Thinking About Act Two

Thinker Philadelphia

When I think about starting my next book, I find myself torn between two different ideas. I may do both eventually; the problem is in deciding the order.

The first idea–which I’ll call Cécile’s story—builds off some of the research I did for The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte (AMB). The time period and the locations are similar. The plot would be quite different. Unlike AMB, it wouldn’t be based on real people. The story I have in mind was inspired by the life of a couple of women I read about, but it diverges significantly from real events.

The second idea—which I’ll call Sarah’s story—is based on the memoir of a real woman caught in a real conflict. It is set in a different place and a later time period. I have a stack of books in my office that I purchased to research this particular event.

Pros and cons?

Both books would focus on women in time of war / conflict. Both deal with issues that intrigue me.

I suspect that Cécile’s story may be less commercial than Sarah’s, which has more action and more external conflict. If I wrote Cécile’s story next, I will likely get “branded” as someone who writes about  one particular period and one particular set of locations. Since I don’t want that to happen, it might make more sense to do this as my third book.

I was actually intending to start Sarah’s story this fall. However, I need to take a research trip that, for reasons related to the plot, has to take place in summer. We intended to go in August but weren’t able to swing it because of our work schedules. That setback seems to have deflated whatever mojo I had for the project. I keep telling myself if I start the book research, the drive will come back, and then I can do the research trip (which mostly relates to setting details) next year. My inner muse remains stubbornly unconvinced.

For whatever reason, Cécile’s story is the one tugging at my imagination. It will require just as much research, but at this point, I’m not planning a trip to do any of it. Yet, I remain troubled by the suspicion that it doesn’t have the same marketable hook of Sarah’s story or AMB, for that matter. (I’m not totally sure of that though. I have thought of one idea that could ramp up interest in it.)

And so I dither and tell myself I’m just too busy  with the last details of AMB and a too-full freelance schedule to start anything new.

One of these days soon, however, I’m going to have to make a decision and commit to it. Otherwise, I run the risk of AMB being an only child.


Filed under Writing Historical Fiction

6 responses to “Thinking About Act Two

  1. A possible solution is to do both. I keep flogging this woman’s books but Kate Morton does this very well. The most modern character is more of the main character but she goes back and forth. If you have war to tie them together I can see the memoir inspiration, and maybe even putting Sarah’s part of the story together as a memoir, playing nicely with Cecile’s story. Think about a way you might be able to have one person’s life impact the other’s life. Check out Kate’s books. This could be something that would work for you. Just a thought as you seem to be somewhat invested in both women.

    • Thanks for the suggestion. I love the idea, but it wouldn’t work for these particular stories. Cécile is an emigrée from the French Revolution, while Sarah is on the frontier caught up in an Indian war. Not much of a connection in terms of culture or physical location, nor much chance that Sarah would ever have heard of Cécile.

  2. krystal jane

    Settling on a new project is hard. I tend to go with whichever one is more ready. There’s always one that could use a little more time in the old brain, so once I sit down with each of them, the decision is often made for me.

    Good luck with your decision. It sounds like you have something interesting either way.

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