The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.
Ah, the joys of writing proposals.
Just me and my encyclopedia of serial killers, drinking copious amounts of Starbucks, deciding where to go next.
I have an admission. I’m going 100% batshit crazy not having a book to work on. I am driving the people around me batshit crazy. I have the cleanest closets in the southeast, my cat is brushed to a high gloss, I’ve dropped five pounds because I’m actually exercising instead of sitting in my chair drooling, staring at the laptop. In short, I’m miserable.
This is the first time I’ve written "proposals", per se. I’ve verbally
pitched a book (my next, 14) then followed up with a summary synopsis.
I wrote a huge, 13 page comprehensive synopsis for my third book (Judas
Kiss) because I wanted to make sure everyone was on board with my idea.
But this is the first time I’ve written out plans for books that aren’t
already in the works. It’s a fascinating exercise, actually.
I know I want the plots of my next books to be. I’ve got titles for them all — I can’t start on a book if it isn’t named. I’ve got a great idea for a stand alone that’s not necessarily a mystery, and it’s not a Taylor Jackson book. So that’s five "thoughts" that I’ve been laying out. It’s like planning a cocktail party, trying to decide exactly what hors d’oeuvres and drinks might entice your guests. Are they going to want Beluga and egg salad on toast points, or pigs in a blanket? Dom Perignon, or Heineken. Hell, Heineken or Milwaukee’s Best?
There are two questions I’m focused on. Where do I want to go with Taylor and Baldwin, and just how many serial killers can Nashville realistically have? Which means I have to think through the plots first, then worry about how Taylor and Baldwin coexist within them. Thankfully, coming up with plots isn’t exactly a problem for me. Tap into any set of nightmares I’ve had in the past week and there’s a plethora of work. Deciding where the relationship is going, that’s a whole different can of worms. And what does that say about me that I’d rather develop the maim and kill parts than face the love story?
It’s a difficulty in any series, I think, that is set in one locale and has a "relationship." I’ve created an immediate limitation by choosing to make my main character a homicide lieutenant. She has a job. In Nashville. Which precludes rushing all over the country to track serial killers. Which is the reason I got her involved with Baldwin in the first place. He is an FBI profiler, which gives him the freedom to travel wherever the case takes him. It’s a delicate balancing act, and one that I find difficult to manage at times. Especially when deciding how many times a serial murderer can strike in a single town without straining all credulity.
And truth be told, I don’t need to know the answer to that right this very second. But want and need are two different beasts, aren’t they?
You may have picked up on the fact that I’m the teeniest bit obsessive, especially when it comes to my books. I’m also incredibly impatient. As a Taurus (yes, I’m going to blame all this on my astrological sign, sue me) I hate change, have a difficult time not knowing my path, but I’ve always been impetuous, impulsive, even reckless when it comes to decision making. I call that being decisive. The people around me, not so much. Slow down, they say. You have plenty of time to make these decisions. How in the world can you think that far in advance?
And what if you’re wrong? What if you make the wrong decision?
Ha. The wrong decision. I think I make the wrong decision at least 5 times out of 10.
I’m batting .500. Not too bad, considering I’m a flibbertigibbet
writer. I guess it’s just that I’m not afraid to make the wrong
decision, know that as long as it’s not life and death, anything can be
What’s amusing about all of this is I didn’t used to be able to think in advance. At all. There was a time, not more than two years past, where I told my critique group leader no way in hell when she suggested I write a short story. I do believe that was a direct quote. How in the world would I have room enough in my head for a book and a short story? Shortsighted and naive of me, I know. Then I got a deal and had to think about it. I had no idea where I wanted to go with my characters, could only see the story as it was unfolding in the current book. I saw an interview with one of my idols, Allison Brennan, and she
talked of plotting an 8 book series. Or was it 12? Either way, the whole concept freaked me out. And I thought, WTF? Who could
possibly think that far in advance? When I got my deal, I was actually a bit panicked, realizing I would have to make these decisions, and quickly.
Here I am, 18 months later, books two and three done, and I’m writing out my ideas for, God willing, future books? As my wonder twin points out regularly, I’ve come a long way. At least it’s keeping me busy and away from the cat. Poor thing won’t have any hair left if I don’t start working on something new soon. Even the fact that I’m out on tour hasn’t deterred this . . . obsessive need to write. I guess that’s a good sign.
I’m curious about the rest of you. Do you plan things out? Do you think three, fours years into the future? Do you wait until a contract is secured to think about your next steps? What do you do when you’re in between books?
Wine of the Week — We need port, for proper rumination. Graham’s Vintage Port, 1994, actually.
P.S. Y’all would have been proud of me. Not only did I do my first radio interview Wednesday, I also shared the stage (a STAGE, people) with excellent Florida mystery writer and good friend Frank Foster and our brilliant moderator, Dr. Robert Tate (Florida Southern College). The event at the Historic Polk Theater in Lakeland, Florida was well attended and a total blast. Thanks to everyone in Lakeland, especially Bill Chase and Jim Weeks, for sponsoring the event and inviting me. Pictures up on the site next week after I get home. And if you’re in Daytona Beach Saturday, come out to Barnes and Noble at 2:00 pm and say hi!