What Comes Next

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I’m thinking about my next book.

I have two really good ideas, very different from one another, and for months now I’ve been holding them up to the light, examining their facets like a jeweler planning how to cut a diamond. I see many approaches, but so far none has shimmered out to me, telling me it’s the perfect way to tell the story. And I don’t want to commit to another hundred thousand words unless my heart is in it, unless I’m 100% on-board and enthusiastic.

One story is wacky, kinda out-there but timely, rife with secondary character opportunities, which is something I love. Some of the research for it feels daunting, however, and I’ve hesitated because I haven’t felt completely sure I’m the right person to tell this particular tale.

The other is the sort of thing everyone can relate to, but I’m struggling to find the best angle to make it fresh and funny, and to decide where my heroine is in her journey at the outset. I don’t remember it ever being this hard to get going on a novel, but I think it’s probably a bit like childbirth–if we remembered how painful it was, we’d never do it again, so our writer-memories protect us by fuzzing the whole process out a little bit.

Nonetheless, here I am, with this big blank slate, knowing my tropes and wanting to confound them; knowing my genre and wanting to out-shine it. And terrified to put my fingers to the keys.

I want to write a story with heart. I want to care deeply about my new protagonist, what she goes through and how she triumphs (yeah, there’ll be a happy ending, that much I know). I don’t want to write something dopey or predictable, and without inspiration it’s all too easy to drift in that direction. Yet I have some ideas that may make for a heroine who’s less sympathetic than the norm, and I wonder if I dare explore them, or if my genre won’t allow for a woman that flawed, one who makes decisions that are morally questionable.

It’s a bit of a crisis moment for me. Writing is a business, and especially so for genre fiction, but it’s also a huge emotional and personal commitment, a creative commitment. I don’t want to ever phone anything in, or deliver less than my best. Yet I need to get to work, and that means making decisions about the nature of this next project.

Fellow writers, what do you do when you’re at this stage?

Great, but does it have legs?

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I’m brewing up a new book idea.  It’s fresh, it’s clever, and I don’t think it’s been done in women’s fiction before. (Of course, this can be tricky with my genre, as one wants to be innovative without straying too far from the fold.)  But the important thing is, I’m excited about it.

Like, when I talk about it with friends, kernels of ideas pop and things get wacky.  My favorite part of writing – the “Ooh, and then maybe this happens, and then, like, that happens, and THEN…” – the spitballing, brainstorming, brewing, and machinating all kick into gear.

Later, it gets tricky.  Because you have to wrangle all that out-there energy and wrestle it into one coherent plot. Characters get nailed down, and storylines emerge, from which one best not deviate.  The hard work ensues.  What makes sense?  How do I get the protagonist from A to B to C?

And all the while you wonder… does this kooky idea have legs? Can it go from clever premise to 400 solid pages?

Now’s a time of possibilities, and uncertainty.  Anyone who knows me knows I love the former and loathe the latter.  I appreciate this time of creative freedom – I really do – but I’d like to know I’m on the right track… soon.

So this idea… I won’t say much, but I will say two movies are inspiring me right now. Galaxy Quest and The Net.  Whee!