Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Next Step

My book for younger kids is nearly finished (barn-runner phase again!), and the teen novel I mentioned earlier is in the process of being shopped around to publishers. Next up is another contemporary teen novel, but after that I might tackle either a crime novel or a historical romance, two types of writing I haven't done in a long time.

I used to be very into crime stories, but after I had kids my desire to describe violent scenes fizzled; when I looked at their innocent little faces, it felt wrong to put any 'bad stuff' out into the world. Now that my kids are young adults and our culture has made graphic violence much more accessible, though, I'm less worried about my own contributions to the genre, which by comparison are pretty tame.

However, the historical novel attracts me a bit more because it's a story I've wanted to write for at least a decade. What's kept me from doing it is the amount and type of research involved; I wouldn't just have to plow through a lot of reference material but I'd have to do some serious traveling to other countries. I always told myself I'd do this when my kids were grown up, but now that they are I still find myself holding back. The time, the effort, the dangers in one of the countries -- it all seems so daunting.

"Feel the fear and do it anyway," my husband says. "But could you wait until the economy improves?"

Ah yes, and then there are the travel expenses.

The beauty of doing contemporary novels is that they take place in today's world, so no pre-writing historical research (and/or worldbuilding, for fantasy and sci-fi novels) is required, and if you set them in places you've already been, no travel either. This means that the planning phase of the project is fairly short, and during the writing phase you can focus more intently on developing plot and character. Perhaps more importantly, you're less likely to succumb to PBR -- Procrastination By Research -- whereby you make endless trips to the library and/or the locations of your settings just to avoid actually writing the darned book.

For these reasons, I try to steer first-time novelists towards contemporary fiction -- though I don't push too hard if they're absolutely in love with some other genre. In my next post, I'm going to talk about how passion figures into your work, and how you can balance your need to feel passionate about your writing with the needs of the marketplace. I'll also have a writing-book recommendation for you -- or maybe two, if I can get enough reading done between now and then. But for now I've got writing to do . . . and I hope you do too. So get to work!