Starting the Next Book
My favorite part of writing is starting a new book. The story brews and stews in my mind for weeks—sometimes months—before I actually begin the process of putting it on the page. I hear dialogue in my head, develop an image of my hero and heroine, and think about the characters as if they are new friends I’m getting to know. I work out plot details, figure out my turning points and make sure I understand the goal, motivation and conflict before I jump in. I’ve learned the hard way that being clear about what is driving the characters is essential to me getting to know them before I’ve already written 200 pages and then have to go back and fix everything. After muddling through seven novels, and taking dozens of workshops, this is the process that has evolved and seems to work best for me. This is about as much prep as I can do without cramping my ‘pantser’ style.
Once I finally sit down to write, the first 100 pages fly out of my head and onto the page like I’m singing an aria. The ease and fluidity give me such a high, I can usually blast out that 100 or so pages in a matter of a few weeks. In that time, I’ve set the scene, introduced my loveable, and not so loveable characters, and hopefully am well into the meat of the story. Then, comes that dastardly sagging middle. You know–the part when a lot is going on but nothing is happening. I start biting my nails, popping over to answer e-mails, and generally avoiding the ‘what comes next?’ I will the story to miraculously write itself (so far that hasn’t panned out for me). So, I wait patiently—or not so patiently–for the characters to tell me where to go. Eventually, the next piece of the puzzle shows up, but I agonize for a while and fill the time doing research or going back over my character grid and conflict charts to see what I’m missing.
Once I get beyond that middle muddle, the end comes into view and it is a race to the finish where I tie up all of my loose ends. Since the revision process is the hardest part for me, and I have proven to myself that I can finish a book, I do some amount of revision as I go. I don’t feel the need to just keep writing to get to the end before I start revising. I often go back and layer my character’s conflict or add a meaningful piece of dialogue that came to me in the car or shower before I move on to the next scene. The cool thing is, the process for every book is different. I’m still learning and struggling with the revision process, but I’m becoming more efficient with each book.
I currently find myself in new territory once again. I’ve started the next book, which is entitled 21 DAYS. I’ve done my preliminary work and I’m on the second chapter. I want to sit down and blast out those first 100 pages, but the demands of self-publishing are hot on my plate. Gone are the days when all I had to do was write the next book. I plan to have a few more chapters behind me before I leave on my seventeen day cruise to the Mediterranean–which is where much of the book takes place and will be written in real time. But instead of writing the next chapters, I find that I have final revisions due on HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES and have to organize myself to get the book to reviewers before I leave. Again, it goes back to juggling all of those balls. I’m working hard to keep in mind that the most important job of a writer is to start the next book. Lucky for me, that is the part I am most passionate about.
So tell me, what part of writing are you most passionate about?