When you have your second child, everything seems easier than the first time around. (Assuming, of course, an uncomplicated delivery/arrival and a healthy baby.) At least, that’s how it has seemed in this household. We already had the gear, the clothing and the myriad little baby care gizmos that the modern world provides and that somehow the generations before ours did without. We already knew what was normal and what was not. We had perspective—the 6-8 pm witching hours really don’t last forever! We had the infrastructure and the general life-schedules that were already tailored to small-scale humans and their needs.
Not so with the second book. No no no, not at all. We’re starting from scratch here. You’d think that having spent 8 years writing one novel, I’d have an idea as to how to begin another. And yet I find myself reaching up into my shelves to pull out my writing-related books. Surely one will tell me how to go about creating a main character, no? Somewhere I must have a how-to-write-a-novel book, right? Internet, come to my rescue!
And then there’s another issue. No pun intended. What “should” I be writing, from a publishing career standpoint? Should I stick to the same genre as book one? Is it ok to try to publish something completely different? I have another project, a collection of linked short stories, which I’m having fun writing. They are diametrically opposed to my first book. For one, they are short stories, not a novel. They are set right near where I live, not thousands of miles away. They take place now, not five hundred years ago. And best of all for me, they don’t involve any research. I have the complete freedom to just write. Don’t get me wrong, I love the research I do for historical fiction, but it’s also refreshing and liberating to be able to write a scene without looking up what type of bird lives in such and such desert, and what material homes were made in at a certain time and place. I get to exercise an entirely different writing muscle. But, I worry. If I’m lucky enough for my first book to see reasonable success, if the public receives it warmly, am I tempting fate by trying to feed it something entirely different? And then, how much should I care about this? Shouldn’t I just write what’s in my heart, and not worry about how much it makes sense from a career standpoint? Ack!
My agent is encouraging. She suggests drafting a paragraph on Book 2 of my sort-of-series for her to include with her pitch to editors, and meanwhile she is encouraging about short stories, saying she’d be glad to help me place them for publication. A woman after my own heart, pursuing multiple angles at once. And so, here we go. Launching Project 2 and Project 3 (or, more realistically, Project 58 and Project 59) simultaneously. Wish me luck! In the meantime, fingers crossed that we send out the first manuscript on sub to editors next month.