Uh oh, I’m working on a new novel

I have been happily crafting short stories for the last couple of years, in between finishing my last novel and weighing publishing options. Some stories have even been published. This has been immensely satisfying, especially in contrast with writing long-form fiction. It’s like the difference between adopting a dog and raising a child, where the dog is the short story and the child is the novel. The rewards of a dog may be less emotionally satisfying, but the time-to-payoff is much shorter.

So imagine my surprise when my latest puppy (story) stopped wagging its tail and pressing its wet nose into my hand, stood up on two legs, and announced in an all-too-human voice: “I may be your next novel.”

Standing DogRight now, this new man-dog is neither man nor beast. It’s a collection of characters, ideas, and themes I want to explore. Making all this coalesce into a coherent narrative is a messy process, the contemplation of which makes my stomach roil.

Most surprising of all has been the subject. I don’t like to talk in detail about works in progress, but to give you a hint, I’ll remind you that I admire the fiction of writers like Margaret Atwood and Kevin Brockmeier. This new work involves a world other than our own, which means I must spend more time than usual creating the milieu in which my characters will live, a world full of unfamiliar ideas, apparatuses, machinery, and attitudes. I must imagine all of them—and how they fit together, why they are there, and what they mean to my characters. One of my critique group partners, YA fantasy author Wendy Walter, says world-building is her favorite part of the writing process. For me, definitely not. But I love a good challenge.

Maybe you’ve heard writers talking about their fiction taking on a life of its own. I don’t know yet exactly how far this new endeavor will take me, but I’m excited to go along for the ride. Stay tuned.

Have you ever been hijacked by an idea?

22 thoughts on “Uh oh, I’m working on a new novel

  1. How exciting! I can totally relate to this one. I think I told you, I had a little short story I wrote to help get attention for my YA manuscript. The short story refused to let me be and became Six Train. 😉

    World building is so fun and yet so challenging and taxing. At it’s most basic it’s kinda like inventing a new card game–what trumps what and when and how. And then the exceptions. Oh goodness. It’s intense. Best of luck!

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    • Intense is right! I’m getting scared now that I’m a little way into it but trying not to let that stop me from writing. And I’ve changed my “to read” list quite a bit to get up to speed on some popular sci-fi and speculative fiction authors!

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  2. Some determined puppy (Nice it adopted you, right…ok it sheds a little, but on the whole, a good thing)
    Sounds exciting. You’ve got to run with it. Otherwise the idea/characters/plot will just wrap around your ankles until you stop and set it in order and get back running in one direction again.
    Go pup, go!

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  3. Oh you crack me up, Audrey – I love the analogy of the puppy.
    Well, ideas for novels are lovely, so I say just be happy and go with it! But at the same time, the contemplation of all that work does make one’s ‘stomach roil’, doesn’t it? I’m thick in the research stage of my next historical and it’s intimidating. Arg!
    Still, it’s what we chose to do, so no one can be blamed but ourselves (damn it).

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  4. Your post makes me think of the book I’m currently reading, “And the Mountains Echoed” by Khaled Hosseini. It’s almost like a collection of short stories. All of the sections relate in someway to the previous, but only loosely. I wonder if he went through the same process as you–started with different stories and decided they might work well together.

    Good luck! (Love your dog/child metaphor, by the way. You always have the best metaphors when it comes to the writing process.)

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  5. I’ve been toying with idea of writing a fictional novel about the remote island that I live on in the Shetland Islands. I’ve always written short stories too, I was also worried that it might be too close to home. However in the last month it all fell into place and before I knew it, I’d thrown all my cares to the wind and have an outline and the first eight chapters. I dreamt of being hung like a witch, I imagined the islanders coming at me with pitchforks… But my husband assured me that my characters were only fictional and the Postman here was nothing like MY postman, who drank himself stupid and gossiped all day long. So, we’ll see what happens! Good fortune to you Audrey! Cheers!

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    • Yes, to carry the puppy analogy to its painful conclusion: right now, the little furmeister is not yet housebroken and tends to jump up on any guests who come to visit. I’ll let you know how the civilizing process goes :-).

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