What to write next? I’ve never before had “writer’s block”—that infamous cork-up of creative flow. And perhaps even my current experience can’t technically be labeled that, either. I just have so many ideas that instead of pouring out of my pen, it’s like they’re flooding from a fire hydrant. So today, while I’m on a book quest, I thought I’d return to my questionnaire about books and reading.
While I continue to dither about my next project, I suspect that God may be nudging me to start on what I’ve tentatively titled Elena’s Song. This story tells a fictionalized (as in, name changes) version of a missionary friend’s life. I can see it all laid out in my mind, but I’ve only captured half a page on screen!
“For it is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge…and another to tread the road that leads to it.” –St. Augustine, Confessions
Where are your favorite books set? Narnia, Middle Earth, Prince Edward Island, Maine, Italy, Scotland? How about Chile? If you were to visit any place in the world, where would you go? Why?
Do you like exotic locales or hometown/next door types of places? Would you rather be in the city or the country? Or a small town?
If time and money and Covid and war and health were no consideration, where would you travel in the next year?
A time period also integrates intricately into the setting of a story. On a book quest, do you prefer contemporary or historical time settings? What century or event intrigues you from a fictional perspective?
Elena’s Song will be unlike anything I’ve ever written before. I’ll begin in a Mexican neighborhood of the Roaring Twenties in southern California, move through the Depression and the Second World War, and end up in earthquake-ravaged Chile in 1960.
Fun question: Do you like food in a story? Mention a couple of memorable meals. I can always taste the hot buttered potatoes at the Beavers’ place in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Elena makes burritos, her personal comfort food.
Point of View Quest
Do you think a woman can do a good job at writing a male POV character? I’ve never wanted to attempt it myself. But maybe one of these days, I’ll give it a shot.
Do you prefer to read real world or fantasy world novels? Don’t ask me—I can never decide. But it’s true, I write in the real world. And with God in the story, it’s always supernatural too.
“If all the riches of the Indies, or the crowns of all the kingdoms of Europe, were laid at my feet in exchange for my love of reading, I would spurn them all.” –Francois FeNelon
Do you like split or dual/triple timelines? They seem popular right now, although I’ll confess I do less page-turning with these since switching gears pulls me out of the story a bit. Do you like multiple POVs in general?
Quest for Characters
Do you like returning to old familiar characters with regularity (as in a series)? Or do you prefer to get to know new friends every time you pick up a book?
What did you long to do as a child that you could do now by way of a book, even if you never get to fulfill everything on your bucket list?
“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” –Albert Einstein
What would you like to study or learn about if you could? I have a secret (not anymore, right?) yen for architecture.
Who is living your dream life? Anyone you know? And what does that look like? In a book quest, do you seek out novels with particular types of character occupations, skills, or lifestyles?
Beginnings and Endings
“The last line you write is the first line.” –Rachel Haucke, The 5th Avenue Story Society
How important is it to you to have a big-bang opening scene—car chase, explosion, murder, etc.? Some of you will disagree, but personally I find it hard to connect with the bomb or the dead body unless I’m acquainted with the characters.
Do you judge books on the first line, first chapter, or…? How long will you usually give a new-to-you author to hook you?
Does every last thread need to tie up neatly by the final page? Do you mind cliff-hanger endings, even in a series?
Do you even like series? Rather read a stand-alone or a loosely connected universe type?
Is Happily-Ever-After a nonnegotiable for you? Or do you think HEA is overrated or unrealistic? Do you ever pick tragedy on purpose? My beta reader niece recently wrote that my next-out book Pursuit of the Pudú Deer “ended satisfactorily heartbreaking,” which I’ll take as a compliment.
I feel the world holds so much sadness that it seems too bad to fill our stories with it, too. On the other hand, on a book quest, you do want to touch reality and uncover authentic emotions. But always, always, with hope.
Moving through a story arc from despair to delight is the joy of it, no?
“The problem with books is that they end.” –Caroline Kepnes
The trick’s not to overdo it either. You must begin a story somewhere, and then you have to know when to end it. In my perfect book quest, I may never reach that state of flawless writing, so eventually I’ll let it go.
And sometimes I just have to call it in the quest for ideas too and get down to work on anything. When the flow goes slow, paradoxically, butt-in-chair glue often helps to get unstuck.
Anything to share? It might cure this writer’s block.