…Or am I just fooling myself? No I swear I have. Where though? Oh no. I know where. In my last novel!!!
My good friend Lua posed this question to me in her most recent post concerning the horrid Repetition. I’m picking up that phone, Lua! Her question: what do you, as a writer, do when you have (what you think is) a brilliant idea for a second novel or story – you flesh it out and come to love the characters – and realize it’s the same basic thing as the last story you wrote? Whatever is to be done!? Do you fall into the Pit of Despair? Do you burn the draft and outline, never to write again? Do you cry?
I’ll be honest, I do cry a little bit. The disappointment is hard to handle, especially if I’ve gotten really pumped about it. I don’t want my readers to get bored. Whenever I do get published, I want them to pick up my latest novel and whoop for joy about the new adventure on which they are about to embark with my brand spanking new characters. How can they do such a thing if they already read it in my last novel?
Once I get over myself and have a sliver or two of chocolate cake, I sit down and write it anyway. Sure it may be a little similar to the other one, but I’ve watched too many soap operas and far-fetched movies in my life to not be equipped to coming up with fresh plots and characters. The more I get into the second story, the more it shines through on its own. If it does continue to resemble its predecessor too much, then I can easily fix it in the editing process. Obviously I will make the connections between the two novels … I wrote them! I know them better than anyone else in the world!
And what’s so wrong with a little revisiting anyway? Basically all of Jodi Picoult’s novels end the same way, yet people (including myself) flock to buy the new ones when they are released. Jane Austen has some great plot-lines … but when we’re honest, they are only slightly different in the little details. The hero and the heroine will wind up together and live happily ever after in his extravagant manor. It is all in the craft. What the Misses Austen and Picoult realized is that as long as you shape your story in an eloquent fashion, painting a brilliant portrait with your words and keeping readers on the edge of their seats at all times, it doesn’t matter if they know what’s going to happen. How many times have I re-read Pride and Prejudice? Countless times; I can probably quote a good deal of it to you. Have you ever watched a movie more than once? Aren’t TV show episodes all the same really?
And hello? Anyone ever read a romance novel? They are all identical! I don’t see a shortage of them anywhere. Let’s think of it this way (and do forgive a corny analogy): two novels by the same author are like sisters, inevitably similar, but not the same at all. The difference lies in the details.
But here is the real reason repetition doesn’t beat me down too far. Writers are readers. If readers can get bored, so do writers. Where is the excitement in writing the same story twice? Where is the spine tingling from the thrid appearance of the same villain? Where is the heart-twisting from seeing the same character die the same way four times? If it’s taking me too long to write, I’ve probably written it before and am just bored. Time for a new plot twist!
Don’t worry, Lua! You can kick that nasty biddie out!
Don’t forget my Dad’s Day Blogfest coming up at the end of this week!