Writing May Surprise You

surprised by writing amazed-19214_960_720I’m not sure when my life became so encapsulated by writing that I began to put parameters around it. I don’t write horror. I don’t write erotica. I don’t write crime dramas. I never tell the same story twice, and I never, ever write sequels.

And yet we all know that writing can be a whimsical mistress. I’m not a planner; I don’t have my next three novels plotted out. Most of the time when I’m done with one book, I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to write next. Not the plot, not the characters, not even the genre. After I finish writing a book, I will allow myself to lounge in the fallow field of not-knowing, waiting for the muse to glance my way, crook a finger at me, and wink.

Well, never say never.

The past eight months have been very productive. I began one book in June and finished it in November. That’s quicker than average for me. I’ve spent as much as two years on a book, or dashed one out in 39 days when the stars were all lined up. Five months was pretty decent. That done, I had no other projects in mind and I could take my time and enjoy the editing and polishing process, the blurb writing, and the cover design, etc. At the very least, I had the holidays to concentrate on, so I was in no hurry.

Famous last words.

A new idea hit me right in the middle of the forehead along about December 15. I was vacuuming. Just minding my own business, happy as a clam, and then this idea starts to form. And build. And clamor. How rude. I tried to put it off for a couple days, thinking if I paid no attention, it would go away, or at least take up a space in the TBD file in my head. No such luck. It wanted to be a book. It demanded to be a book.

So I started writing. As always, I had a very loose idea of the story, and I introduced secondary characters as I needed them, not being particularly concerned with them since they wouldn’t figure largely in the book. Ha. One secondary character began stealing every scene he was in. He had a very dry wit and was a great counterpoint to the drama of my main character. I really liked him. And a week before, I had no idea he even existed. How does that happen?

Long story short, I wrote the book in seven weeks. I was obsessed. Not only that, but I really regretted ending it; I liked the characters so much, it was painful pulling away from them. And coincidentally, I ended it just at the beginning of a new life chapter for all of them. Hmmm.

Now, my husband is always hounding me about doing sequels. He has loved most of my books, and there are a few that he insists merit sequels. But I don’t DO sequels. I refuse to write from any place except pure inspiration. I refuse to mechanically plot out a story, to try to duplicate an earlier book that came from that mysterious blending of magic and muse. I’ve seen it over and over again in books, in movies: the characters go on, but the stories either fall flat or become so convoluted that they lose all touch with reality. Nope, nope, nope. Not going to happen. Not me. Not them. No.

Ha (again). The continuing story starts playing out in my mind. The characters begin to evolve. The story lines start heading out for the horizon, like footprints in the sand, leading me on. And the surprising part, for me, is that the story lines make sense. They are logical extensions of the characters. They’re not jump-started by some weird circumstance that comes from out of the blue. They are, in fact, based on a deepening of the characters themselves.

Surprisingly (for me), I embrace the new story. I’m writing a sequel. Holy crap. Now, not only am I writing the new story, but I’m looking back at the last one, figuring out two titles that will connect, figuring out the tag line to explain the two-book series, figuring out how much of the first story I need to retell in the new one and how the new one might also stand alone. All new territory for me.  Blazing the trail. Doing what I never thought I would do.

Okay, so I’ve given in. I’m doing the unthinkable. But I’ll tell you this, I will never write another sequel.  And I will never write a third book in this series. After this book, it’s done.

At least that’s what I tell myself. But I know now that I can never say never. Not with any authority. Not with any confidence. Because, you know, one of those sneaky muses might just come up behind me when I’m not looking and tap a 16-penny nail into my brain. That’s the beauty — and the agony — of writing. You just never know what it can do. You never know how it’s going to turn your life upside down. But you know it can. And you know it will. That’s why we love doing it.

Author: Melissa Bowersock

Melissa Bowersock is an eclectic, award-winning author who writes in a variety of fiction and non-fiction genres. She has been both traditionally and independently published and lives in a small community in northern Arizona. Learn more about Melissa from her Amazon author page and her blog.

17 thoughts on “Writing May Surprise You”

  1. Brilliant. That’s exactly how my trilogy happened. It was supposed to be a short story. And, like you, a new character took on primary place.

    Isn’t the muse a fickle mistress? lol

  2. Yep, never say never. I’ve been a writer for over 44 years (22 novels, various novellas and short stories) and right, you can never say never. I too didn’t want to write sequels, but three of my books did so well and people wanted MORE, then the characters (like you) wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote the continuation of their stories. Being a writer is a mysterious, frustrating, amazing thing. I think a person is born to be a writer. That simple.

    1. I agree with you 100% Kathryn. However, my husband has been clamoring for a sequel to one of my older books, but I just don’t get that from the characters, so that one will remain a one-off. But I will probably swear off saying “never.”

  3. I feel your pain – and your obsession! Having also once said – “never!” to a series, two or three-parters have now become my favourite after starting a book and finding I had too much story for it. And like you, my minor characters just kept growing. Isn’t that the great thing about cameos? They have so much potential.

    Go for #3 as well. I’m currently just completing the #2 in my second trilogy. I’m twisting my brain into knots trying to remember all the plot points and the little details, but when it all comes together in a rousing climax at the end of #3, I’m going to be so pleased (and relieved). And I know, after a short break of again saying “never!” I’ll be writing another one …

    1. Obviously I’m not the first writer to get waylaid by characters and story. Glad to know I’m not alone. Re: remembering plot points, one good thing I’ve noticed is that, since I’m writing #2 and still tweaking #1, I can easily go back and make small changes if I need to. I would love to be able to release them both at the same time, but rather doubt I’ll do that. I want that first one out there!

  4. This is how I ended up with ten novels in the Pipe Woman Chronicles universe…and some short stories…and a guide to the series…and two more novels on the way. Which will require me to update the series guide.

    But THAT’S IT. I am done with these people after this. No, really!

    1. Two more novels??? I have only heard about one. How exciting! I can’t wait to hear more. 🙂

  5. That’s exactly how my inspiration hits, but sometimes a new story hits in the middle of another. Then I have two pots on the stove boiling over at the same time, or three.

    But let me tell you, I’m so glad you didn’t put vacuuming and happy as a clam in the same sentence. I might not have believe anything else in the article.

  6. Congratulations Melissa. How exciting. I know exactly how you feel. I swore I’d never write a series. Well after I published book one, a few readers asked if I was writing another one. My first response was no but then of course my imagination took off, so book 2 got written. I swore again I wouldn’t do another one – they are a lot of work. And then… book 3 is on the way. 🙂 You just never know where writing is going to take you. The one good thing about writing is that it has perfected my house cleaning and it appears you’re using your housecleaning (vacuuming) to be creative. 🙂 Love it. Excited for you.

    1. We’re definitely in tune, Glenna. I have already had some imaginings about Book 3 as I’m writing Book 2, and I have changed the description to a “series” instead of a “duology.” Just no telling where it will go, which is part of the magic. And yes, housecleaning is good for something!

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