Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Starting a New Book. Careful what you say around me...

What do we writers do when our latest book is finished? We sit around a lot, staring at walls, waiting for a flash of new insight. I don't sleep well - still! Now I'm writing in my sleep! These nocturnal wanderings are brilliantly thought out novels, all the characters in place, doing interesting things, busy as usual. Then, when I wake up, there's nothing.

I didn't have such a dead zone after Hafan Deg was finished, because Strachan was just waiting for the re-writes, and was all ready to go. This time, once the final proofreading is over, I am faced with a New Challenge.

What on earth will this book be about? I have several ideas, but none that are bursting to be told. I read with interest that Melissa has jumped right in again - overjoyed at her latest idea, while I sit, staring at the walls, waiting.

It finally occurred to me that I'm not much good without my writing. When I'm painting, I'm happy enough, pleased with most of my pictures, absorbed for hours as they grow into something worthy of sale. But it doesn't involve me to the same extent that the writing does. Come the fall, I have a couple of custom orders to fill for an old client, and I look forward to that, but without the extreme excitement I feel when I have a new book ready to go.

I go shopping, or take myself to lunch, and I study the people around me, and I'm waiting for that little spark that says I'm ready to begin again. These poor folk have no idea what's going on in my head as they meet my gaze, greet me on the street. Will they be the trigger that gets me racing home to my computer to get those first tiny thoughts down? Does so-and-so across the road realize that I'm considering her as a major character in my next story? Chat with a writer and the chances are your conversation is being memorized for later use. The most insignifant piece of gossip can lead to real suspense and intrigue.

I believe I have the setting in place, and a flirtatious hint of a plot, but not enough to cry, to use one of my father's favorite expressions, "Right, let's have you!" But it will happen this week, I think. I'll be away in August, but sitting around airports and on planes is perfect for mental-writing. I'm certainly not taking my lap top.

Considering I grouch about this tiny town, where I can't order pizza on the phone, must pay bank fees on cash withdrawals because my own bank is twenty miles away, and generally plan for a day of shopping because of the distance to the nearest major shopping center, it is a perfect place for a writer. The city tends to crowd your thoughts, overwhelm with ideas. Here, when a light is left on in a foreclosed house, shining out onto the night in a street where few lights are seen after 10 pm, the nub of an idea can take hold without distraction. Of course, I've already done a book about an empty house with a light left on, but what's the big deal if I decide to do another? Others may write "It was a dark and stormy night..." I like to write, "It was a dark and empty house..." You know I love houses, especially vacant ones.

So this meandering post today is to just to fill you in on my thought processes between books. I'm going to take myself to that lovely restaurant today, the one that overlooks the water. The weather is perfect, and it's midweek, so it shouldn't be crowded. I'll sit out on that patio with my glass of wine, and consider the sun sparkling on the water, and listen to the call of the seagulls. Perhaps my next book will begin there. Or over there, beyond the treeline, where that new housing development was recently finished. Some of those houses are still empty...

You'll be the first to know, once I set that first line down, which - as usual - will be the final line in the book. You know how I work.


Embee said...

congrats on finishing strachan's attic! I think I've figured out how to fix the kinks in my WIP so I can move forward soon. Then I'll have to loop back and chop away at the beginning until it's better. Unfortunately, I came up with a new character for another story and she's really been nagging me lately. I keep trying to put her off, so hopefully she'll be patient, but I'm not so sure that's in her makeup! But like you, I don't have a plot for her yet, especially since I'm trying to finish the one I'm working on now!

I think it's great you've finished! I can't wait to hear about the next one, after you've come up with it. And read this one!

sallyhanan said...

Congratulations! Enjoy the rest, and may your ideas flow with the ocean, but come in with the tide.

Retiredandcrazy said...

Well done. What an achievement. Good luck with finding a publisher. Writing is so addictive isn't it?

Melissa Marsh said...

It took me weeks and weeks and weeks to think of a good story idea. But now I'm excited to work on it.

The story idea that hit me the other day is a good one - but, when I tried to start writing it, I realized that now was not the time to write it. Is that weird? I don't know, but this is the second novel idea I've had to put aside because it's "not the right time."

Fran said...

Sally - you're spot on about needing a rest. But can I do it? I doubt it. And Melissa - The time isn't 'right'. It's not so much waiting for an idea, but waiting for the go ahead to pursue it. Thanks to all of you for hanging in with me. I feel a bit boring about now.