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So What’s Next?

Writing is a mercurial activity. Kind of like that sentence. It means that it means different things to everybody. For one person writing a book is a labor of love that can take 12 – 60 months to accomplish. For others, a month (or less). I happen to be in the 3 week – 2 month / book demographic.

But that’s just the quantity, not the quality. It doesn’t touch on the troubles of writing. Distractions abound, from shiny rocks to pets, kids, phone calls, remembering to eat, and others. Heck, even finishing a section or a scene can qualify as a breaking point for a writer. At that point every writer asks themselves, “What’s next?”

I use those very words, “Okay, what’s next?” It’s a mantra or a reminder that the story goes on. Just because the cruise ship crashed and all hands were lost doesn’t mean the story is over. It just means it’s time to focus on new characters like that guy in the rescue chopper. The tricky part is figuring out what the next thing is.

The answer will vary by story. I like to start out with a rough idea of what I want to write and let the characters tell the story. Usually after I’ve written a considerable amount I’ll have reached a point where I can guess where the characters are going and how they’re going to get there. At that point I’ll write out a rough outline and use that to help keep me in line. That way when I ask myself what’s next I can refer to that and say, “Oh yeah, there’s going to bungi jump into the mouth of the volcano now!” Or whatever.

For Silver Dragon, an epic fantasy novel I just finished in my Blades of Leander series, I actually started out with an outline and I was worried it wouldn’t be long enough. HA! It kept growing as I wrote it. The characters did things I didn’t expect and complicated my life considerably, but I still cranked it out and it turned into a phenomenal book. A new urban fantasy I’m working on, Soulmates, I just went in with a hunch and after 40,000 words decided it was time to figure out where it was going to end up. I was surprised as I filled in the blanks, the ending the characters are telling me will happen was NOT what I had in mind when I started. It turns out they had a better idea. I hate when the voices in my head are right and I’m wrong. For those curious, Soulmates is the sequel to Devil’s Icebox, book three in my Dark Earth series.

So, my fellow writers, when you reach a point where you wonder what’s next don’t wait for something to happen. Make it happen. Pick a direction and set sail. Sure, maybe you’re headed the wrong way but guess what, the world is round. You’ll still get there as long as you keep moving. And even going the wrong way is going to get you there faster than you will by standing still.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to read about him, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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