First, you must realize that I am a plotter and a stewer. I have never been the person who can just sit down and aimlessly write a novel. An idea has to stick with me for awhile and allow me to befriend it before I want to commit to it.
As I send my first novel out into the query trenches, I must think about the second. I have one project that’s been with me for 21 years (yes – that’s not a typo. Since I was 3. It was my very first novel idea and it’s evolved and matured with me for my entire life) and another for about 3. So, neither are strangers, but obviously the 21 year old is ready to leave the nest and the 3 year old might need a bit more nurturing and planning before it’s ready.
However, the 21 year old is kind of a deadbeat. I love it, but quite frankly, it is too similar to the book that I just devoted 3 years of my life to. This novel would probably trap me into the same cinematic writing style, the same quandary of “YA readers would like it but it’s not YA,” the same foundation of mysticism and mythology, and give me the same anxiety complex about whether it’s culturally appropriate or not. On the positive side, if I sell my first novel, this would be the obvious choice, as it would fit my “brand” excellently.
Then we have the 3 year old, which could not be more different than the book I just wrote. It is complex, original, and dark. It takes after the authors I really enjoy, like Gillian Flynn, David Mitchell, and Mark Danielewski. It’s a post-modern thriller. It would shatter every ball and chain that is dragging down my writing voice and locking it into conventions. But it’s so incredibly complex that it could easily take half the year just to outline it. It might not even be *possible* to write this book at my skill level. I don’t even know what it’s about yet – I only know how it will be written, and the general themes. But every person I’ve talked to has pointed to this idea and said with great fervor, “WRITE. THIS. ONE.” The downside of course, is that if this one takes off, I might be stuck writing post-modern thrillers for the rest of my life. Which would suck, because this is the only idea for that Type of Book that I have.
I have a feeling this will all come down to what happens with Paradisa. But I don’t have time to really wait for that. I’ve entertained the idea of writing them both simultaneously. Two manuscripts can’t hurt. But, I have to be realistic too. As ready as I am to sit down and write the 21 year old tomorrow, the 3 year old would hit the refresh button on my entire writer brain. On the other hand, the 3 year old has dragged its feet around for years now, still not deciding what it wants to be, and I don’t want to waste six months trying to figure out what the plot could possibly be. And I don’t want Paradisa’s future agent to look at my 3 year old and say “wait – what the heck is this? I thought you wrote mythological adventure fantasy.”
When it comes to passion and excitement, I think I’m a bit more excited about the 21 year old. But when it comes to wanting to grow and improve as a writer, there’s no question that the 3 year old is where it’s at.
Do you get torn up over your “brand” as well? Do you have any tips for plowing through a concept to get to the actual story?