First, a couple of consumer reports-type public service announcements:
1) SFWA is not sponsoring a writing contest. Someone posted an announcement of one at Craigslist and some other places, but the organization is not involved, you will likely not win a cash prize, and your story will not be published by Random House. the Writer Beware blog has the details. This one's a scam, so stay away (and always check the organization's web site to get contest info if you see an announcement elsewhere about a contest being sponsored by an organization).
2) Some of you in fandom circles may have heard about FedCon in Dallas this weekend that turned out to be a total bust, where guests were advertised as confirmed and yet the con never actually made travel arrangements for them, and then the con was shut down mid-way through. I want to make sure there's no confusing this fiasco with FenCon in Dallas. The two events are entirely unrelated. FedCon (with a d in the middle) wasn't even run (and I use the term loosely) by Dallas people. They just used Dallas as a location because it was central and has a major airport. FenCon (with an n in the middle) is a Dallas fan-run convention that doesn't screw people over. The people who run it are all friends of mine, and I'm proud to be involved with it, so don't let rumors or talk of the fiasco scare you away from FenCon in October (when Dallas will be much more pleasant). (And, apparently, there are people getting the two cons mixed up, as FenCon committee members have been getting some nastygrams about how people will never come again.)
So, that bit of business done, today is sort of a project transition day for me. I need a new term for The Book That Will Not Die because it is truly done unless an editor wants revisions after buying it, and it's going out into the world this week (very likely today). So it's not "dead." I guess you could call it being born. I think it will now be The Book In Search Of A Good Home. Keep your fingers crossed that someone thinks my baby is pretty (because it would be nice to have some income this year).
Then today I will start serious work on The New Project. I've done my research and some of the preliminary brainstorming, but now I need to really focus on it. Today will probably still mostly be a pen-and-paper kind of day as I do some extensive character development and plotting. I had done some preliminary plotting, but I'm rethinking it, since there's a character who really gets me excited who I think will be the life of the book but who doesn't show up until the middle in my initial plot, and that seems like a waste. You don't want to delay bringing in your best character. Her becoming involved was supposed to be the big midpoint turning point, but I may need to find a way to bring her in earlier (maybe getting to her is a Test for the Tests, Enemies and Allies part of the story) and I need to find a new Ordeal event for the midpoint.
My weekend reading was a book I heard about just last week that sounded alarmingly similar to this idea, but it turned out to be wildly different, so that's good. Some people choose not to read similar-sounding books for fear of any spillover or accidental copying, but I seek them out so I can be sure my take is going to be different. If someone accuses you of similarities, it's nearly impossible to prove that you haven't read the book in question, so you may as well read it and then be conscious about steering your story in a different direction. The real worry is that you might pick up the other author's voice, but that just means you need to develop your own voice well enough that it sticks in your head and you need to read widely enough that you don't mirror any one author if you do happen to be influenced by the other voices.