Finishing a novel always presents me with the same dilemma: the abundance of time. I’m talking about hours that can be filled in anyway I see fit, save for the occasional freelance job and family obligation. But after three weeks of sending out queries and biting my nails in wait, I’m ready to start something new. I have to start something new. That’s what I do. I write. For better or worse. And the possibilities are endless.
Since I’m a file folder fanatic, my computer is veritable Wonderland of folders within folders within folders, which all lead to a set of ideas that have hit somewhere around the 150+ mark. Picking one, however, is my true problem. You see, I’ve written one young adult Greek mythology that didn’t do so well with agents despite the hours I spent researching, or my natural (heritage) inclination toward that topic. But I have to move on. I recently finished a young adult thriller that’s seeing some interest, but I know that could mean everything or nothing. A second blow to my ego could, quite literally, devastate me, so I try not to think too hard the negative. So what’s a writer to do…Can you hear the clock ticking as I thrum my fingers on my desk?
I’m juggling six ideas at the moment, one of which is middle grade series that sort of fell into my lap and makes me smile like an imp, and the others go something like this: Two young adult historical fictions (one based on true family events), One horror story (based on a strange phenomenon/urban legend from the State where I grew up, Massachusetts), One contemporary young adult, one young adult thriller, and one science fiction.
The prospect of summer’s rapid approach immobilizes me. I love summer. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just, historically, my most difficult time to write, to really hammer out words. But I’m a plotter. I like to know the end before I begin. I insist upon it. I also like to start with characters. Characterizations are my all-time favorite, and I’ve been told one of my strengths. Play to your strengths, as they say. Work on your weaknesses.
The first thing I’ll do is concentrate on character traits, idiosyncrasies, and setting; ensconcing myself in the world I’m creating. This happens so fully at times the transition back to reality is something like time travel. I need a better flux capacitor or something, I guess.
Then the process goes something like this:
“It’s about a boy/girl who….” (Fill in the blank)
Once I have the basic gist, I answer these questions:
1. Who is the main character?
2. What happens in the character’s life that throws them into this story?
3. What does he/she want most in the world?
4. Who are his/her closest allies?
5. Who or what opposes him/her and stops them from getting what they want most in the world?
6. What happens if he/she doesn’t get what she wants – what’s at stake?
7. What does he/learn in the end?
After I can answer those questions confidently, I begin a plot board. Beginning this week, in between writing a synopsis for my recent work, I propose to start outlining these stories one-by-one. My thinking is that one of them will scream to be heard over the others, and that’s the one I’ll put my backbone into. For the love of YA.
What do you do when you’ve finished a novel? How do you decide what to write or read next? And how do you plan on using the upcoming summer to work on your craft?