Maybe you’re a published author with an established series, maybe you’ve just walked away from NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with more of an idea than a first draft, or maybe you’ve started a bunch of projects and can’t decide which to finish. No matter the success level, there comes a time when every author faces a new blank page.
Following the September launch of SINS OF THE MOTHER, my second Caitlin Bergman thriller, and the subsequent completion of my first traditional publishing contract, I find myself once again contemplating what to write next.
Since my original contract was for two books in a series, and that publisher has a timed-window in which to execute that option – meaning I can write another Caitlin Bergman thriller, but they might decide they don’t want to buy it (and unless a series is a walk-off home run, other publishers may not jump for someone else’s property) – I’ve outlined a third book in the series but haven’t started yet. I’ve also outlined a modern noir featuring Mike Roman, a spin-off character from my first book, as well as a stand-alone domestic suspense thriller. Writers who have a hard time coming up with ideas may hate me just for having three projects ready to go, but telling the stories isn’t currently my biggest obstacle: Time management is the challenge.
Between the horrors of the pandemic, a job that is really emphasizing the full in full-time lately, a nine-month-old baby testing every hard surface in my work-from-home environment, a need to continue to market my latest release, and a completely-in-my-own-head quest for forward-leaning career momentum (whatever that means), I find myself biting my nails, tearing my hair, and enduring every other clichéd reaction when I could be writing.
While I know the only deadline I have right now is self-imposed, I still want to know that I’m heading the right direction for the next ninety thousand words to six months…as in…What do I Write Next????
Working the Questions
One can obsess over the question and never type a word. Therefore, I return to my system, working the following questions:
- Which story can I pitch to a friend in under 3 lines?
- Which story do I want to tell because of the content, rather than the hope for career momentum?
- Which story creeps into my mind, despite the constant noise of life?
Ultimately, I can pitch all three projects to friends in under three lines. I’m excited and confident in the content of all three, and doubt choosing any of these directions would hurt my career. But when it comes down to it, the stand-alone suspense thriller is the project that answers its own questions in my dreams, requires a dry-erase board outside the shower, and scares me, due to the changes in style and voice the book may require.
Delays are inevitable, time is a valuable commodity, and this year of all years has proven that nothing we consider normal will remain that way for long. I can’t speak for anyone else, but answering these three questions honestly for myself centers me enough to attack the blank page, confident that time spent in the pursuit, regardless of the outcome, will be worth every second.