"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?