Not to be all Josiah Bartlett or anything, but the question I ask myself immediately after finishing something (or, to be honest, before really finishing something–there is often an overlap between the book I’m working on and the book I wish I was working on) is “What’s next?” I don’t think there’s been a moment in the last ten or so years that I’ve been writing fairly seriously when I haven’t had an answer to that question. There’s a cache of stories, both on my computer and in my head, just waiting to be written; most of them never will be, but every once in a while* one of them will catch and, over time, solidify into a cogent idea that then I slip somewhere into my writing schedule. At the moment, after All Unquiet Things and Murder Burger**, the second book of mine Delacorte is publishing, I have two books on the docket that I’m absolutely serious about writing. When I was in Chicago a month ago, Joanna and I talked about them both.

My question was, which to write first? They’re a bit different. SM is a book along the same lines as the two books we’ve already sold to Delacorte–straightforward YA mystery. GR is, I think, tonally similar to AUT (dark), but different both structurally and with regards to subgenre. I’ve taken to calling it a “pseudo-post-apocalyptic quasi-mystery” because it is neither wholly post-apocalyptic nor a traditional mystery, but contains elements of both.

Joanna patiently listened to all my disordered babbling about these two books, and when I asked her, “Which one should I work on next?” she told me to work on whichever one I felt like working on next, which was GR. So, here I am, at the beginning again. This is my favorite part of the writing process. It involves a lot of thinking and not much writing, most of which I do on the subway or walking down the street listening to my iPod. I often have several scenes in mind for the beginning and end and then a large void in the middle where all the, you know, action is supposed to be. For GR, the first scene came to me last spring on the subway at five in the morning. I was in a fit of discontent, and the scene pretty much blossomed in my head. I knew exactly how the book was going to start. I love moments like that. It makes all the stuff you don’t like to do, all the times you don’t know what to write, totally, utterly worth it.

Since then, I hadn’t worked on GR much since I had other things to do–AUT revisions, finishing the first draft of MB, more AUT revisions, MB revisions, more AUT revisions, etc. But I never stopped thinking about it. I wrote that first scene, which was a couple of pages long, and then I started figuring out my cast of characters, which is going to be a bit bigger in GR than it has been in AUT and MB. I wrote some more pages. And at the end of last month, I sent those pages to Joanna. She gave me her feedback (I have some serious questions about POV to consider, but I have a plan and I think (?) it might work) and the thumbs up. Since then, things have been moving at a steady clip. It’s not coming all at once, in a burst of energy and light like MB did, but the book is continuously emerging, scene by scene, out of the fog.

My plan is to first write a working synopsis for myself, and then to translate that into something we can turn in to Delacorte for my editor to look at. Then I’ll write the book. This system worked out really well for MB, so I have no reason to think it won’t work for GR as well. I also have character manifestos to write and a playlist to assemble, research to do and possibly a tour to take, if I can fit it in on one of the three (three!) times I’ll be going to California this year. It’s not going to be easy, or quick, because something tells me this book will be bigger than anything I’ve written before. (Although I thought that about MB and it was totally manageable, so who knows?) But I’m so, so excited to work on it.

*I almost wrote “every once and a while,” which is a tick I never knew I had but discovered while I was doing AUT revisions with Joanna and Danielle. Also, dashes. I like ’em. Too much.

**I realize now that this is the first time I’ve mentioned this book title on the Internet. Of course, it is tentative.