When I was in theater, I always needed a Plan B. Now that I’m writing, Plan C, D, and even E get a fair amount of mileage. Things change quickly and you need to adjust along with them.
Last October, I was in Plan A, sending queries out to several agents about one novel, sent the full MS of another novel to a publisher—who I thought would reject it because it was too long—and polished the pitch for the opening novel of a PI series. That pitch would go to an agent at Crime Bake in mid-November. It went well and the agent told me to send three chapters. I returned home Sunday night with everything under control.
Monday, Plan A went south. The publisher accepted the novel—but needed me to cut 5000 words, which shifted me to Plan B. Tuesday, I learned that I’d won a prize—and summer publication—for a novella that I entered in a contest the previous March. Since the novella features the cast from the unsold PI series, pushing that immediately became Plan C.
I have a sequel to the PI novel in a messy draft and two more books in solid outlines, but I can’t do anything with them until Book One finds a home somewhere and I know what needs to change. That’s why the writing gods created the flash drive.
I sent out ten queries on that novel last week, and Plan D involves waiting for something to happen. That means doing NOTHING for a minimum of two months. Yeah, right. Enter Plan E.
When you write, never throw ANYTHING away. There’s always a character, a plot twist, a line of dialogue, or an evocative description you can recycle. The soon-to-be published stand-alone needs a sequel and the Idea Store, AKA those wonderful flash drives, is always open.
Among the wreckage, I have a novel with the same general tone and similar characters. If I change one character’s back story and cut a subplot, maybe it can become that sequel. I’m writing myself revision notes and finding the problems that need the most attention.
Plan F involves a completely new book with those same sold characters. My daughter, who is also my web designer and a writer herself, dropped an idea in my lap last week. The more I play with it, the more it reveals itself as a Truly Beautiful Plan F, great eyes, great smile, singing to me like the Sirens with a pitcher of old-fashioneds on the rocks.
Unfortunately, the setting and premise are a completely foreign world to me, and I hate research. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve taught English and directed twenty plays—six of them Shakespeare—so I know how to use the library and the Internet. But I’m a knowledge junkie. One piece of cool trivia can send me off on tangents and suddenly I’m hitting the back arrow and closing websites and wondering how I left the object of my original quest behind two hours ago.
But there’s good news, too. I know someone from theater who travels in this foreign land and can introduce me to other experts. So can my daughter. I love interviewing people and this topic means lots of cool details that might build into a plot faster than ants raid a picnic.
So I’m starting to come up with questions to ask when I interview people. While I’m doing that, I can still work on Plan E, the rewrite, too. New is always exciting because until you start, the possibilities are unlimited. On the other hand, old friends are good to have in your corner, too.
And who knows? Maybe one of those agents will get back to me and say “I LOVE this series,” the one with a sequel on paper and two more in outline. If not, there are the four short stories in various rewrites, too.
Oh, remember that novel I sent queries about in October? Right now, I’m still waiting for 13 responses.
So much for Plan A.