Thursday, May 28, 2009

No progress--starting another novel

I didn't do any work yesterday and I doubt I will today. When push comes to shove, I can't bring myself to dive in when I know that comments from my reader that will do a lot to influence my judgment are on the way. Any day now. I'm keeping busy hunting for freelance work that hopefully will lead to something great being in place when I finish the next draft.

So let me talk about novel #2 for a second . . . for the first time here in this journal I think. For several months I've been stewing on an idea for what I want to do next. I've resisted doing a lot of journaling or notetaking for a couple reasons I've written about here before. One, I'm afraid of giving rein to any grass-is-greener enthusiasm that will result in me not working on the WIP, which is the priority. That would be just my style, so I'm trying to manage against it. Two, I've adopted a theory that the usual novice writer's habit if carrying notebooks everywhere and jotting down every idea that comes to them is actually counter productive. My attitude is that if I don't remember the idea, it wasn't good enought anyway. Better to save the energy for real work.

But I can't keep from having ideas, can I, so stewing it has been, and I did start a notebook last fall so that I would be ready to go when the urge to start taking notes was irresistable. A couple nights ago, I didn't get any sleep and spent most of the night kicking around ideas for the second book. Background of the character, mentally drafting the tone of the exposition, etc.
So yesterday, instead of the work I'm supposed to be doing on the WIP, I sat down with my notebook and put some thoughts together. The last entry was more than 6 months ago.

(This might turn out to be an accidentally wise strategy for lots of reasons. The first novel, after all, had all my life so far to deveop. The typical sophomore slump usually results from themes that are less ripened. I'm giving this one a fair head start perhaps.)

I sat down to record some of these character background ideas, but I ended up talking about stylistic interests. What kind of vibe do I want at the sentence level? What tone? What POV? What structure? What's going to give me freedome to do the kind stylistic play and stretching that I'm interested in doing next? How does that mesh with character? e.g. Won't certain kinds of characters, when I'm following their POV, necessarily limit the style?

I guess what was interesting to me about my notes yesterday was the confidence that story and plot and character development will take care of themselves later and that what I should be dealing with right now is the more foundational question of what kind of literature I want to make. I have been spending less time inventing the character's background, for now, than I looking around at books that I like, wondering what it is about them that pops for me, what's missing out there and what I wish I was reading. It is a different--dare I say, more mature--approach than I had to the start of the WIP.

Timeline: My goal is to start on this book at the beginning of 2010. I'll have a six-month period there where my work and living situation will change quite a bit. It may be exactly right for treating like a writer's retreat. (And it may be exactly wrong.) That timeline would mean finishing the WIP this summer and fall.

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