Decisions, decisions (Cecilia Peartree)

Having signed up for National Novel Writing Month again for what seems like the hundredth time but is probably about the 17th, and set up the title of the novel I planned to write for it, I'm now having second thoughts.

Second thoughts are of course very familiar to me, although not always about what to write in November. Quite often my November novel will feature in the so-called annual writing plan I create in December or January for the year ahead. I often reserve this spot for the next novel in a series, but I've only just published the 26th in my long-running mystery series so I don't think I can come up with another idea just yet. Instead I currently have two completely different ideas.

To try and come to a decision, I'm collecting thoughts about each of the ideas in a separate document, and I suppose when it comes to the crunch I can just wait and see which idea seems to have most depth or would be most fun to develop, or whatever the secret ingredient is, and work on that one in November. Or I could randomly decide to write something completely different from either, I suppose.

I don't usually like to say very much about novels while they're still at the ideas stage, but one of the contenders is based on a short story I wrote some time last year about a catastrophe that, if it had really happened, would have changed the course of British and also European history and by extension, world history, beyond recognition. I've been mulling over somewhere in the back of my mind whether to write that alternate history or not, but up to now I've been somewhat daunted by the amount of research I'd need to do in order to make the story at all convincing. Despite having a history degree which focussed mostly on 19th and 20th century Europe, I've never been good at remembering the kind of detail I would almost certainly need to know about what actually happened then. For instance, even doing the minimal amount of research I've already done in an attempt to persuade myself not to go any further, I've found I've forgotten whether Lord Palmerston, who featured in the original short story, was liberal abroad and conservative at home or vice versa. And that's without even getting started on the Factory Acts and the invention of the Plimsoll Line.

The other option, however, and the one I have already noted on the NaNoWriMo site that I'll be starting in November, is to write a sequel to the 'Pamela Prendergast' novel I published at the end of December 2022. In a way the problem with this is the opposite of the problem that has prevented me so far from writing the other one - the scope of it is too restrictive. It's set in a part of Edinburgh I know very well, in fact earlier this year I got to know part of the promenade a little too well as I lay there with a broken hip waiting for the ambulance! Perhaps that's what is stopping me from committing fully to writing anything more about the woman and her circumstances. On the other hand, at least it wouldn't need research as such, just a lot more thought about a possible back story that would be as interesting as the one in the first book. And I have some of the characters I need already, which would mean I didn't have too many new names to think up...

Decisions, decisions. But don't watch this space for the answer. I might not make up my mind until the last minute - or later.


Nick Green said…
I do think having a goal, however arbitrary, is a fantastic motivator. The fastest I ever wrote a book was when an agent said they could only sell my submission if it was part of a series - they needed two in order to peddle it. So I produced a sequel in three months flat. Sadly, the series never sold - but I thoroughly enjoyed the frenzy of motivated writing.
Yes - I almost always write more consistently with some kind of measurable goal. This also fits the results of a personality test we once had to do at my day job - someone came round to my office to share the information with me, and as she spoke she gazed at the many piles of paper on my desk and on the shelves around me,and said, 'You see, those are the things you don't have a deadline for, so they never get done'.
I usually try to invent an artificial deadline for my writing if there isn't a real one.

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