After working on a manuscript almost a year, I’m waiting for my two chapter-by-chapter readers’ to offer comments on a one-gulp read before doing the final polish. This gives me time to start catching up on repairs (e.g., hinges on cabinet doors), life-business tasks (e.g., comparing rates for car insurance), and cleaning (e.g., the whole house).
More important to me, the short break gives me an opportunity to decide what to write next.
For three years I’ve concentrated on the Show Me mystery series. The latest manuscript completes a five-book arc. In the six months covered in the books, my major characters’ lives have changed significantly. Before I build a new three-book arc (three more years of work), I need a break.
A short project appeals to me. Short stories? Not my favorite medium, but I’ve used them before to explore the desirability of characters and situations for novels. One idea I really like could become a series of hefty short stories rather than a novel.
If I opt to go that route, I won’t seek a publisher, a time-consuming, frustrating, and likely fruitless process. Instead I’ll publish each short story online and, if readers like them, eventually turn the collection into a volume.
One idea that intrigues me is writing a short story from the point of view of Achilles, the Belgian Malinois popular with readers of the Show Me mysteries. Maybe I’ll try one short and, if it works, test it on my website as a free read. Or perhaps turn it into a children’s book.
Historicals for young readers?
Another possibility is to write more MG/YA historical novels. These run a third to a half as many words as the adult books and take less time to write and revise. For several years, I’ve been thinking about an MG/YA set during World War II. Or I could do a sequel to The Feedsack Dress, which many readers have loved, or to Thunder Beneath My Feet, which will be released in January.
Historical novels require considerable historical research. The libraries here provide excellent resources, and I enjoy digging into the past. On the other hand, research adds one to three months of work time to a manuscript.
Revise an earlier manuscript?
During another break several years ago, I pulled out the manuscript of The Feedsack Dress and revised it with the help of my critique group. Then I sold it.
I’ve learned a lot as I’ve written the Show Me series. Enough to turn an earlier manuscript into a viable series opener? Even a major revision would take much less time than writing a book-length manuscript from scratch. If, upon rereading the old manuscript, I still like my characters and plot, I’ll give the manuscript another chance at life.
Stay tuned. I’m determined to plunge into a new project by Labor Day.