Number Two Nearly Done!

My second novel is nearly finished and currently is being read by one last reviewer (who may require massive rewrites, but I’m up for that). My first book took about 30 years to finish while this one has taken months. I have to say, that shocks me. I was expecting to take forever, but that’s not how it worked out. To my dismay, this book is demanding a sequel (how very rude!) Problem is, there are other books I want to write, but they will either have to wait, or I’ll have to work on books simultaneously. I suppose that beats not having any ideas at all, but I’m impatient to get on with writing. My husband pointed out that one of his favorite authors writes several books a year (and they’re all good, dammit). I think I may have to stop having a life and just lock myself in my house and never emerge except to do book promotion stuff. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

In truth, this is the third “second” book I’ve started because I was having a little trouble settling on what to write next. Everyone will tell you to follow a genre fiction book with one of the same or similar genre. I researched and worked on one fan fic sort of thing and one historical novel. I set both aside in hopes I could manage something paranormal and romantic with suspense similar to the first book. While I was casting about, I remembered once upon a time I had an idea for a story about a shop run by a couple who dealt with paranormal issues. “What if,” I asked myself, “they aren’t a couple yet?” It sort of grew a life of its own from there.

The book went quickly and has been easy to adjust as I get feedback (thank you to the wonderful people who help me with reality checks and typos). Now, the hardest part for me is coming up with the blurb–the synopsis that shows up on the back cover and on the Amazon description. How do I boil down my novel into something that will grab people and make them want to read it? Honestly, it’s harder than writing the story in the first place. How much to tell, what to leave out, how many subplots to touch on…the book is a mystery so there are subplots, all interwoven, and this book has a much bigger cast of characters. Once all that is done, it’s off to the publisher, more reviewers, a cover design to approve, galleys to read, and on and on. I hope it will be out before Christmas, but I’m not holding my breath.

My reviewers are saying it’s a much better book than Beloved Lives. That pleases me, and I agree. It means I’m learning how to write and write better. But one reviewer insists there is going to have to be a third book–a spin off with some of the side characters. I’m starting to get a bad feeling about this….

Image: Yes, the next book is a mystery. Me at Scotland Yard, 2002. By Jonathan Hutchins.

A Little Help From My Friends

Not long ago, you may recall, I was ready to shove my latest novel off a cliff and hie myself to a commune or convent or some other place that begins with a “c”. Instead, I put down the computer and stepped away from the writing. Then, I handed off the draft to my long-suffering friends to read, critique, or shove off a cliff. Bless them, they not only slogged their way through the novel, they provided feedback, suggestions for improving it, and praise!

I’m a social sort of creature. I like camping with a few hundred sweaty people once or twice a year. I like going to other people’s readings and publicly reading my own work. I like sharing the voice that got into my head and made me write what I wrote. I like helping out other writers with what I’ve learned so far, not that I’m any kind of expert, but, as they say, in the land of the blind, a one-eyed dude can be helpful. I like praise and positive feedback, because, who doesn’t? But more than all that, I like honest opinions that will make my work better.

I have the great luck to know some good writers and dedicated readers who can spot a fatal flaw in a novel. These folks are worth their weight in gold, booze, pet sitting, or nearly anything else they ask of me. Without these friends, I could consult editors (some for hire) who can yank me back from the edge of the cliff my novel and I are about to dive over.

Stephen King tells the story that his first novel, Carrie, was rescued from the trash can by his wife, Tabitha. She thought it wasn’t so very bad. I know how Mr. King felt when he chucked his novel. I’m glad he had the sense to listen to his wife and glad she saved that story.

My friends were able to spot the pretty decent story buried in the work I had gotten too close to, and they are helping me fix it. I think in the end, it’s going to be a good, possibly great, story, but that wouldn’t have happened without a little help from my friends. Thanks, guys.

Image: Me (in there somewhere) with a few of my friends at Lynn and Susan’s hand fasting. Photographer unknown.

My Personal Writer’s Retreat

Once a year I fly down to Tucson, Arizona, to visit my best friend, Chris. She is well acquainted with a couple who spend part of every year in Italy, and who graciously allow me to stay at their house while I’m visiting. Most days of my week-long stay, I spend the morning writing, doing research, and generally tending to the business of being a writer. The rest of the time, Chris and I walk, visit places like the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum (where we see folks like this Mexican gray wolf), and eat and drink to excess. And we talk. We talk a lot.

Chris is  a great sounding board for my ideas and plot lines. She has a good understanding of human nature (she has a master’s degree in psychology), and sometimes keeps me from veering off in the wrong direction. Having someone to bounce ideas off of and to do reality checks for me is a pretty wonderful thing for a writer.

Having a week of undistracted, uninterrupted writing is a pretty wonderful thing, as well. When I’m home, I am likely to have cats on the keyboard, dirty dishes or laundry that won’t shut up and leave me alone, and a thousand other distractions great and small. When I’m home, I sometimes find I have to remove myself to the pubic library or a coffee shop to really focus and get things done. When I had to take a friend to the doctor’s office, I got an amazing amount written sitting in the waiting room. I doubt they’ll let me camp there on a regular basis to write, but it goes to show that writing can be done anyplace, if there are few enough distractions. And some days, writing at home just rolls and everything that might seduce me away from my keyboard falls away.

I like my visits every year to see Chris, but I’m not a real fan of deserts. I can appreciate the beauty of them, especially when seen through the eyes of someone who lives there, but I prefer the woodlands of the midwest. Still, there are some beautiful things in Arizona. Not least of these are the clear, cool nights when millions are stars are visible in the sky. As a place to visit a friend, write, and soak up the food and culture (we saw a pretty great chamber music concert on Wednesday), I think Tucson will stay on my list of best places to work at writing.