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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Lull

I'm in one of those weird writerly quiet periods, while I wait to see when and how my next book will be published. I know I'm supposed to be relaxing, resting on my laurels and such, but what I really want to do is get back to work. I want to write! I just don't know what to work on next.

I came up with this idea to write a sequel to "The Pursuit of Happiness," called "Life, Liberty, Liza." I think it could be fun to go back to the Morrissville Historical Village for another summer and tell Liza's story. But I also wonder, Are sequels inherently lame? Do writers return to old settings and characters because it's comforting? Is there ever REALLY a need for a sequel to a book that was written to stand entirely on its own? Can't I think of anything NEW and EXCITING?

Probably. So after spending a few hours on an outline for the sequel, I set it aside. I'm still trying to get my home office up and running and have some painting to do. It's as good a distraction as any from fretting over the fate of the manuscript that I just sent out into the world, and I can certainly try to think up new ideas while painting. But I wish I could just RELAX and ENJOY this downtime instead of feeling like I want it to just be over already! For the other writers out there, how do you handle this sort of downtime? I envision you all out getting massages or reading poetry in hammocks or going out to rock shows every night and sleeping late every day. All of which sounds like a heck of a lot more fun than painting!

Thoughts on sequels appreciated.



Jenny O'Connell said...

First of all, you already know how I feel about PURSUIT. Loved it so much. Would I like to see what happens to the characters? Yes. Would I hate to have the second book pale by comparison? Yes.

Don't know how I feel about sequels. I don't know that I could ever write one when the point of ending a book is to bring closure. To have to conjure up all sorts of other stuff seems really hard without becoming melodramatic just to create new conflicts.

As for the lull. I haven't written a word since April and let me tell you, it becomes very easy to sit back and do nothing (except that I have a job and just started another business, so there's not much sitting). I have a whopping 800 words for a new book but without a kick in the butt haven't found the motivation to buckle down and write. Perhaps when the weather is terrible and it will be easier to be inside with nothing to do. It's the first time I haven't been in the process of writing a book in the last 5 years and I sort of like it. No deadlines!!!!!

taltebrando said...

Five months without writing! And you're enjoying it! Fantastic. I think. :)

Bottom line re: sequels for me is that I think I have too many ideas. I've already used up all my colonial village material, you know? I don't think it would feel particularly challenging, at least not in the right ways. It's one thing to have a two-book arc or trilogy mapped out going into a project but otherwise it just feels sort of like a cop out. And I'm not sure I WANT to tell readers what Betsy and James are up to, much as it'd fun to give Liza a story.

And so I go back to painting and brainstorming, I guess. Thanks, Jenny!

Jennifer Echols said...

I really love stand-alone books and I don't understand the current series craze. However, I'm about to write a proposal for a sequel to The Boys Next Door because my editor asked me to, and I'm going through a lot of this same stuff in my head, Tara--if I thought I wrapped up the story before, what do I do now? I'm deathly afraid of writing a bad sequel, so it's going to take some long hard thought.

As for writing lulls, I start to feel vaguely ill during lulls and my husband starts asking me what's wrong with me. So I generally just start writing something and hope it works out. Sometimes it sells and sometimes it doesn't. NaNoWriMo creates a nice pretend deadline that gets my mind off not having a real one!

taltebrando said...

Hey Jennifer.
Vaguely ill is about right for me, too. There's a tightness in my chest that doesn't seem to go away during lulls. I'm playing around with something new for fun and that's helping, though. And it's not a PURSUIT sequel, after all. I think that if an editor ASKS you to write a sequel, then it makes a certain amount of sense to do it. Sequels, by their nature, renew interest in the book that came before. I think that would be part of a secret agenda of mine for writing a PURSUIT sequel and that's probably not the BEST creative motivator, you know? I'm sure you'll think of a way to make it all work and to make it all feel new and exciting for you as you work.


Stephanie Kuehnert said...

This is a very interesting discussion to me too because I never expected so many people to be asking me if I'd ever write a sequel to IWBYJR. Then I started pondering it and like you, I'd want to focus on a different character. But right now I have at least two other ideas I want to explore first. Then I'll reconsider. I guess I just think about Irvine Welsh's "sequel" to Trainspotting, Porno. It was a completely completely different story and it took place 10 years later because he wrote it 10 years later. So personally I think I'd allow myself a lot of time and wait for a really fresh spin on it.

It sounds like you have another idea now anyway. Isn't it lovely how that works. Though I always fear I'm going to be out of ideas, which scares me to death because like you guys I feel physically bad when not writing. And I'm really really cranky!

Barbara Caridad Ferrer said...

I don't ever go into a book thinking in terms of sequels. And forget series-- I'm just not hardwired that way. I mean, if a sequel or series is going to happen (forgive me for sounding all crunchy and granola here) I'd like it to happen organically.

What I found interesting about Adiós, for myself, was that I had no desire to write a "sequel" per se, but I did find myself wondering what happened to these characters as adults. I think of it as the FOREVER syndrome, because that was one book that I was absolutely desperate to see what had happened with those characters not immediately after we left them, but to let time for them to grow up elapse. Meeting up with them ten or so years later. And I found myself feeling the same way about Adiós. Because I knew that while I'd given the book a happy ending, it was a happy NOW, not a happy forever, you know? The characters were too young and had a lot of growing to do yet. But I felt it was more interesting to see them many years later. So I have that outline and a few chapters sitting on my hard drive, waiting for me to get to it.

We'll see if the characters get insistent enough.