Booke the Seconde

Regarding the difficulty besetting a writer who must deliver a second book to her publisher.

You may think that writers are spilling over with new stories all the time.
That it is merely a matter of writing them down.
Not so.
I have lots of ideas.
I have a folder on my desktop titled ‘new book ideas’. This folder contains a dozen possibilities most of which are designated by one sentence; sometimes just a couple of words. They are tiny single-celled organisms which may never evolve.
I also have a file called ‘new book summaries’. There are four of them in that. Those are the 4 which have moved from being glimmers of what-may-some day- in-a- perfect-world-become-big-enough-to-warrant-a-whole-book (and more importantly 6-12 months of my so valuable time) to ideas and characters which are more certain, developed and fleshed out.
Even so, once I decide to dive in, they might just not work.
“It just didn’t work” may well become my epitaph.
So it is not a matter of not having any good ideas it’s a matter of which one should I go for.
I have my own plan of action of course.
I know I’d really like to work on the companion book to my soon-to-be-published YA and a sequel too.
But I can’t do that. I signed a contract for one book. At the time I had not thought to continue the story.
Sequels are iffy. Sequels to books which have not been published yet are a toss of the coin. I’m a newbie, unproven, and I have no sales history to speak of….What if my book bombs?

I know I really really want to work on a dark, edgy urban fantasy but I also know that I want to reacquaint myself with a beloved genre from my teenage days- the horror of HP Lovecraft and Poe, and do research and really immerse myself in a mood, before I begin to write, so……that one is on the back burner for now.

The other idea I have is an adventure story combining some fantasy with realism, and now that I have got most of my chapter outlining done, I am feeling very excited about it.
It also loosely fits into the genre that I have written in before. YA, heroine, adventure, mystery, a little romance, which is good because something I have learned is that until you are proven as a writer you can’t really explode out of the genre you have launched your career in.

It’s a hard thing for a writer to grasp or perhaps a better word is ‘accept’ because one of the greatest things about writing is the freedom to write whatever you want, whatever that may be, whenever you want.
This, alas, is not reality. If I want this to be my career (and if I am fortunate enough to be given the chance) then I need to deliver. I can’t futz around and keep everybody waiting.

I had to decide which book to write first. I love all of the ideas but I had a preconceived chronological list in mind. Perhaps I am the only one who plans my year in terms of which books I will try to compete by year’s end? I like to hug my ideas to my chest and mull them over, let them simmer and stew before I begin.
And the order I had devised – which would take my through until 2014- all of a sudden (following the sale of my soon to be published book) wasn’t the best order for my -you know- career.
The thought of writing as a possible career still makes me snarf a little into my sleeve. Snarfing as I define it is giggling hysterically so that you have to wipe your nose.
So rapid rethink and rolling up of sleeves, a little panic and here we are.
The best way to deal with it all, I think, is to treat writing as a job and thinking of ourselves as professionals.
It’s not quite as romantic as the writer in the garret furiously turning the discipline on its ear and veering from sci fi to paranormal romance to horror to literary fiction. We can’t all be Neil Gaiman.

But come to think of it, how many authors have you heard of who bust out of their niche with every book?
And why is niche such a bad word? Doesn’t it mean ‘nest’ or something? A nice cuddly warm nest we’ve woven for ourselves with supple grass and eider duck down, and a big fat pillow.
If it feels right, I say stay there and write.

5 thoughts on “Booke the Seconde

  1. I think about this a lot, too. Especially after attending the NESCBWI conference and people seemed content to commit to a genre or age category but I got a lot of funny looks when I said I liked to dabble across the board. I would never say no if you feel inspired, but I think it’s okay to feel like you have a niche, too. The biggest thing is, to make sure it is a story you feel passionate about.

  2. Hi Elaine,
    I never really thought about it. After my second book sold I wrote something completely different. Still YA but very edgy, and it was not what my editor was looking for. I get that. It didn’t feel like a Scholastic book to me either but she is still interested in working with me, so I had to come up with something else.
    I have a list of book ideas and I am interested in exploring all of them but I had to choose one. The one I thought had the best chance of being what they are looking for.
    I am perhaps really sensitive to the idea of being boxed into a particular genre. I used to to think that having great success with a book was a gift and also a bad thing in that it ‘forced’ you to continue a series where perhaps you didn’t think there was one or into writing the same kind of book over and over again. After success there is the added pressure of giving your readers what they want.
    As a writer under the radar, I am free to write whatever I want but I may not be published again and I will probably never be able to transform it into a career.

  3. I get what you’re saying. In a way, it’s revisiting the idea of do you write for the market or do you write what you feel passionate about, etc.

    I’ve spent last 4 years writing and revising my historical fiction. Not just on my own, but I’ve done it multiple times on spec and I’m about to do it again. I’d be lying if I didn’t sometimes wonder if I should put my time into something more commerical and wait until the market changed for my historical. 🙂

    I assume you’re talking about your option book? I’ve no doubt you’ll come up with something that fits. Keep the faith!

  4. Elaine,
    I think it’s a matter of striking a balance between the two- marketable and your passion. And of finding a way to stay in your niche (and make that as comfortable as you can) without sacrificing your artistic ideals.

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