About a third of the work on a novel takes place before a single chapter is written. Another third happens after the draft is complete. At any one time, I usually have more than one novel (and more than one series) in progress at the same time, but in different stages of development.
I have a Checklist I use to keep track of the progress of each novel and series. Not all projects are “live” at the same time. Many are on the “back burner” for long periods of time. My main series, The Unfinished Song, is a front burner series, but I may toy with other projects for a while, and then either pursue them or push them aside again.
Right now, I have two “live” series projects. The Unfinished Song–of course–and my new Urban Fantasy series, The Daughters of Little Red Riding Hood. Within each series, I also work on more than one book at a time. Here’s my Checklist to show how each one is coming along:
The shaded books are complete, so you can see I’m half-way through the 12 Books of The Unfinished Song. It’s probably also clear that the draft of Maze is complete, but there are several layers of revision yet to be done. Less obvious, perhaps, is how much work has already been done on the other five books remaining. Mirror and Maze, in particular, are already complete up to the Scene by Scene Outline. Now, it’s true, many changes might still occur during the Writing itself. Sometimes what worked, even up to a Scene Summary Outline, turns out to be too tangled or vague in the final execution. In the worst case scenario, I might finish an entire written draft and decide during revisions that I have to go back to the drawing board. That did slow down the writing of Mask. Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often!
Hood & Wolf, the first full novel of the Roxy Hood series, is also in pretty good shape. I have a solid Chapter Outline, but still need to work out the details of each scene. When I run into Writer’s Block on Unfinished Song, I spend a day working on Hood & Wolf, add a bit more here and there, and then usually feel creatively refreshed enough to go back to writing.
That, by the way, is the only real way I’ve ever found to overcome Writer’s Block. Don’t force it, but don’t stop working either. Turn to a different genre of novel and a different stage of writing. Your subconscious works out the tangle that tripped you up in the background, and BAM! suddenly you see the way forward.