Choosing the Right Sophomore Novel.

With the journey of my first novel coming to a close, I enter into the wonderful world of QUERIES and SUBMISSIONS.  (Mmmm, smell that? That’s the smell of my determination, steaming up from a great big pot of insecurity. Notice I also sprinkled in there some “am I doing this right?” powder. Oh, you know this recipe? You’ve cooked this before? What a coincidence.) So with all that brewing, I push aside book #1 and start working on book #2.  Sure, I got a few ideas.  Even got a few pages.  But…lemme put it this way:

If this were a memory, I’d be sitting inside my junior year Advanced Photography course-the one I kept getting C’s in because I continuously trusted the logic that if I could cheat the “printing” process, I could turn a crappy last-minute exposure into a work of art.  (Never worked, by the way). If this were that memory, the memory I’m recalling, I’d be sitting in a critique, half-asleep, when suddenly my professor chimes in with “Wow!…whose is this?”

Like a dog waking up to the smell of a steak in the oven, I shift. Adjusting my eyes. Struggling to register the fact that “this” is a small collection of portraits on the wall.  A few black & white photos I snapped of my diaper-clad 5 month old son perched on a mattress in the apartment me and my then-boyfriend (now husband) shared.

“Whose is this?” he asks.  I raise my hand.  “This is yours?  Really? …who’s this little guy?”

“My son.”

As the class began to pick apart the photo in a string of compliments and romantic talk about “contrast” and “raw subject matter” and the power of the late 50s/early 60s photographers-greats such as Robert Frank and Diane Arbus-I found myself studying the photographs a little bit closer.  They were, without a doubt, different than anything I had ever photographed.  They were personal.  Intimate.  Our apartment was a one-bedroom on the first floor of an old historic home that had been converted into a multi-family duplex. And there was our son, contently fighting to sit upright in the soft beam of a bedside lamp with old burgundy-striped wallpaper in the background. The portraits were beautifully produced because it was me unknowingly photographing something that was honest, without any premeditated efforts. I didn’t think, I just did.

I consider my first novel to fall into that same category. I just wrote.  I let my imagination and my personal commentary run wild. I wasn’t afraid to express things that could be deemed as offensive or shocking or provocative because I wasn’t even THINKING about the reader.  I wasn’t thinking about the critique.  I just wanted to write something that I could enjoy. And if other people could enjoy it too-cool!

So I enter into my next project with this in mind:  Don’t write what you think your audience would want to read, write what you want to read. Trust it. Cause chances are if the people who are reading your book are enjoying it, they probably have the same taste in books as you do.  They’d probably be up for any story you offered them, so long as the quality of the work was still up to par.

So that’s what I’m gonna do.  I’m just gonna write.  I’m not going to worry about storyline or plot structure or whether or not this scene is relevant to that scene.  That stuff can come later, and it will.  And, hey, that’s half of the thrill!  Waking up in the middle of the night, gasping, “I know how to connect the dots!  I know what direction to go in!”

I just gotta trust it.