a book and starting another book. It’s fresh in my mind because that’s been my last couple of weeks (some of this I touched on in last Friday’s post).

The process for the book that’s releasing

While the book is in edits, I start loading the book and the book’s metadata up on distributor and retail sites (which can be, if you use a lot of distributors, something of a tedious process).

I draft a newsletter to announce the upcoming release.

I make sure the book is linked to the rest of the series on Amazon and other retail sites.

I update my website, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

The process for the next book in that series

Whatever book I’ve just finished, I start immediately outlining the next book in that same series.  I’ve found this is a big time-saver for me because my head is still in the series. It takes a lot less time to create situations for the characters to respond to, etc. 

The outline is nothing fancy. This is my template for it:


Back Cover Copy

Victim #1

Weapon Used


Second Murder Method

Victim #2


Red Herrings (false leads)

Subplots/series memes to work in

After 1st murder: Interviews

Suspect 1 interviewed…suspect points to ____, suspect’s alibi: _____, suspect’s lie____, suspect’s truth____

(rest of interviews of 4-5 suspects, same set-up)

After 2nd murder: interviews:

(Same set-up as before, with added opportunity to defend/explain any false alibis from 1st murder)

Moment of danger:

Clues that pointed to killer:

As you can imagine, filling out something like this is less daunting than a blow-by-blow outline. And yet this was acceptable to Penguin back in the day, too, so there was enough meat there, too to satisfy their requirements (their review of my outlines was in my contracts).

I write the back cover copy for the book I’m outlining.  As you can imagine, it’s fairly vague, but with cozy mysteries, this is not a problem.

I commission a cover during this time from my cover designer. Not only have I learned that it’s best to get covers early, it helps me to visualize the project and stay on track better.

I register the ISBNs for print, Kindle, and epub versions on Bowker for the project (which will, technically, be completed after I write a book in the other series I work on).

I upload the new cover and cover copy to my website on the ‘Coming Soon‘ page.

Once I’m finished with the outline, I move right on to write the next book (which, in my case, is always with the other series I’m writing–the one I’d have already outlined after finishing a story in that series). This may sound more confusing than it actually is.

What’s your process like with finishing a project and starting another? Mine is pretty rushed with not much room for celebration (the downside), although it’s easy enough to be automatic by now.  Do you have more of a time buffer?  What works best for you?

Finishing one project while starting another: the process: Click To Tweet

Photo credit: Jamie Zeschke via Visual Hunt / CC BY

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11 thoughts on “Process: Finishing One Book While Starting Another

  1. I’m always interested in reading about other writers’ processes. And, yeah, I do find some things I could use for my own writing on occasion. You’re way more on the ball with all this than I am.

    I don’t outline. I tried it once and the book turned out really flat. I guess I need to surprise myself or I get bored with the writing, and it shows. And I don’t spend much time thinking about the next book in a series until I’m ready to write that book. I have to go into a project as if it’s totally new. Probably not the most professional way to attack writing, but it works for me. And that’s the important thing – finding what works to get the words on paper. =o)

    1. B.E.–That’s frequently the case for me, too (the flatness). To combat that, I’ve got bits of dialogue or lively narrative from various books in the series to remind me of the voice. And then I go back through in edits to ‘plump up’ the characters a bit.

      I think whatever works for writers is definitely the way to go! There’s no arguing with productivity and finished books, ha!

  2. I really like your organization, Elizabeth! And there’s just enough difference between what you’re doing for Book A and what you’re doing for Book B that you’re less likely to get confused between the two plots. I completely agree, too, that it makes sense to start outlining a new book while the series is right there in your mind. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Margot–Usually the only thing that I get confused using this method is the name of the two towns in the two books. :) My editor has caught some mess-ups in the past (pre-publication, fortunately!)

  3. Hi Elizabeth – checklists in tow too I guess … it makes sense to do two separate books concurrently … one finishing, thinking forward, collecting earlier notes and starting on that book, while the wheels of process turn/churn for publication ….

    If anyone reads this I suggest I’ve muddled you all .. but I know what I meant! You certainly have Process down to a tight ‘T’ … and thorough and you won’t lose yourself in all the ‘to dos’ …. excellent post – Cheers Hilary

  4. Hi Elizabeth,

    Very helpful. I’ve been struggling with this changing over period, where’s I’m still in the mindset of the character/story that I’ve finished. It’s very tough for my to switch to something new before the project is 100% done. I’m printing out yous list of things you do with some personal changes to use next time around.

    You mentioned that your most popular posts are the ones you see as your most boring ones! This is my take: I’ve been following your blog for years because your posts are extremely specific and practical. There’s tons of sweeping advice on writing and publishing, but your blog stands out because often addresses the specifics of the business/career/tools. Thanks:)

    1. Rebecca–Hope it helps! I fought against that transition from writing a series A book to a series B book for so long. I couldn’t seem to understand why switching over was so hard. Now I just know that when I’m in the rhythm of one story world, it’s tough to force myself into the other world.

      And thank you! I think of the blog as sort of a process journal of what I’m learning as I learn it. So glad it’s been helpful!

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