Starting the Next Book

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?

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10 thoughts on “Starting the Next Book”

  1. Great post PJ! I am currently in the middle part of my next book, hoping the middle is not sagging. I would have to say revision is my favorite part because I like seeing the completed story as a whole. Once the first draft is done, I like to go back and clean up. I delete or add and make sure the pacing is spot on and any dangling bits aren’t left hanging. And then it’s off to my trusted beta readers for their reaction.

  2. Revision is growing on me. I’m a reformed first draft addict, so at least now I actually enjoy cutting out the crappy parts and adding in the layers that really make it shine, but my problem with revision is that it never seems done. I must read through my entire mss. a hundred times and I still find things to change every time I look at it. Such is the writer’s curse.

  3. Pingback: Start Finish Cool
  4. I think my favorite part is that aria you described. The actual process of seeing characters and plot come alive on the page. It feels like hard work in one sense (plot twists, word choice, etc.), but it’s ever so satisfying seeing the story pull together. And I get lost in time when that’s happening.

  5. Me, too, Julie. I love the creative part of the process. Besides, my characters won’t leave me alone until I get their story on the page.

  6. I feel like I was reading about myself. 🙂 We have the same writing style. I am in that sagging middle now too, and am plugging away at research to try to fill it. All the while, still revising the book I am trying to send out to sell. I feel like I am so many people’s heads. It’s exhausting. I wish I was going on that cruise with you. Although, knowing me, I probably would still be working while on it. 🙂

  7. Katy, I wish you were coming along too. Someday we’ll have to all go on one of those writer’s cruises together. I guess we’ll have to make it big, right?

    I hear you about the exhaustion part. I’m up at 6 lately and still not going down until after midnight some nights. So much to do and keep straight. I’m looking forward to getting away, but trust me, I’ll be working.

  8. I too love to start a new book! I’ve got 3 new ones chomping at the bit to be started, but I’m forcing myself to wait until I’ve finished the current WIP. That’s the tough part for me…finishing. Once I’ve got the 1st draft done, then I don’t mind editing and revision.

  9. I like my book best when I get about 2/3 of the way through. I finally really have my characters down, and the good stuff is coming out. Of course, that means, I usually do a heavy rewrite of the first 75% of the book to make it match that magical last quarter. LOL

    1. I did that with a couple of my earlier books and the rewrite made me miserable so I adapted to doing enough up front leg work to avoid the dreaded rewriting. Jessica Andersen writes about 500 pages then cuts about 3-400 pages and starts over. Yikes! My hats off to that kind of courage.

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