A New Novel—Daring to Dream
I was having a tough time devising a plot for a new novel. It turns out I just needed a little inspiration to remind me: Dream bigger!
Eventually, I had to step out of the afterglow.
Since finishing the first draft of my first novel a little over two years ago, I feel as though I’ve been constantly celebrating. First there was the triumph of finishing the thing, and then the thrill of completing a revised draft. After that it was the baited breath and anticipation of the (ultimately unsuccessful) query process. From there we moved on to the near miss with the boutique publisher I was courting. Then the thrill of deciding to self publish, then the publication itself, then the little shiver of excitement every time I made a few sales or got another review…
But despite the stellar advice of many of my author friends to start working on the next one, I found I was unable. The creative well hadn’t yet filled up again. I had a few ideas, but they seemed either daunting or uninspired.
I mean, TEORG was drawn closely from some real-life experiences. There was plenty of fiction there, but it was easy to manufacture. I knew where it started, I knew where it needed to end. I knew vaguely what was going to happen in the middle, and I knew how to make it exciting. Pulling it all together felt totally natural.
But starting a new novel? One that would be far more fantastical? That was a whole other story. And every time I started to work out a plot in my mind, I soon left it feeling—bored.
It turns out, to gain that inspiration I needed, I just needed to dream bigger.
A Goodreads Challenge (and a Dose of Inspiration)
I’m guilty of a great sin as a writer: I don’t read enough. I often go through phases. I’ll read a ton in the winter when I’m confined to the bus and train for my daily commutes, and then forego reading altogether once I get back on my bike in the spring. I can go months without reading a book, and that’s something I’m a little ashamed of.
Also, I never used to read while I was writing. I didn’t think my voice was strong enough, and I hated the way I’d start to sound like the authors I was reading (luckily I thing I’ve gotten past this).
But I spend a lot of time on Goodreads now, checking reviews of my book and looking around at what other authors are doing. And I decided to participate in their 2018 Reading Challenge, pledging to read 20 books this year.
EXCLUSIVE FOR SUBSCRIBERS!
Sign up for my FREE monthly newsletter today, and get instant access to my FREE SUBSCRIBER EXCLUSIVE short story.
Revenge is better with a side of bacon. . .
Maybe that’s not a lot for some people, but it’s a lot for me.
I’ve thrown myself into it, fully and completely. In fact, I’ll probably finish my sixth book this week (hey, spring and my bicycle are coming, I need to front-load the year). And what I’ve realized, already, is that I just haven’t been ambitious enough with my plotting. I need to dream bigger, because the book I want to write next:
- Is as rich and fantastical as Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage
- Is as beautiful, wondrous, and mysterious as Eowyn Ivey’s To the Bright Edge of the World
- Invents a forgotten history as delicious as the one in Anne/Christopher Rice’s Ramses the Damned: The Passion of Cleopatra
- Contains both the unease of a Patricia Highsmith novel, and her easy 1950s style (yeah, that 50’s part is going to be important)
I’ve realized, I can do this! So I’m going to continue reading amazing books—books with big plots and unforgettable characters. I’m going to let them inspire me as I move forward and begin to write something unlike anything you’ve seen from me before. Something that is totally new, and totally me.
And so it begins. On Friday, February 2, I wrote the prologue to a new book. A title is a long way off, so for now I’m simply referring to it as MS2. I’m aiming at a length between 70,000 and 100,000 words, and a completion date of the first draft by early June.
I’ve got my work cut out for me. Without telling you exactly what it’s about (not yet), so far I’ve had to:
- Research the history of Italian immigration to the United States
- Loosely invent a mythology with roots in existing traditions
- Devise a credible family tree spanning the 1890s to present
- Invent a fictional New England town located at the confluence of an existing and equally fictional river
Still to do before I can really get going:
- Research the history of suburban development in the greater Boston area in the late 1950s and early 1960s
- Research agricultural trends of the 1950s (and contrast them with today)
- Take a deep dive into the workings of small town government
- Figure out what exactly might qualify someone for a collegiate Cross Country scholarship
- And, you know, kind of finalize some major plot intersections
And I’m ready! The creative well is overflowing now. I’m ready to hit the ground running, and I can’t wait to keep you informed of my progress. For now though—research!
Share your thoughts! Based on the limited information here, can you even hazard a guess as to what MS2 is going to be about? If you’re a writer, how do you draw inspiration from the work of others? Have you done, or do you like to do, research for your stories? Let me know in the comments below.
Thanks as always for reading,