First of all, nearly everyone who has read Secrets of a Summer Village has asked for a sequel. I have been sketching the outline for the sequel since about September 2011, but have been spending most of my book-related work time trying to promote the first book. Just when I was trying to think of first lines for the new book, I decided that I should probably put that on hold and write a different book. Why? Well, for one thing, unless my first book all of a sudden becomes a runaway success (unlikely), I won't be able to query a sequel. Yes, I am going to try to query my next book rather than directly self-publishing. I'd also like to have a manuscript to enter into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest for 2013, and a sequel wouldn't work for that, either.
For quite a while (about two months) I couldn't figure out what on Earth to write about (and I really do want to stick to Earth). I started to worry that I only had one book in me and that my writing career was over. But then all of a sudden, a few weeks ago, I had a great idea. I'm not going to tell you what it was because that's a secret. What's important is that I have been thinking about this new book day and night, and the idea has morphed and changed and is now almost nothing like the original idea. I don't really know what the new book is going to end up being about, but my thoughts are brewing, the character is finding her voice, and I am starting to envision the story. When I write, the characters become real to me. The hard part is sitting down and writing down the words so that the characters become real to everyone else.
This time around, I am a little more conscious about what needs to go into a novel. These are my writing guidelines this time around:
- The main character needs a strong, consistent voice. This time, I plan to write in the first person.
- I have to really jump into the story within the first 5000 words. This is because readers - the general public, agents, and reviewers for contests, need to have a good feeling for the book within the first 5000 words in order to know if they want to read more. It makes sense. With book one, I ended up condensing the first 3 chapters into two so that I could get to the point faster. I think I should have even condensed more.
- There has to be a turning point somewhere in the book that involves struggle and some sort of hardship. This is MY struggle - I love my characters so much that I really don't want them to get hurt. But they usually have to hurt in order to grow.
- The main character has to be between 12 and 17 years old. I have made a conscious decision to write YA and perhaps middle-grade novels. At least for now. Adults can like them, but they have to be accessible to and appropriate for younger readers.
- The reader has to learn something new. Many comments from readers about Secrets had to do with how much they had learned while reading the story. It is not the main point of my novels to teach readers something new, but I'd like to sneak some cool stuff in there. It will require a lot more research on my part than if I didn't have this goal, but I think it will make the book more memorable. I'm nerdy that way.
And the other book I'm writing? It's the sequel. Just when I had decided that I would put the sequel on hold, a bunch of people asked if I was writing a sequel. So I'm going to try to write both at the same time. I'm not sure how I'm going to manage this - maybe I'll alternate weeks. Maybe I won't even be able to manage it and will have to write them in sequence rather than simultaneously. But I think that writing the sequel to Secrets will be much easier than writing the new book because I already know the characters. Writing the new book will be like going to a new school where you don't have any friends yet and you can't find your classroom or your locker. Or something like that.