I had one idea in my head when I started my novel writing career 10 years ago—a beautiful story of two men falling in love in a rural atmosphere. That was all I was interested in writing at the time, and for many people who want to write a book, one is enough.
My brain is not so single-minded anymore. I have several stories I’m focused on, and even though one is currently getting the most attention, it can be amazing how much time I think about all the stories during my day.
My main project at the moment is Creampuff of the County, the sixth installment in the Zachary Gagewood Mysteries. The story takes place around the time of the county fair and focuses on a local baker, meek in nature, who has been responsible for many years for preparing the creampuffs, a favorite treat. When the Fairest of the Fair, Wisconsinites’ version of the fair queens we had in Arizona, dies after eating a creampuff, mayhem ensues.
I’ve worked hard to keep a tight schedule on the mystery series, my most ambitious project ever. Currently, I’m turning mysteries around every eight to nine months. I’m on the verge of finishing the fifth chapter of the book and hope to have it out by early July.
Also in my head is an idea for a fantasy novel I’ve been developing for almost a year. While looking for images of fruits one day, I came across something called a dragon fruit. I was fascinated with it and started developing an idea where this fruit is the primary source of nourishment for the people and creatures in this mystical world called Noridem. With that, Hex of the Dragon Fruit was born.
Unlike most of my books, where I have a very basic outline of characters and then let the story go where it may, I developed a five-page, single-spaced outline for Hex of the Dragon Fruit, giving massive details to characters, items that will play a key role in the book, locations where our characters were going to go to, and what specifically was going to take place in each chapter. After I got ahead of schedule on a chapter for Creampuff of the County, I finally plunged into writing the first chapter Hex of the Dragon Fruit and plan to write for this book whenever I’m not in a mystery state of mind.
I’m also mentally mapping out the seventh book in the Zachary Gagewood Mysteries as these other two books are playing out on my laptop. It started with the nickname of a local community. About 25 minutes away from Shawano is an unincorporated community called Caroline, which is also known as the Peaceful Valley. If you spend any amount of time there, you understand why it’s called that. That’s when I came up with the title A Murder Shatters Peaceful Valley.
Last week, I finally came up with a plot for the book. I knew I wanted to include the idea of a local girl making it big in the music industry, but I recently learned about a fringe group that had caused a ruckus decades ago in the 1980s and tied the two together. The story is still in the basic stages, but it should be interesting to explore a darker topic than I normally tackle.
I’ve found that having multiple projects allows me to maximize the amount of time I spend on my creative pursuits. While I can’t say I haven’t had periods of writers’ block, the issue has been less frequent. When I hit a block on Creampuff of the County, I can turn my attention to Hex of the Dragon Fruit. When Hex of the Dragon Fruit hits a rut, I can figure out which direction I want A Murder Shatters Peaceful Valley. When I don’t work on a story, I can make tweaks to the design of the book cover. It makes for an interesting day every day.
I imagine many writers find themselves similarly focused on several projects at once. It’s like a mental marathon for your imagination, but it’s also a nice respite from the real world. If you decide to put your imagination into words, treat it like you would Lay’s potato chips, and don’t limit it to one story. It makes for an interesting ride.