The Next Best Thing?

Did you hear that? That was me releasing the huge book release breath I’ve been holding.

The hoopla about Puzzling Ink is mostly over, and I’m pleased with the results. I spread the word like a good little marketer, garnered some new fans, pleased my current fans, and the reviews are excellent.

I still have some virtual appearances coming up and some book clubs to attend. Oh! And speaking of which …. one of those book clubs is RIGHT HERE!

It makes me sad that we don’t get a lot of interaction at our Chicks Book Club parties, and I’d really like to know why. We couldn’t have made them any easier to attend. They’re right here on the blog and require nothing but reading the book and having an inquisitive mind. I’d love if you’d pop in on Monday November 30 to chat about Puzzling Ink. Any questions, comments, or insights about the book, the series, writing, publishing, or even me are welcome and encouraged.

Regardless, now I find myself in a quandary. What to write next? I thought by now the choice would have made itself clear. I mean, that’s what happens when you ignore decisions, right?

It’s not that I don’t have any ideas for new books. In fact, the problem may be that I have too many ideas.

I have narrowed them down to two. (Who said well begun is half done? Was that Mary Poppins? If not, it sure sounds like her.)

I have a new cozy series in mind.

Pros: I think it’s a really good idea and it excites me. I think readers would enjoy it and I can visualize a long-lived series.

Cons: Even though I’ve been mulling for awhile, I don’t like to start book one until I’ve outlined a good series arc, plus outlined (at least in broad strokes) the first three books, and written 20 or so prospective titles. All this takes time up front. It makes the writing faster and easier, or course, but not for awhile. Perhaps quite a while, at the rate I’m going.

I also have a standalone mystery I’ve been itching to write for a few years now.

Pros: It might be my breakout novel if I do it right. It will stretch my wings a bit. Maybe it will garner me a larger audience.

Cons: I might not do it right. What if it’s too far out of my lane? What if I’m not up to the task? It’s not cozy, but it’s not at the opposite end of the spectrum either. What if my readers won’t follow me to a darker place?

Those are the major “what if” themes rolling around my head, and there are a bunch of minor ones as well, but I won’t bother you with them.

My Dad’s advice would be to ask myself, “What’s the worst that could happen?” But in this case that doesn’t clear anything up because the answer is the same for each choice—writing the wrong one, wasting time and energy, annoying my readers, my agent, myself.

When other writers ask me this very same question (it does seem to be a common problem), I tell them, “Work on what makes you happiest, or the one that will make you money.” Again, useless advice because they’ll both make me happy and, as always, the money is like the ocean floor, the popularity of the Nae Nae, or Nala’s doggie brain … The Great Unknown.

I’m afraid of being stymied into inaction, procrastinating, doing everything BUT working on a new book while I try to decide.

But then I remember what Theodore Roosevelt said. “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

So if the worst thing is off the table, not even a choice, what say you? New cozy series or something a little bit darker? Extra credit for showing your work.

31 thoughts on “The Next Best Thing?

    1. I can just see myself flipping a coin for hours on end. “Best 782 out of 943!”

      Interesting. I hadn’t really thought about my emotional state these days. Will mull. Thanks for the insight, Liz!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m intrigued by the darker thing that’s had its hold on you for awhile. Must be something powerful there or it wouldn’t stick around. And then there’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s story from her non-fiction Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She believes that Creativity is out there, waiting to be given form by mere mortals like us. She had an idea for a novel that she noodled with for years & finally abandoned, only to be chatting with Ann Patchett and find out that she was working on what turned out to be the same plot. The idea wanted to made manifest. Maybe it’s time to stretch and give your dark idea a shot. Or at least explore it a little and see if it has any traction. Wouldn’t you be miffed if Elizabeth Gilbert ended up writing your story because the plot got tired of waiting for you?

    And here’s this. I made the shift from Charlemagne Russo to Quinn Carr without a hitch & Puzzled Ink is much less cozy (but with terrific cameos by Charlee and Cynthis Kuhn!) Many readers will follow you, and you’ll make new ones, too.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Ohmygosh, Pam! That makes me so happy to hear! It was fun to do the crossover, and I think only the savviest of readers will pick up on it! *winky face* And yes, I would be FREAKIN FURIOUS if Elizabeth Gilbert—or anyone—gets to my book before I do! Maybe this is the kick in the pants I need …. mulling this too!


  2. I love that quote, Becky! I was in the same spot as you. I wanted to write a mystery inspired by my grandfather’s 1933 disappearance. And I did. I’ve been working on it off and on for 3 years – while I wrote my cozies. It may finally be in the home stretch. Why don’t you give yourself two weeks to take a crack at the stand-alone. If you’re inspired at the end of it, keep going. If not, put it aside and tackle the cozy premise. You can always go back to the stand-alone after you look the deets of the new series down.

    And I’d love to get more traction for our book clubs too!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. You raise an important point, Ellen. It doesn’t have to be written in concrete right out of the chute, does it? More mulling ….

      And I can’t WAIT to read that story about your grandfather! I’ve been intrigued since I first heard about it!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Becky, YAY on launch success! It’s always a stressful time for authors. If you’re really torn, you could ask your agent for her advice. (They always have an opinion!) But since you’re invested in both ideas and it’s not a matter of which to do, only which to write first — you really can’t go wrong!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks so much, Vickie! One thing I didn’t bring up is that I can’t really ask my agent to weigh in because the new cozy series I’d want to self-publish, but the standalone I’d submit for traditional publishing. Pretty sure I know what she’d choose! ha And you’re right, I’m probably expending waaay more energy on making the decision than on the writing itself!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Liz’s advice to flip a coin isn’t that bad an idea. You’ll either be super excited by the result of disappointed. Either way, you probably know which way you really want to go.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Becky, so glad all has gone well with your latest launch, yay! Congrats! And I, for one, am looking forward to your book club day on Chicks. Maybe prospective visitors don’t realize that they don’t have to have actually read the book to participate? (I’m sure they’ll want to after they hear more about you and Puzzling Ink!)

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Having just gone through the whole what to do next experience, I feel this and would say: just start either one. You can do the other afterwards! Flip a coin if you have to. The indecision phase is the worst part…once you’re working on the new project, the momentum will come!

    Carpe diem, B!!

    Looking forward to your book club (though we have had some GREAT participation before, so don’t be sad)! xo

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, of course you’re right, Cynthia. I don’t do well with indecision. I’m usually pretty proactive, so this feels icky and unsettling to me. Thanks for the pep talk!


  7. Congrats, Becky, on your release! I’m definitely looking forward to book club.

    As for the writing, I’d lean towards the standalone, especially since you’ve been itching to write it for a few years. There’s no time like the present!

    (If you’d prefer, you could even do a quick arc of the cozy series first–just enough so that you don’t forget the major things you want to cover.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I feel you should listen to your inclination to step out off your lane for this stand alone novel. It grabs my attention for a couple reasons. You’ve been thinking about it for a few years and still haven’t walked away. I think you’re probably on to a great plot! Also, if you’re considering stepping away from your comfort zone, that’s makes me think it’s worthy. I know you’re a talented author, Becky. I think your fans will stick with you because they like your writing. I’d personally love to read it. I agree with others that you really should do what feels right to you. You don’t have to rush your decision.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re so sweet, creese! And maybe if it’s the ‘stepping out of my comfort zone’ thing, that’s reason enough to do it. Who said, “Do one thing every day that scares you”?


      1. I believe moving forward. The path may not be the best one but almost always there is an additional road to take that takes you on a better road. You only know that if you take the time to check out that road!

        I would be willing to step of my comfort zone if only for a short time to see if there is merit there and maybe turn that into a new comfort zone! I know you have the writing talent. My question is why are you bothering questioning the “step” when you already know you want to take it?


    2. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, Teddi … just that maybe I don’t want to do it *right now.* I will write all these books. It’s the order of operations I’m unclear about. Thank you for you faith in my abilities!


  9. Perhaps do a half hour of automatic writing, with two columns–one for the cozy series, one for the stand-alone. See what pops out of you head/hand, and perhaps you’ll get an answer.

    Either way, I’m excited to read whatever you write, Becky! And yay on your successful launch of PUZZLING INK! (BTW, folks who haven’t read the books are welcome to the book clubs too!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a good idea, Leslie. Maybe I can dedicate a morning to both and see what kind of glorious mess I can produce. Perhaps all will become clear, like my Magic 8 Ball predicts!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Yay for PUZZLING INK and the upcoming book club! And hooray (which may be worth more or less than “yay” on the International Exclamation Scale–I’d have to check) for the world of possibilities of what to write next.

    I’m in the Scratch That Itch camp. I love what Pam said about the idea wanting to be manifest and how you’d feel if someone else writes it. I also agree with Mark about the flip-a-coin-see-how-you-REALLY-feel approach. That can be illuminating. Either way, there were will readers cheering you on and eager for whatever you write next. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Kathy! I’m not sure where YAY and HOORAY land on the scale, but they’re both above GAH and UGH, which is where I’ve been living so it’s a huge improvement!

      Everyone has given really good advice, and it IS good to remember I’ll probably have a soft landing whichever way I leap.

      Liked by 1 person

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