Last Monday, after a three-month-long writing marathon, I completed the draft of my fourth Kate Hamilton mystery and sent it off to my editor. The book actually took eleven months to write, but the final three months were intense. Yes, there will be editing ahead, but suddenly I have free time again. Time to dream. Time to make decisions.
What shall I work on next? The fifth in the series or something entirely new? Or both?
Beginning a new book feels something like moving to a new house in a new town. When my husband and I were first married and in the Air Force, we did that frequently. Within the space of four years, three months, and nine days, we lived in ten different apartments.
In one of those moves, to Bangor, Maine, our furniture was delayed, and because my husband had to report for duty, I spent two days in an empty townhouse with a bottle of Windex, a roll of paper towels, and my old coffee percolator. That old percolator was always the touchstone for me. In a new place, when I first heard the burbling of the pot and smelled the coffee, I felt like I was home.
Getting into a new book takes time. Some of the characters will be new. It takes time to learn who they are. Sometimes the setting is new, too. An author feels like a newcomer—not quite yet part of the culture. At least I do. But that’s exactly what makes beginning a new book so exciting—the freedom, the possibilities. The story must percolate.
What’s the touchstone for me? Those first hand-written notes. Character sketches, plot possibilities, details of setting, a list of questions for research. That’s when a book begins—when I have time to dream.
Readers, is it hard getting into a new book?
Authors, when do you feel at home in a new book? What’s the touchstone?
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