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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Writing Life: Starting a New Project

It’s that time again. All the current projects are done (or at a phase where I don’t need to do my bit again until later) and that means…duh duh duh…time to start a new project.

Oh boy.

This stage of a book is both exciting and scary. For me at least. Some authors just feel one or the other, I suppose. I love diving into a new project; feeling the energy stirring as the ideas come together, finding the bits and pieces that will eventually come together like one giant picture puzzle. But it is also a little overwhelming to look ahead at all the work yet to be done and wonder if my Brilliant Idea will actually work out the way I want it to.

Of course, the process is different depending on whether I am working on a nonfiction book for Llewellyn or a novel. At the beginning stage anyway, the nonfiction is a lot easier. I figure out what the book is about, write up an outline/table of contents, and then start plugging away at it. (Assuming that my editor Elysia is at least potentially interested. If she’s not, I come up with another idea.)

Novels are a lot trickier. A LOT trickier. I have to come up with a basic plot and the primary characters, and then figure out what I’m doing with them. Luckily, the novel I’m about to start working on is one my agent Elaine and I discussed months ago, right before I got the contract with Berkley for the Baba Yaga books. I’d given her three options for what I might work on next and thankfully we both liked the same idea best. But just as I got ready to work on it, I signed with Berkley and ended up spending the next few months working on revisions for Wickedly Dangerous (Baba #1), and writing Wickedly Wonderful (Baba #2) and Wickedly Magical (the prequel novella), as well as two books for Llewellyn.

Now all that is done and I can finally dive into work on One Born Every Minute. This new book is quite the departure for me. It’s not a paranormal romance or an urban fantasy. There aren’t any witches in it whatsoever. (That’s right—NO witches. Take a deep breath. It’s going to be okay.) In fact, it is a humorous contemporary romance. It is going to be quirky and snarky and fun to write, but still a major change from my usual, so that’s a little intimidating too. Still, I expect to have a ball writing it, as soon as I get to that stage of the game.

Before I do, however, I have to take my current basic three page summary and expand it into a longer general outline (not everyone outlines, and I don’t outline on every book, but I do find that writing goes a lot faster if I have one). I’ll be creating character studies for my two major protagonists as well as a whole slew of secondary characters, figuring out where they live and what motivates them and all sorts of background information that may or may not ever show up in the book, but which I need to know before I can start writing about them.

I’ve already found “pictures” of the two main characters (something my critique partner Lisa got me into doing in the last couple of years) and started a Pinterest board for the book where I can store them and any other pictures I come up with related to the manuscript. [Thanks, Mindy Klasky!]

Here’s P.T. “Petey” Parker (short for Pearl Topaz, of all things, but if you were named Pearl Topaz, I’m pretty sure you’d go by a nickname too) and Nathan Chandler.

The next week or two will be spent in the “Discovery” phase of the book—finding out what the book is about and who these characters are, doing some research on places and some basic facts, and mulling…letting the story start to stew in the back of my brain until I am ready to sit down and start writing in earnest.

Mind you, this isn’t the way everyone starts a new project. It isn’t even how I start every single novel, although I use this approach more often than not. I’ll also be reading (and in some cases rereading) books in the same general genre with the same basic feel. Not every author does this either. Some of my writer friends won’t go near anything that is even vaguely similar to their work in progress until it is done; if they’re writing a paranormal, they may read romance, for instance.

The theory here is that they don’t want anyone else’s writing to influence theirs, usually. I don’t worry about that much and I like to immerse myself into the kinds of worlds I’m going to be writing about to get in the zone, so to speak. So I’m rereading Jennifer Cruise (who is probably closest to what I’m attempting with this book, and whose writing I adore) and Susan Elizabeth Phillips, and Tawna Fenske, and reading a few authors who are new to me that friends have recommended.

And mulling, musing, and dreaming until I am ready to sit down and let this book be born.

What about you? Have you started any interesting new projects lately? If so, do you start by plotting and planning, or do you just jump in and go?

 BTW--stay tuned, because I should have a cover reveal for Wickedly Wonderful coming up soon!


  1. I don't outline. Ever. Well, not for fiction. For me, every short story, novella, or novel is a journey of discovery because I have no idea what's going to happen until it does. I know how to outline, I just can't write to one. Even now with the first draft of my novel finished and revisions tentatively begun, I am still figuring out what the story is.

    1. My CP doesn't outline either. I sometimes have a really basic one and sometimes more detailed, but I don't have time to figure out where the story is, I have to write it :-)

  2. Nice way to work for those who can. Disciplined. I could write an outline on Sunday, change it on Monday, change it again on Tuesday as the characters have their say. Good luck

    1. Well, just because I write an outline doesn't mean that everyone in it behaves and does what it says :-) And until this darn cold goes away, I've got no energy and no discipline at all.

  3. I am so excited for the Baba Yaga books, and now I have another book to anticipate. :)

    I'm terrible about writing down a whole story. I get started, then something happens and the story gets stuck.

    1. A good way to get unstuck is by brainstorming with a friend. Give it a try the next time this happens :-)