Monday, December 16, 2013

A writer’s crossroads

I’m at a crossroads tonight and thinking of Robert Frost’s poem about the road not taken. I don’t have an active work-in-progress right now, though I have several thoughts and possibilities. It would seem the holidays would be a good time to be “between projects,” but I’ve done most of what I’ll do for the holidays—a small amount of entertaining, packages wrapped, plans made. Now it’s a question of waiting.

Like the narrator of Frost's poem, I have two roads open to me. The first would be to continue the two series I’ve started—Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and Blue Plate Murder Mysteries. A Blue Plate book would be next, and I have the opening catastrophic incident in mind but I’m not sure where to go from there. I don't have the answers to those old questions—Who? Why? I guess I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. It may be that inspiration hasn’t struck because I’ve been busy, but I’m not the sort to sit and think it out. I either get a bolt out of the blue or I don’t. Sometimes if I start writing it all becomes clear to me, but that’s a dangerous path.  And my publisher wants a synopsis before issuing a contract.

There are advantages to continuing the series. I get wonderful comments about them, though not an abundance of reviews. Maybe people who review aren’t the people I’m writing for. As books from a small publisher, they sell relatively well—I was after all the best-selling mystery author for Turquoise Morning Press for 2012. Not sure I’ll make it again this year, and I may have fallen behind on promotion in frustration over the gap between e-book and print (my July title has still not appeared in print). Other than that I’m settled into a comfortable relationship with a publishing company I like. The familiar always beckons.

But then there’s the thought that if you don’t branch out and try a new road, you stagnate. I have two new projects in mind—an academic murder mystery, which is in draft form, and a series featuring a dog rescue person. I think each has possibilities, but it’s like taking a big step into Frost's deep undergrowth. Would I pitch them to my publisher or would I self publish?

Self publishing as an indie is beginning to look a little less rosy these days, with stronger, lower-priced competition from the big houses. I read an article today that suggested Darwinian theory is about to hit independent publishing. Would I be foolish to give up the comfortable berth I have (I think it’s secure—hope so).

Fortunately, I don’t depend on my writing for living expenses—it’s “walk-around money plus”—so the decision is not crucial in that sense. Nor am I trying to build a huge career. But it is crucial in that I want to find projects that challenge me, keep me engaged, and keep me young at heart. And, egotistically, I like the satisfaction of people telling me how much they like my books. All writers are egocentric to one degree or another.

I have pondered this a long time and find my thoughts going in circles. Your thoughts and comments will be appreciated. Dare I take the road less traveled?


Edith Maxwell said...

Sounds like you might need to sit with your ideas a little longer. I like the new project idea - why not break out and do something new? I'm planning the same, myself, despite a recent setback.

Judy Alter said...

Thanks, Edith. I sometimes think that too but this morning, half dozing, I unfortunately (?) had the idea for another Kelly O'Connell novel. Oh, my!