Monday, November 12, 2007

Dusting off The Keeper of the Pond

I've got a problem, but in the grand scheme of things, I've come to realize it's not a bad one to have.

The Tin Box, my debut novel, was my first attempt at writing a novel and now I look at it with pride, realizing how fortunate I was to get my foot in the door early. The Penny Tree followed and it was hard, because I ran face first into 'second novel syndrome', which can be debilitating. This is where you feel you're under a spotlight and your confidence gets shaken as you second guess what you did so naturally with the first one. Still, after writing and rewriting The Penny Tree too many times to count, I was pleased with the end result.

Then along came The Silver Compass , which offered up a whole other set of difficulties I won't get into here. I knew the main gist of the story, but much of the magic happened during the writing of it and now that it's in production, I'm excited about holding the finished product and seeing how readers react.

Up next is novel four and herein lies the dilemna...
For the better part of a year, I was sure it would be Penguin Hill. However, last week my agent pointed something out that pulled me up short.

You see, there's this other novel I've been talking about for years called The Keeper of the Pond and when I initially pitched it to her, she got tears in her eyes (a good sign). Until Penguin Hill elbowed its way into my mind, The Keeper of the Pond was always going to be novel number four.

Both novels will be told in 1st person, from a man's point of view. These men aren't alike (one is old, one is young) but what they do have in common is that their stories won't let me go and they feel magical before I begin writing them (another good sign, as this has never happened to me before -- not like this).

Both also tackle serious issues with broad appeal for women and men, although these issues are also very different. I've written 5-6 chapters for both novels, which I carefully revisited last week, and when I was done, I realized my agent was right.

I need to write The Keeper of the Pond first.

It's a strategic choice from a career standpoint because the story is stylistically closer to the other novels I've written so far, and therefore less of a jump for readers to take with me as I grow as an author. And the good thing? Novel number five isn't going anywhere. I just need to dig deep for patience and write them in the order they should be written.

P.S. Yes, the main character is the old guy noted in the post below, so I'll use John's recommendation of Legal Seafoods
as his favorite restaurant!

19 comments:

Adam said...

I'm with you either way.
And I have to admit, I like both of your titles!

Mystery Robin said...

Ooo, I love things like this - figuring out which project to do next, and getting a little insight into your choice. I have three projects competing for my attention right now and I'm going to have to make a hard choice about what to do next. It's great to hear how you thought this through!

wordman17 said...

Holy crap Batman! Where do ya
get these titles? I've been working on my WIP for almost two years - moving and reshaping and gutting it over & over - and I still can't come up with a decent title for the damned thing.
Title envy in Texas

Victoria said...

Penguin Hill sounds artsy/cutesie. The Keeper of the Pond sounds emotional/mysterious. You have my attention with both though!
Wish you could share more.

Demon Hunter said...

Just take your time and good luck with it, Holly! :*)

Trish Ryan said...

Gotta love having options! And you're right--#5 isn't going anywhere. Write on :)

kyla-dale said...

Huh. I wish I had this many story ideas ooooozing outta my ears. I strug-g-g-g-gle with story all the time (which is probably why I'm not published, huh?! Ha!)

Heidi the Hick said...

This is sooo interesting for me to hear, since I'm pretty sure the one I'm working on now is not the one that's meant to be next. It's kind of like brain candy for me, and I know I should be writing about meat. You know? Kind of????

REally I'm just avoiding the big meaty story because it's going to hurt. It needs to be written but it'll be hard.

You seem to be pretty satisfied with your decision to put the novels in what is the correct order. I hope I get to that place but until then, I'm sort of working on two books at once!

Larramie said...

Holly, this was fascinating and I'd love to know the magic of your mind that can carry around two novels at once! But if I followed correctly, "The Keeper of the Pond" will take place in Boston as well?

Holly Kennedy said...

Adam - What a nice thing to hear! Thanks a lot for the kind words.

Mystery Robin -- Ahhh, good. You obviously know what I'm talking about then. It's hard, isn't it, choosing what project is the best one to finish first?

Wordman -- I'm sure you're being much too hard on yourself. I think the correct/best/right title will probably jump out and bite you in the butt when you least expect it.

Victoria -- Hmmmm, interesting take you have. Penguin Hill is very different, so maybe a little artsy too? And I like that you think Keeper of the Pond is mysterious and emotional. I'm hoping I can write it with those elements. Any more than this, I won't share though. Not till it's in print.

Holly Kennedy said...

Nice to have you stop by Demon Hunter!

You too Trish -- I hope all is well at your end. Write on!

Kyla-Dale -- Where you struggle with story ideas, I struggle with another element of the craft. I'm sure you're much stronger than I am in other areas. I might brim with story ideas but the writing itself is sooooo hard for me most days!!

Heidi -- I say pop your buttons and go for it, dig into that meaty story. It might sound flaky, but some of what I consider my most poignant scenes to date were written late at night and I can guarantee you I cried during more than a few of them. (I won't say which ones though :)

I think you need to allow yourself to hurt as you're writing if it's going to be the best writing it can be. Keep in mind, we write novels, so 'reality' is easily blended into fiction, correct? Which makes what we do somewhat therapeutic just by writing it down.

Holly Kennedy said...

Larramie -- Sorry for the confusion between the two over the past week, Daisy Girl :)

Yup, almost all of Keeper of the Pond will be set in the Boston Common, whereas Penguin Hill is actually set in a small town in North Dakota.

I went to Boston in 2002 and met my foreign rights agent for lunch when I was there. I walked through the Common on the way there and the story literally grabbed me right there.

I remember telling her about it over lunch and then telling my husband about it when I got home. That was five years ago. Man, how time flies, huh?

Ramona said...

I really liked your first two novels and have told everyone at work they should add you to their list of must reads. Silver Compass sounds like a mysterious story and now I'm excited about this Keeper of the Pond one too. Whatever. Keep writing!!!

Leanne from Edm said...

Can we guess what the story's about? Is Keeper of the Pond with this old guy main character of yours sort of like The Old Man and the Sea?!! Ha!

ORION said...

This is the most interesting part of what agents do- help determine the path of a writer's career. To have three books out there is such an amazing accomplishment.
I can see it as a series - the keeper of the pond - the keeper of the lake - the keeper of the sea - the goal keeper...oops

Larramie said...

Hmm, wonder who you "channeled" as you walked across the Common, Holly? What a backstory -- a real keeper. ;)

M. G. Tarquini said...

It'll be terrific, Holly.

Melissa Marsh said...

I'm so glad you figured out that you needed to write the "fifth" novel now. If your agent got tears in her eyes from you describing it to her, just imagine how she'll feel when she READS it! ;-)

Therese said...

You make a valuable point about how being a novelist is about more than writing.

Both stories sound compelling, and I'll look forward to them in whichever order they arrive. :)