Time to Start Another Novel

woman writerBy Patricia Zick @PCZick

It’s time to start another book now that Trails in the Sand is finished. Finding the time to begin the new work is nearly impossible because my days are taken up with promoting the novel, submitting it to different websites, and finding reviewers for the book.

I’m not really starting a new book this time. I began a novel in 2006, but then life interrupted, and I set it aside. When I pulled it out of the drawer yesterday, I was amazed that I had written more than 300 pages. How did that happen? For the past six years, I wrote two other novels, Live from the Road and Trails in the Sand. But Safe Harbor – the book’s working title – sat in the drawer waiting for me to do my research.

second draft - all 538 pages

I remember thinking right before I put it away that I needed to interview a wildlife expert, preferably a wildlife officer. Safe Harbor is about an international consortium that wants to build “perfect” living communities with an environment filled with wild and endangered wildlife. The two main characters are environmentalists who attempt to uncover the truth about the community. But I needed to do some research about wildlife and the laws regarding endangered species.

As life would have it, within two months of putting down the novel, I took a job with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission as a public relations director. For four years, I worked with wildlife biologists, wildlife officers, and wildlife conservationists. I trampled through the Everglades in pursuit of the Burmese python. I worked with experts on Florida’s panthers, alligators, bears, freshwater turtles, and sea turtles.

I’ve done my research. Now what do I do?

First, I read the book. I began with the first chapter yesterday and here’s my process.

Note cards: I put the name of each character on a note card. I put down relevant information on the card to help me keep details straight. I put year of birth, marriages, divorces, etc. When I have a card for each character, I pin each card on a bulletin board on the wall across from my desk. I group them by relationships. I also put any cross references to other characters on the cards.

Characters: As I go through the first reading, I’ll assess the depth of the characters. I know I have a few peripheral characters in this book so I have to make sure they are essential to the plot and have enough substance to remain in the book.

Dialogue:  Sometimes I read the dialogue aloud to see if it sounds realistic. I’ll ask questions. Does the dialogue seem too formal? Sometimes writers forget to use contractions or slang or have a character using dialogue not true to the characterization developed. For me as a reader, nothing turns me off from a book more than unrealistic dialogue. I still struggle with dialogue at times. Each time I write a novel, I learn more and appreciate the comments of my beta readers. On my last book, one of them asked why I had a husband and wife speaking to one another in such a formal tone. I reread the passage and was shocked. She was right. That question guided me through the revisions of the next draft.

Point of View:  Point of view is another tricky little task to tackle and understand. Again, when I’m reading a book with a point of view that jumps around or isn’t established at all within the book, I’m a goner. I’ve experimented with point of view. I’ve written two completely in first person. I wrote one with the omniscient third person point of view – which to me is one of the trickiest forms, and I don’t think I’d do it again. In Trails in the Sand, I experimented with chapters from the three main characters. In Safe Harbor, the point of view is third person limited, but I switch the limited view between characters in different chapters. I’m not a fan of switching point of view in the middle of a chapter. I may decide on a different point of view in Safe Harbor as I begin revisions. I did that in Trails in the Sand after my beta readers made some comments about how I was portraying the real-life events playing out in the oil spill and coal mine disaster. So I inserted short chapters of narrative coverage of the environmental disasters taken from news reports and press releases. I suggest writers play around with point of view.

Plot:  Since it’s been six years since I’ve worked on this novel, I’ll probably do a timeline and outline of the story as I read. I often move around chapters or bits of pieces of information. I love doing this because only one person is in charge of how the story plays out. We don’t often get that much control in life.

I have lots of work to do, but I’m ready to do it. I hate having an unfinished book sitting dormant in a drawer. Now I won’t have any. I look forward to the day when I’m ready to start another novel from scratch, but at this point, I don’t have any idea what I might write next. That doesn’t bother me. It always comes to me if I just let it go and let my subconscious do that work. My job is to remain conscious enough to allow the story to sift into my brain.

I always tell my friends they need to be careful what they tell me because they might end up in my next novel.

How do you get your ideas?

I’m looking for reviewers for Trails in the Sand. I’ll be happy to gift you either an ebook version or print copy in return for an honest review. Leave me a comment or email me at pczick@verizon.net. Thanks for your consideration.

Available in print and ebook
Available in print and ebook

13 responses to “Time to Start Another Novel”

  1. Good post, PC. I’m so excited for you – two finished novels and a treasure trove found in a drawer…a writer’s dream.

    The deeper I get into this blogging thing, the more I realize it’s really important to participate, but just as (maybe even more so?) important to not allow it to distract you from larger projects, such as novel writing, if that’s your goal.

    Right now, I have to admit, I’m very distracted.

    I’d offer to review your novel, but I don’t know how to do reviews! I’m sure you’ll have no trouble finding lots of avid fans. :0)


    • Thanks, Hazy. I know what you mean about blogs. That’s one reason I cut back to one a week for the two I write. Then add to that the promotion I need to do each day, and there’s little time left for actual writing. When I left my full time job outside of the house, I imagined I’d have all this time to devote to my writing. Not true. As for reviews, I’m looking for reviews to be posted to amazon and those do not need to be long – only a couple of sentences talking about what you liked and/or what you didn’t like. I’m not expecting anything elaborate. Let me know if that makes a difference, but understand if you don’t want to do it. I’ve been reluctant to do reviews but I’ve started doing a few on Amazon and Goodreads, but it not so bad. Also, I have five published novels and one book of nonfiction (three done traditionally with small publishers). The other day I decided that I needed to display those books for motivation and to show me what I’ve accomplished in the past twelve years. So I took a copy of my proof copies of each and put them on my desk. I’ve grown so much as a writer over the years, but I’m proud of what I’ve done. I love writing the longer story for some reason. I’m not sure if you’re working on a novel, but you are a superb short story (vignette?) writer. You should perhaps consider pulling together a collection and publish as an ebook.


      • Being at home, in general, makes writing tough. There are so many distractions here, so many things you feel you should be doing, rather than writing. It’s hard to make it a priority, even though it may be what we want most.

        I think pulling out your achievements is a GREAT idea. It’s such positive reinforcement. I didn’t know you’d published so much! My gosh, how could you ever say you were ‘green’ about anything I’ve written?!

        Being published, to me, is huge reassurance that us writers aren’t crazy, so good for you!

        I could review your book then…how do I go about it?


  2. Great post. Congratulations on your new novel, and on your past novels. I am planning on writing a novel, but I still have a lot to learn. I just started out with my literary blog last November and I’m just warming up to the idea of being a “serious” blogger. I would really be honored if you’d grant me an interview. Maybe 5 or 10 questions about writing. I’d like to share it on on my blog. I have lots of followers on Twitter and friends on my main FB account who would like to hear your story, I’m sure. Thanks. Cheers! =)


  3. Great post, as usual. I’m certain you’ll have a notebook full of ideas before your novel is done. I keep a notebook in my purse and I use the notes feature on my iPhone to jot down any ideas that come to me when I’m not at my computer. You never know when inspiration will strike: an overheard conversation, a song lyric, an art installation, something on the radio or tv, a dream… I write it all down or I’ll forget. The strangest things become fodder for a scene, story, novel or series.


    • I keep notebooks everywhere. I have two in my purse (small ones). One is for my current work and the other is very general impressions, thoughts, overheard conversations, etc. I wake sometimes with the words I need to write.


  4. Hi Patricia, I’m enjoying Trails in the Sand. It’s so nice knowing you have another one coming up. I’m also starting another story, but from scratch. I took a walk today and came home with the plot, or most of the plot. I don’t write notes though because I visualize the story like a movie and have it in my head.

    Good luck with your new one, Rachelle


    • Thank you, Rachelle. I’m glad you’re enjoying it. My new one will also be set in Florida, but with more of the Everglades in it. I’m anxious to get my hands in it again. How fortunate to have the plot come to you like that. As soon as the snow clears here, I’ll have to give the old walk a shot.


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