I finished my 17th novel this week.
I’m a bit starry eyed at that number — I’m only 2 away from starting #20 (20!), which, at some point early in my career, was the litmus test number. At 20 novels, I’ll feel like I’ve actually arrived.
At 20 novels, I’ll feel, at last, like I’ve accomplished something real. (We’ll see about that, won’t we?)
When my first came out, back in 2007, I was at a cocktail party in New York at my editor’s house, and a true professional, Kat Martin, told me that you couldn’t count yourself as a real writer until you had four novels under your belt. Some authors would have taken that the wrong way; I took it as confirmation of what I already knew. Everyone can write one good book. To do it again and again and again takes a strange combination of humility and ego and fearlessness and hubris, all tied together with yarn weaved from the hair of your Muse.
It’s not easy. It’s not. But dear Lord in heaven, it is fun to try.
When I finished, late Sunday afternoon, I had all the usual emotions: happiness, relief, a strong desire for a LOT of wine, which was quickly followed by that bizarre, hollowed-out moment when your realize the story no longer belongs to you. It’s gone, into the ether. Yes, there will be revisions; yes, there will be rereads. I don’t know if it’s the same for every author, but when I type The End, my mind immediately turns to the next story. It’s so immediate, in fact, that I have to force myself to take a day, breathe, live a little, before I open the new manuscript and lose myself again.
So in the spirit of taking a day off, yesterday I printed out said book (600 pages later), put said book, the book’s notebook, and all the supporting research material into it’s own lovely zipper folder, then cleaned my office, sorted some tax material, had a multi-hour staff meeting with Assistant Amy wherein we planned world domination for NO ONE KNOWS (coming March 22!), read half of Lisa Gardner’s FIND HER, and waited. Because I knew what was going to happen.
And sure enough, around 9 pm, a line appeared in my head. And the next book began to percolate.
Now, to be fair, I already know what this book is about. It’s the second of the duology started with WHAT LIES BEHIND. It picks up right where WLB leaves off, as a matter of fact; the prologue of the new book is the epilogue of the last, just so we’re all on the same page. It’s the continuation of the story, in which Samantha Owens has been targeted by a killer nicknamed Beauty.
I already know several things about this book. Technically, the Scrivener file shows 3200 words already written. It’s actually rather nice to have a bit of a head start—and yes, I agree, it’s cheating a little bit. But the words and notes in the file are almost a year old (I wrote the original opening line March 13, 2015, according to the Book Journal), so who knows it they’ll stand the test of time?
What’s funny is my line from last night is similar to the opening line I wrote down a year ago. That’s a long time for a line to live in a writer’s head. I’ve had the opening scene tucked in the back of my mind all this time. I hope I can do it justice.
Stephen King says a truly worthwhile idea doesn’t need to be written down.
So today, with the file open, the Book Journal updated, I sally forth into a brand new world, returning to my girls, Taylor Jackson and Samantha Owens. Gosh, it’s good to be home!