After I spend a few days with my family later this week I will be spending my vacation relaxing watching basketball making snowmen working/reading and finishing up a round of edits for JACOB WONDERBAR.
And yet even with that task at hand I’m already looking over the horizon with a great deal of nervousness as I merely contemplate finishing one book and starting another. I have the new book jitters.
As many/most/all of you know, starting to write a new book can be a hugely daunting task. I liken it to staring down at a deep, dark abyss. You know it’s a long way down and it’s pretty scary to jump.
Some writers I know just try and block out how much work they have ahead and just chip away as best they can. I always try and remind myself that it will get done eventually with just a little constant steady progress. Other people try and outline so they can break it all down into comprehensible and non-daunting chunks.
What about you? Do you find it difficult to start a new book project? Or are you so jazzed about the new idea that it carries you through until the new book jitters pass? How do you cope with staring at the abyss?
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Art: Thomas Moran – Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
The opening is all. Once I have that nailed, plus a vague idea of the ending, the rest is mere agony!
Many moons ago, I began a satire on UK politics with Maggie Thatcher rounding the table in the Cabinet room whacking everyone around the ear with her handbag, thereby provoking an election. The thrust of the satire was the subsequent election campaign.
If I do say as I shouldn't, the half-novel that made it to paper was bl**dy hilarious.
Why half? I had to stop because, to my consternation, the opening scene was thieved by the lady herself. Not sure to what extent the handbag caused grievous bodily harm, but figuratively, Maggie committed political suicide more or less as her image in my satire did.
And, as I came grudgingly to conclude, I could not have satirized the election campaigns that followed more wickedly than they satirized themselves.
Of course, it could always have been worse. Imagine trying to satirize the Nixon Administration immediately prior to Watergate.
Melissa Pearl says
I LOVE starting a new project. A blank page on screen is so exciting and filled with so many possibilities. I usually start with a brief break down then just get into it. The hard part for me is working through the sludge in the middle, forcing myself to to get to the climax at the end.
Happy writing everybody 🙂
I'm sure it won't take you, Mr Speedy Gonzales, longer than a year to complete another book. In the meantime I'm waiting with interest to read about Jacob.
However, it takes me around ten years to finish a novel-sized story. (Well, it really only takes about two-three years to finish the bare bones of a story, but the development and fine-tuning are endless for me.) And by the time I'm finished, someone else has written and published a similiar plot. This has happened about three times to me now, and in the last instance the similiarities were so many it was surreal. But I think I'll beat fate by just changing various plot-points. Although it's hard when one story contains vampire-like characters, and the whole mood and theme centres around the noir and the undead. But what I could do is focus on all the elements that preclude vampire actvities and have the vampire-like character acting in a way that is quite different to the norm and yet still with the same seductive, irrestible draw of a creature who is powerful, charismatic and uncanny – but not evil. After watching New Moon, I feel the bite has been taken out of vampires, and am quite sick of the concept. It's time for something different, anyway.
Meghan Ward says
I definitely find it difficult to start a new project. My first book is done (and awaiting edits) and I've been procrastinating on starting the second, as excited as I am about the idea. Maybe we all need some New Year's resolutions.
Sequels are always a good way to start a new book because they are a continuation of a character or an era or whatever. The big abyss is a wonderful place to stare into, but even more fun if you close your eyes and jump right in. Merge with it, become one with it. Imagine what your characters would see if they stared into it with you… a river in the future? A lost tribe? If that doesn't work, write the fun things first: the title page, dedication, the acknowledgements, the little quote that ties the book and chapters together. The words and story are there, just waiting for a nudge to come out!
Writing is my favorite part so it's more like looking at the first step on a grand adventure than into an abyss, but I still outline the shape of it. I try and do the thinking, planning, analytical parts before I begin so that when I'm in the writing phase, I can sink deep into the feel, taste, smell of the place and become my characters on the journey.
You're right about new book jitters, though. I tend to keep rewriting old stories rather than start something new. It's such a huge leap of faith. I've got an idea for a new story, but the work and research would be phenomenal. And I don't know if I have what it takes to pull it off. The idea is that a very special girl called Peace, who is Jewish and lives in Israel, is able to bring about the beginning of peace between her people and neighbouring countries by simply talking to ordinary people and their leaders. This story would not in any way be political. It would border on fantasy, really, as the girl is quite unlike any human being who has ever existed – more like someone from myth. However, she is rather simple and ordinary in some ways, too. The story is called Peace, but apart from the title and the central conceit, and some music, nothing else is done.
Tom Bradley Jr. says
It's not so much an abyss as it is a hole that needs to be filled. So break out the shovel and start filling!
Like many here, I LOVE starting and hate finishing. It sounds crazy but most of my characters come to me in a dream. This seem to latch onto my brain and day-thoughts for awhile till they hit the paper. Probably not the best way to start though.
Happy beginnings to you!
Laurie Boris says
I love starting new projects – including editing existing manuscripts. Experience has taught me that although I have to shift gears a bit, nothing bad happens from simply stepping forward into the abyss. Sometimes it's even fun.
I'm always eager to start a new project.
I've just finished my second junior fiction and I'm working on the third, but an adult book I've been planning, keeps popping into my head. I guess I'll be working on two books, starting on Jan 1st. I can't wait.
I never had a problem starting a new project until I found an agent. Now I'm scared to death she won't like whatever new thing I write.
I need to get over this. I'm one of those people who like to say they don't care what other people think, but I do. Oh I do.
Good luck with your next project, Nathan!
I love starting a new book. It's about 10K words in where I start getting the jitters. I try to only work on one project at a time, and just save any random thoughts that could be ballooned into storylines for later.
As far as writing, I write mosaic style. To me it is far less intimidating and easier to keep moving. If one part is giving me fits or amnesia, I just write something else. Last step is connecting the dots while singing along Pee-Wee Herman style (LA LA LA)
Good luck with your new project, Nathan!!
The same day I finished edits on my book that comes out in the spring, I started on the new book(s). I'm used to the rhythm of being a magazine editor. There was never enough time between issues to enjoy being done–because we were already on to the next thing.
Blogging Mama Andrea says
I actually don't have trouble jumping into something new. Sometimes I have too many new ideas and have to pick which to work on first. I use notecards to jot down basics or some longer notes if there's a project on my mind. Then I can get down to my current piece. I'm the most motivated in the beginning when every character is fresh and just coming into being.
Other Lisa says
Oh lord. This is too appropriate.
I don't outline and I am good with the "small, steady daily progress" routine. I don't ever tend to write a lot of words at once but I am pretty consistent. However, I'm finding that the pressure is a bit cranked up for me this time out. Should I admit this?
My last book, the one that sold, was just really tough to write, on a lot of levels. This taught me that there isn't necessarily a direct correlation between how the writing feels while I'm doing it and the resulting quality of the output.
This one…gah. Killing me. Because I now feel like I need to do something that at least lives up to the first one (if not surpassing it), and that is an added pressure that no writer needs to have. I do well putting that out of my mind while I'm actually writing, but the in-between times, when I'm not writing and stalled, are definitely tough.
What has helped? Killing someone — I mean in the MS! And putting my MC through the wringer. I really don't want to look too closely at this…
Anna L. Walls says
I'm one of those jazzed about the new project, one of which is boiling around in my head right now. I never consider how much work it is. It all goes with the package and there is no point in worrying about it.
My original book jitters have passed, and new ones have come to replace them. I finished my plotting last Thursday, and now I can write… Which is what I want to do, right?
Well… Let's just say that it's easier to be dissatisfied with your writing than it is with your plotting, in my opinion. Something about the writing seems more daunting than I ever expected it could be. With me, writing is my life – which is the same with most of the people reading your blog, I'd expect. I guess the writing life can be as jitter-inducing as life in general. I need to make myself reach page five tomorrow.
Good luck with your next book. I wish you inspiration.
I get as much as possible done in the first few days, before you lose the high.
Wow, Nathan I have to say, you threw for a loop with this one. I have NEVER thought about being nervous or anxious or anything other than excited about starting a new book. I am always so ready for the new story that I hate the thought of even outlining. I am chomping at the bit to get to the story. Thanks so much for the fresh perspective–I love it when I'm shocked to see something from a new POV!
Staring at the abyss is scary indeed, but isn't it great once you've jumped? Right now, I feel like I'm flying so fast I can't keep my eyelids closed. It's fantastic!
Writing does't feel like work to me. The only thing I fear is getting pulled in too deep.
Adam Heine says
Am I daunted by starting a new novel? Heck, yes.
What do I do about it? Just keep writing, but also I plan a little.
Sorry about the shameless links, but I think we're looking at the same abyss.
I'm definitely one of the "starting is the best part" people.
It doesn't start to feel like an abyss until I've finished the first 15,000 words or so (and exhausted my awesome opening idea) and realize that I have to come up with and write another 40,000 or so before I get to my fantastic finish. Ouch.
Wilhem Spihntingle says
I love writing, but absolutley loathe editing. Having just completed my first novel (writing, editing, query, synopsis etc..) I can't wait to start into the next one. At this point, I can barely stand to even look at my first manuscript, but the huge feeling of accomplishment and lessons learned during the process, fuel my excitement and confidence to move on to the next one. For me at least, starting a new novel keeps me busy, while I try and find representation for the first one.
I try to have 3 projects going at a time: one in revision, one in drafting, and one in outlining.
By the time a novel is finished to go out on the rounds, I have done 2/3 of the stages for the next one, and 1/3 of the work of the second to next one.
That way, the mountains seem a lot smaller. It's just a series of hills to climb then.
Wow! So nice to know I'm not spending Christmas holidays alone in "Second Story Slump", LOL. I was in editing for so long with my first novel that I've decided I'd edit any day of the week over fresh writing. And yeah, after having a first book come out this summer, there is that feeling of will this one even find anyone interested? Scaaary….
Alle C. Hall says
Michael D. Collins suggested a between-books process when I took his workshop on the novel at Centrum Writers' Conference. He writes what he terms "islands of fiction"–writing into an image or a thought, no particular plan in mind. He is hoping for a voice that feels like something he could explore for three hundred pages. By the time he sits down with his islands to start hammering out a draft, he already has about 100 pages. Non-linear to be sure, but still; pages.
Collins' process appeals to me (for short as well as longer work) because my best starts come from the organic rather than the structured side of the spectrum.
Dan Holloway says
Usually, the start of a new book is like a release of endorphin-packed energy because it's something I've wanted to get to work on for so long but haven't been able to as I've edited away at what's gone before.
The abyss – yup, the abuyss is always there. But it's not the abyss of writing a new book. It's the abyss of knowing that tomake this book better than the last, and to make it say something worth saying, I'll have to go to the dark places inside I've previously left untouched, and this time I may not come back.
In the beginning: One scene at a time. This works best for me. Keep a pad and pen near by for things in the plot that might change because the characters/muse/whatever makes you rethink things.
In every story I've completed, the last third of the novel gets written faster. Not sure why, but the need to finish is strong, and I end up doing marathons of typing.
Good luck. Each story brings new challenges. Have fun with it.
I find the thought of starting a new project exhausting, but once I actually have something down, no matter how horrible it is, I feel a lot better. A rough draft is a good lump of clay to begin molding into a masterpiece.
WATERY TART — author Jim Butcher's advice for what you should do with MIDDLES:
Oops, I meant AM RILEY — that link above, for you.
Caroline Starr Rose says
A new project always intimidates me. I actually write picture books between novels so I can "play" a bit. It's nice to also work with this shorter format for a time.
Never. Starting a project is easy for me. I get an idea and I can't wait to start, so much that I can barely concentrate on anything else. It's finishing it that's another matter entirely.
I have the exact opposite problem. In the middle of my fourth pass at revisions on a 100,000 word novel, I can hardly focus on the material at hand. Instead, I find my mind longing to get a grip on the new idea. I can only hope the first story is really complete aside from editing because my creative energy has already moved on.
Starting the book is the easy part. It's that whole finishing the book piece that I have issues with!
No pressure, Nathan. But…
Unless you hit bestseller status first time out, your second book NEEDS to be at least twice as good as the first one.
Do they make footlong corndogs anywhere?
Happy holidays all!
Lily Cate says
Starting doesn't bother me- that's probably my favorite part. I put down a few hundred words on a new concept last night, in the middle of revising my current Most Important WIP.
It's the middle of the first draft that's the abyssal plain for me. I usually just plow through, and work out the problems in later drafts. Or while baking, or in the shower, or driving or something. (because when are you ever really NOT writing?)
Luckily, I have no problem highlighting huge chunks of text and hitting "delete".
It must be the country you live in. I live in the Netherlands and here we have no abyss. Our country is flat. So, to me starting a new book is not like staring at the abyss. I love starting a new book. Once the ideas are rolling along in my head, I can't wait to sit down at my desk. Get my fingers on the keyboard – wonderful! After all, if you love writing what's to be scared of?
Claude Forthomme says
Staring at the abyss isn't the right metaphor for me either.
But I agree about the scary part implicit in that metaphor. It's scary to start writing, you never know where you're going to end up.
In fact, for me another metaphor would work better: writing a new book is more like sculpting, i.e. CHIPPING AWAY AT A PIECE OF CLAY (hoping that you're actually working in marble – but that's not always the case…).
At first, you can't quite see the shape. You have an idea in the back of your mind, you know what it OUGHT to look like, this damn sculpture, but you can't quite force it out of that big, shapeless lump. It's hard work, and you need to chip, chip, chip away every day…
One day, the kids from Wonderbar were walking along and, splat, there was a crazy crater that just opened up right underneath them. They were hurling down the abyss WHEN they realized that the flying shoes really worked. The one problem was that the flying shoes went up and they were flying upsidedown. Man, if there was ever a time for a corndog…
Kristin Laughtin says
Starting's easy. Everything's new and fresh and exciting. It's once you get past halfway but not quite to the end that's difficult for me. I too just try to chip away a little at a time, even when it seems it's taking forever to get there.
Nice…never thought of writing a book as an "Abyss"
When I stare at the Abyss, I see adventure. I stand a little closer to the edge of Never-Never Land and raise my arms waiting to be carried off into another adventure where only I may travel.
Starting, middle, editing and even finishing a book is no challenge other than time. Time is a mighty foe that cannot be stopped.
I had a nighmare that I was visiting Komodo Island and a Komodo Dragon bit me on the ankle. I asked the tour guide if I was going to die. He said no, but it was going to hurt like hell. I'm not totally sure what it all meant, but the next day instead of revising my first book, I wrote the first two chapters of my second book–which is about Komodo Dragons. Every week I try to write another chapter–just to be sure they don't bite me again.
I love love love starting a new book. I write and write and just can't stop dreaming of it until about halfway through when I realize what I'm putting myself through. Again. But seriously, I do it for the love of it and the creation is my favorite part, especially in the very beginning. Revisions are a whole other story.
I stand at the edge of the abyss for a loooooong time, staring down into it until I feel reasonably confident the jump won't kill me. This is my outlining process, though I know will not be strictly followed. After, I painfully begin the first page, which really does feel to me like jumping over the edge (oh that scary first page!). After a few paragraphs I settle in with the feeling that my parachute has not failed me, until around chapter three, which always seems to be when the parachute snags on a rock.
Word count goal. Set one. Keep it. It's the only thing that's worked for me.
I can't write a whole 100K word book, but I can churn out a reasonable limit each day. As the sage tells us: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (it took me a while to figure out that the sage was trying to tell me to go away… far away, but the observation is still sound).
Is the reason you're hesitating because it's a sequel? Sequels can be rough, like someone else here said, especially if you weren't planning on a sequel. Thinking that you *should* write something is a sure-fire way of killing enthusiasm. After all, we *should* do homework, we *should* pay our bills. Writing is always a pleasure–never a *should*.
C.L. Moyer says
I have no abyss. I have book ideas stacked up one behind the other. I just need more time in the day. LOL