Thursday, March 5, 2009

Everything New is Old Again: The Sequel

I've been editing Book Two all week (it still has no title) and I'm about to hand it over to my critique group this weekend. To be honest, I have concerns.

Not that the book sucks, (I don't think it does) but that it doesn't live up to The Shifter, the first book in the trilogy. I'd bet that most writers run into a similar worry when they work on the sequel to their debut novel. How can we not? It's a lot of responsibility. It took us a long time (probably) to write the first one, and now we have a contract hanging over us and we have to produce. It's pretty nerve-wracking.

So here's my problem:

The Shifter has a lot of depth. The protag, Nya, is really stuck between a rock and a hard place and she faces some pretty tough moral quandaries. The stakes are personal and high, and all throughout the book, no matter what choice she has to make, someone is going to get hurt. You really feel for the poor gal.

Book Two is a rollicking adventure for sure, and Nya gets into just as many pickles, but what she faces this time around is different. Her eyes have been opened and her take on the bigger picture has changed based on her experiences in The Shifter. She understands herself better, and she knows what she's willing to do to get what she wants. And she doesn't quibble over some of the darker choices like she used to.

I suppose I could tweak and set up Book Two to follow the same structure as the first, but I'm reluctant to do that. Why? Because readers will have seen that already. They'll have seen Nya caught in impossible situations and they'll know what she does to handle it. I don't think they'll want to see her do it again. I think they'll want to see her do something else.

But...

I think they still want her to be Nya.

So what I've done is let Nya be Nya, and give readers a story that captures them like the first book does (or will come October, finger crossed), but lets them see how Nya handles a whole new set of troubles. I've shoved her out of the comfort zone she finds herself in at the end of The Shifter, and forced her to face the consequences of her actions. Yes, this was mean, but I have to prepare her for the things she'll face in Book Three. (But not in a "middle movie" syndrome kinda way). She'll thank me for it later, really.

I'll be on pins and needles until the crits come back, but I think it'll turn out okay.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Writer's Parry: Dealing With Writer's Block

I don't get writer's block. (Well, I get it, I just don't get it).*

I've been incredibly lucky in my writing life, and I've never found myself unable to put words on a page. But I have found myself not wanting to write, or not feeling like writing plenty of times. During these times, I feel that my muse is dodging me, ducking my attempts to storytell like a gold-medal fencer. And let me tell you, she's one nimble little minx.

When this happens, I don't sweat it. I know that my mood will swing back and the words will come, and I think not getting wigged out about it actually helps prevent a full-on block. Sometimes, the mind just needs to refuel.

Taking a few days off to remind myself why I love to write in the first place helps a lot. I dive into my ever-present stack to to-be-read books and get lost in worlds and words other than my own. If I feel really dodged, I re-read Harlan Ellison. That always lights a fire under my muse and sends her right back to the keyboard.

Pretty much any great story can get the creative juices flowing again. Favorite movies, TV shows, anything written by Aaron Sorkin or Joss Wheadon. I mean, seriously, how can a writer watch a West Wing, Firefly or Buffy rerun and not get jazzed about writing?

Leo McGarity: "He rode his bicycle into a tree, C.J., what do you want me -- the President, while riding his bicycle, came to a sudden arboreal stop." (The West Wing, Pilot)

You can't tell me that doesn't make you want to grab a pen and try to use arboreal as awesomely as that.

*This post was inspired not by my novel, but by not knowing what to post about today.