Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Writing Book Two--What to Write About?
That's the question isn't it? You've spent all of this time developing and perfecting one idea until it shines, and now you're expected to come up with something else. Something new. Something different, but not too different--we have genres to worry about, after all.
If you want to be a writer, you know you have to write more than one book (unless you're Harper Lee), but after you've finished the first one, you might find yourself wondering if you have anything else left in you. Or maybe you have a ton of ideas, but nothing that you want to write now.
Plus, let's face it, you really love your first book. That idea was fantastic! What if Book Two isn't as good? What if you don't love it as much? (I promise this will resolve itself as you dive into the next book.)
I'm going to tell you what I did--what I'm still in the process of doing--and hopefully, it will help. As always, remember that writing is terribly individual. What worked for me might not work for you. That's both the blessing and curse of writing. There is no formula, there's only what works for you.
Here's what I did. As I mentioned before, my first book is Southern women's fiction with a hint of magical realism. Yeah, it's a little odd. So I knew my second book needed to share some similarities with the first. It would be difficult for me to sell Book Two if it was say, an urban fantasy. Not impossible, but difficult, and I have enough problems without handing myself more.
Like many writers, I had several ideas floating around my head but if they didn't fit in the Southern women's fiction/magical realism category, I cut them. I let go of about 1/2 of my ideas that way. Not that I won't ever write about them. I just won't write them now.
Then I took the ideas I had left and started turning them over. I added to them, cut things away, and in general, just lived with these ideas for a few weeks. Eventually, one idea took over and the others faded into the background. I'm saving them for later.
Now, as I mentioned a while ago, I do not outline. I get a vague feeling about a scene, or a character pops into my head, or I get really interested in a particular part of the country, but I don't really know what happens in the story. Not yet anyway. So I take these tidbits (sometimes it's something as small as the color of a house) and I start stretching them out. I add more to them. I might say, add a garden to a house, or add an injury to a character. Sometimes this is a long process for me and sometimes it's not.
Let me try to explain it this way. It's a bit like playing with Legos. I have a general idea about something and just start putting blocks together. I have one block, and I build onto it until I have a shape I like. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't, but I keep mashing blocks together until I have something that feels like a book.
One thing I do try to keep in mind during all of this craziness is that I try to combine seemingly incongruous things. For example, I mentioned around Christmas that I want this second book to have an Edward Scissorhands meets The Yellow Wallpaper kind of feel. These two things do not match, but juxtaposing those two stories creates a sort of whimsical madness that I find endlessly interesting.
I'm not there yet with Book Two, but because I know the genre, the feel, and have some basic images, I'm getting there. If I know how I want a book to feel, I can nudge it along in that direction until I'm satisfied. It's very time consuming and maddeningly vague. I realize this. I know some of you were hoping for a step by step guide to finding a book idea, but I don't think that exists.
Good luck & happy writing!