Wednesday, September 9, 2009

WWJD? What Would Janet (Evanovich) Do?

"Am I writing the right book?" Strange question, but Jessica Faust's blog yesterday got me thinking. I'm halfway through the second book in a mystery series. The characters are colorful and quirky, the dialog fun, spicy, and unexpected, and the setting is divine (the beach, baby!). But I'm not sure the plot is strong enough. It may be, but I'm just not sure. I've also had this vague tickle at the back of my mind, kind of like a feather barely brushing against my neck, calling me in another direction. Uh-oh, there's another book in the ether begging to be written. What should I do?

Jessica was addressing what to do while waiting for "The Call." This is what she said that caught my attention: "My advice is to move on to your next book (making sure it’s not the next book in series) and keep writing." What? Making sure it's NOT the next book in a series? Why not? I'd never heard that from an agent before. I wondered, "WWJD?" (What Would Janet (Evanovich) Do?) Jessica went on to say, "With each book your writing improves and you learn more about yourself and your craft and that’s the smartest thing a writer can do."

I fully agree with this sentiment. I've written four novels so far, and am halfway through the fifth. With each book, I feel as if I've been catapulted to a whole new level of writing. It's both exhilarating and painful. Exhilarating because you see your craft improving, and painful because, well writing first drafts can be tedious, gut-wrenching work. You're not sure exactly where the story's going. You doubt your ability to "pull it off." (We writers are experts at self-doubt!) You stare at a blank page and can't imagine you have what it takes to fill it in with something others will find compelling. It's the opposite of common sense. But, that is part of what makes writing so spectacular. The not knowing. The not being sure of yourself. The belief in your talents and in the muse - things which can't be felt or seen - but you know are there. The willingness to throw your proverbial hat over the proverbial fence thereby following the literal unknown.

Being a writer takes courage. It takes determination. It takes a deep desire to tell stories that make a difference for people. It's willing yourself to be on a perpetual roller-coaster ride with all the unexpected twists and turns. And if you're looking for an agent and publication, it's the type of ride that flips you upside down and smacks you in the head. Oh, and while you're being smacked silly, you need to stay calm and clear-minded - like a monk - in order to capture the nuances and direction your characters and story need to go. Sure, no problem. Who couldn't do that?

And, although the roller-coaster is the scariest ride at the carnival, and some days I'd much prefer the sweet, peaceful carousel (especially if it's in Paris!), I wouldn't have it any other way.

Now, I just need to figure out if I should continue on with MURDER ON SONGBIRD LANE, or start the novel whose feather is tickling my neck. I wonder, What Would Janet Do?

45 comments:

♥ Braja said...

Buddhist monks on a rollercoaster?? :))) lol....love it. A good depiction of what it's like, agreed :)

DebraLSchubert said...

Braja, I love it when I find the perfect pics!!!

Vegas Linda Lou said...

Being a writer takes courage."

I never thought of it like that, but it's so true. It especially applies to those who are committed to writing about the truth, even though it can be only their version of it. Great post, Debbie!

Jm Diaz said...

Very nice. I have that "calling" as well, pulling me to another story. In fact, I have two different stories forming in my head, as I finish this 67,000 novel. My dilemma now is what to right the next? Arrgghh....
Thanks for sharing though.

DebraLSchubert said...

Linda, We are indeed a courageous group. Even those of writing strictly fiction. To believe in yourself and your talent takes courage and faith. Thankfully, we have other crazy, I mean dedicated writers for support!

DebraLSchubert said...

Jim, I know! It's so hard to pick one and run with it. I write songs, too, and that's much easier. They're quick to form and you can move on. Choosing a novel to write is at least a three-month commitment...

Lazy Writer said...

That thought about writing a sequel has been weighing heavy on my mind lately. A sequel is my WIP #2. I've put it away for now because I'm deep in revisions on another project, but I'm wondering after reading this if I should forgo the sequel and start work on something different. Great things to think about!

The Peach Tart said...

I've been pondering this for the last few days after the recent Decatur Book Festival here and seeing so many incredible writers.

Should I stick with the present project. Should I regroup on this project? Is another project calling?

DebraLSchubert said...

Susan, Isn't it amazing how we all have similar thoughts going through our brains??? I'm taking a few days off from writing to see what comes up. I'm trusting the universe will give me the answer.;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Deborah, Sometimes it's tricky to figure out which project to focus on. I haven't had this problem until now, but I'm trying not to "solve" it so much as go with the flow and see what arises.

Beth said...

I think your last comment about "going with the flow" is the right one. If you've got another book in you that is demanding to be written, it would seem to be common sense to let it out. :)

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Saw your comment over at On the Path. I've had six fulls out this summer and am down to three. Waiting, waiting, waiting. Encouraging to be on the the same part of the path with others.

DebraLSchubert said...

Beth, You're right, as always. I'm trying to let the other book come into clearer focus. Until then, I'll carry on with my wip.

DebraLSchubert said...

Caroline, So glad you found me.;-) Getting passes on fulls is brutal, but you know those agents aren't the "right" ones if they don't fall in love with your work. Best of luck on your path to publication. Please keep me posted!

Stephanie Faris said...

I'll tell you what I've learned in my billion years writing. It's always best to start working on that next book once you have that first book out there. There's always another book to be written. It takes away the sting of rejection if you have another possibility.

The lure of the next book is a tough one to ignore. I fight it with all my might. I ALWAYS get halfway through my current WIP and that next idea starts brewing and I long to drop this one and start on the next one. But I always force myself to finish...even IF this book isn't the right one, I feel finishing it teaches me more about writing than if I have a bunch of half-finished projects. Still, I almost always end up satisfied with the book once I've typed The End. It's that murky middle that gives me the sweats!

Sharla said...

I did that same thing. All my stories and my first novel were women's fiction/chick litty/romance type stories. Then I got this paranormal thing going in my head and I kept thinking "what on earth is this?"

But I went with it, and this second novel is truly a trip! Way outside my box but it's fun.

jdcoughlin said...

I was wondering what all those bald ladies were doing on a coaster?!!
Yes. I'm with you. It's the plunge into fear for sure. I've was ignoring that feather, mostly out of fear of getting my hope all up and alive again just when I finally got it to shut up. But it's there, my fingers are on the keys, and I'm on that journey with you, and the monks.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

It sort of makes sense (the agent's advice) when you think about it - you might keep improving dramatically every book and if you're writing a sequence of books all related and you have four very publishable installments but the first one maybe less so, you're left with nothing since you can't publish a set without an opening installment. If you're writing totally independent books it's more likely you'll be published if one of them is suitable.

I'm putting that really badly.:) I just mean, say book three is PERFECT, they can't publish it without books one and two, should they decide they're NOT perfect, you'd have more chance if each book can stand on its own.

I know, call me Captain Obvious.

Karen Walker said...

Debra,
Your post today is like a breath of fresh air for me. I am so struggling with not writing anything right now although I have three projects I am (was) excited about. I'm journalling, but no writing for publication stuff. Trying to go with the flow. Love that photo of the monks on the roller coaster. It's perfect.
Karen

Mandy's Life After 30 said...

Surely, it can't be harmful to write down and brainstorm your new ideas for the next possible story. It doesn't mean you're cheating on your current novel. I think it means you're just hitting a new groove. You're in the middle of a song but another set of lyrics is waiting to be drafted as well. Too many ideas can be a good thing, right? Better than no ideas.

Oh and by the way, if you need a research assistant for your beach story....let me know. I'll be happy to taste all the fruity drinks and stir up some drama for the sake of your book. After all, I'm moving to Pensacola, Florida next month!!! (Secret revealed! Yippee!) :-)

I hope that the new location will inspire me to write my own stories soon enough. Either that, or I'll just be a permanent beach bum/ Parrot head. Either way suits me. :-P

Jemi Fraser said...

Such a tough decision. I understand Jessica's point (she always has a good one), but it's really hard to leave a series in limbo! The story I'm getting ready to start would work really well as 2 novels. Maybe I should change it up to keep it as one. Something to think about...

koralee said...

Wow... you inspire me. I think being a writer would be wonderful but so difficult...that is all you would ever think about. I can see how it would be a rollcoaster ride. But you wouldn't have it any other way right?

DebraLSchubert said...

Stephanie, "I feel finishing it teaches me more about writing than if I have a bunch of half-finished projects." I agree. I'm going to finish my current wip and then move on. It feels good to have that decided!

DebraLSchubert said...

Sharla, It's so nice to see you again! It's easy to get into a writing box. I started with women's fiction and moved to mystery. I'm loving it, but feel something else may be trying to break through. I think it may be a more serious WF, but I'm not sure. That's the amazing thing about writing. It's a beautiful, mysterious gift.

DebraLSchubert said...

Judith, "I was wondering what all those bald ladies were doing on a coaster?!!" Too darn funny. Glad to hear you're tapping the keys again. It's nice to know I'm in good company.;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

VA aka Captain Obvious, What you said is true. I do think both my books could stand alone, so that's the good news. I plan to finish the book I'm writing and then move on to whatever is there to write next. I'll keep you posted...!

DebraLSchubert said...

Karen, I'm glad this post spoke to you. We writers tend to put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We create a lot of "shoulds" around our writing. Sometimes sitting back and going with the flow is exactly what we need to do. I've been doing it the past few days and feel so much better already! I've no doubt you'll figure out which project to pursue first. Remember this: Breathe in, breathe out. That's really all that matters.;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Mandy, "It doesn't mean you're cheating on your current novel." Ha! You're right, I'm not cheating. Not overtly, anyway. And, yes, I think I need a beach research assistant and I know just the girl for the job! Congrats on your move down south. I just might have to come visit...!

DebraLSchubert said...

Jemi, You should write the book that's meant to be written. If it makes more sense as one, keep it that way. If two would be best, then two it should be. Listen to the story. It will tell you what it needs.;-)

DebraLSchubert said...

Koralee, Your talents blow mine out of the water. Seriously, you are the artistic bomb. Maybe you could help design my book covers one day? (Now we're talking!)

Pen Pen said...

...I'm SO having a Paris carousel a party one day. God will just have to give me the money for that. He owes me.
R u gonna stop working on SongbirdP?! I dunno what advice to give u-the series issue is complicated since u don't want to be working on something that won't be picked up, but-it could end up being the next piece to be published. You have to tell me what u decide to do! But-HEY! At least u don't have writer's block, right?! :)
AAaaannnd, I'm probably gonna use bit of what u said in this post for a post of my won if that's kewl with you-let me know. It would be from the section where u talked about first drafts. HUGS! :)

DebraLSchubert said...

Penny, You can use whatever you want. Just link me, if you don't mind. I think I'm going to finish MSL - I'm too far into it and I'm still having too much fun. Plus, I love what Stephanie said about how finishing a book teaches you more about writing than anything else. That makes sense. Have a rocking day, my friend!;-)

Jody Hedlund said...

Very interesting perspective on NOT writing a sequel. But I guess that makes sense. If an editor doesn't like the first book in the series, then why would they want the second? Better to broaden out. We can always go back and write a sequel at some point.

DebraLSchubert said...

Jody, I know, interesting view, huh? In light of the fact that I adore Jessica, I've decided to forge ahead and finish this book. First of all, I've got a lot of interest from agents on MTC, and secondly, I'm halfway done with MSL and still enjoying it. So, I figure, why stop now? If the other book insists on bullying its way into my brain cells, I'll give it some face time. Hopefully, it will hold out another month or two until I at least have the first draft complete.;-)

Barbara said...

Linda, This is my first time at your site and I really enjoyed your post. And I understand your dilemma. I'm a romance writer and writing teacher, so I'm gonna just speak from that about your question. I think you have to write what's calling you. Whatever you decide that may be. That's not to say this one you're working on is wrong. Maybe there's just a little issue with conflict not being strong enough to sustain...or not enough action happening? Maybe you can figure out what's niggling at you about it. But as far as the second book in a series? A friend of mine (also a student of mine) just sold her first book. It was actually the second book in a historical series. (She's written 3) Yet, she tried to write it as a stand alone. So if a reader picked it up, they wouldn't feel the lack. And now the house wants to see everything else she's got under the bed. So I guess for what I know about what you've told me, that would be my advice to you. Write it as much as you can as a stand alone, find the issues that are making it sag and remember, there really are no absolutes in this writing gig. Because in this biz, nothing is. Good luck!

Barbara said...

Oops,Debra, Sorry, called you Linda. Sorry about that! Just ignore that... :p) Renegade fingers....

DebraLSchubert said...

Barbara, First of all, don't worry about calling me Linda. Trust me, I've been called worse. And secondly, you're right on the money. Although my wip is the second in a series, they each can definitely be stand alones. I'm going to plow forward with it since the characters are too enticing to leave in the dust just yet. I'll keep the door open to the "other" book, and hope it can hold off for a while longer. So happy you found me, btw!

CLFagan said...

Boy you hit the nail on the head about the ups and downs of writing or should i say re-writing. Great post!

DebraLSchubert said...

Ace!!! It's so great to see you again! Congrats on publishing your book. I can't wait to hear how it goes. Glad you liked this post. I had fun writing it.;-)

Angie Ledbetter said...

I honestly don't know what I'd do! You're dedicated and quick, so is it possible you could work on two simultaneously?

DebraLSchubert said...

Angie, I ain't that good, honey. Slow and steady wins the race. That's me. One book at a time is my MO. I'm planning on finishing my current novel and then I'll move on to my mysterious lover. (hee hee)

WendyCinNYC said...

If I have an idea for something new while I'm in the middle of a novel, I usually write down some details in a folder, maybe plot it out a little, and put it away for later. I can only focus on one thing at a time.

Happy writing!

DebraLSchubert said...

Wendy, Good plan. That's what I'll do if more details on the new novel pry their way through. For now, MSL is still flowing pretty easily, and I'm a firm believer, when it comes to writing, you should go with the flow!;-)

Indigo said...

Being a writer IS hard work.

More so when you have the next book or something else trying to take up head space. I wouldn't give up on the current book just yet. From my experience just when the book is sliding into a standby, it picks up in ways you never imagined.

In any case maybe write down the general idea of what is haunting you on the other book - you know, just so you don't lose details.

It's hard when more than one book takes up space in your head. I know I've got one floating out there in the end zone of drafts and another almost there. Both books have been going on almost concurrent. (Hugs)Indigo

DebraLSchubert said...

Indigo, It's so wonderful to see a comment from you - always makes my day! Yes, you're right. Ever since I seriously considered setting my current wip aside, it's kind of taken off! Hope all is well in your world.;-)

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