What is it about the second time around that brings forth so much trepidation? Musicians are often times most harshly judged by their sophomore album, and the same goes for writers. It’s almost as if we’re always willing to accept one lucky success by someone for their creative endeavors…but if you’re really going to put yourself out there and try it again, you better rock it, because otherwise the critics will eat you for breakfast!
With my first novel under my belt, and in the final editing stages, my thoughts turn to the next story. I can see where writing a series is favored by both writers and readers; no one wants to let go of a beloved character, and as a writer, it really allows you to start off from above ground zero. However, that’s not the direction I’m taking. Instead, I want to tell completely different stories and different characters, with theme as the common thread. Oldsters, at its core, is about guilt, forgiveness and second chances. It shows the commonalities of people, no matter their age. Those are the topics I want to explore when I write, so this is where I sit now.
At first I went through previously unfinished books. Now that I’ve actually completed one, maybe there’s something in my own slush pile that deserves a second look! But alas, no…there was a reason I put those others aside.
A couple of weeks ago, I came up with an idea I thought positively enough about to start an outline. I texted the idea to my brother, and he gave me the “it’s a good start” reply. After a few days of mulling it over however, I of course started second-guessing myself. How could I come up with a workable idea so soon? It couldn’t be that good, I was rushing it.
At work, between calls, I brainstorm on paper – anything that comes to mind. Situations, occupations, types of people…it’s actually pretty amazing where you go when you let yourself disconnect like that. See a flag, think of the person that makes flags – put it in a situation that’s current in our society and you could have a story. See a truck driving down the road carrying carnival rides to the next destination, think of the carnies and how one particular one ended up there. It’s really that simple. The trick is weeding out all those acceptable ideas and finding one that shines – the one that keeps you up at night. The story that no matter how you try to tell yourself it’s not worthy, keeps coming to you over and over again, refusing not to be told.
So in the meantime, I’m polishing off Brooklyn Baby, a three-act short story, each act told by one of three people in a hospital room at a particularly harrowing moment. I’m a true novice when it comes to short stories, but my God, they are great practice for making you a better writer! To be able to have a beginning, middle and successful ending in a short span is an amazing training ground.
I know I’ll settle on an idea for the second book soon, and I haven’t completely let go of the one I’ve started to outline. I’m attending a writer’s conference in Ft. Lauderdale this coming March, and I must have an answer for the popular agent question, ‘so what are you working on now’?
I’d love to hear from any of you writers out there that have faced this dilemma and how you steered yourself through it. Shout out to all my followers, both on this blog and on Twitter – the writing community is amazing and I’m happy to be a part of it. Supporting and being supported from near and far – thank you!