A New Year of Writing
I’m about to embark on a new year of writing.
I know, I know, everybody is because it’s the first week of January. But during the past few weeks I’ve made some changes in my writing and decisions about writing that will result in more changes, so it seems like a new year more than usual.
I’m still working on the sixth volume of my Abby’s Camp Days series. It was a very fun book to write, and the feedback from my Beta-readers was incredibly positive, so I’m getting excited to share it. I’m hoping for a March/April release, but that depends on several things. I had a few setbacks, the most recent being my e-reader breaking, but hopefully Volume 6 will be back on track soon. The characters are getting older, so their relationships are changing and evolving, and some new developments might surprise readers in this book.
After that, Abby will be taking a little break.
Fear not, fans of Abby; I will be coming back to finish the last four books in her story soon, as well as the bonus book set 20 years into the future of Camp Spirit (I have quite a bit of each book written in rough draft form already), but a break is necessary for many reasons:
1. I’ve been writing Abby and her friends and counselors for a looooooooooooong time. I started writing Buddy Check, my first book set at Camp Spirit back in 1997, and before that, while in high school, I had written at least three (very bad, unpublishable, embarrassing) novels set at a similar camp. Some of the characters, plots, and dialogues for Super Counselors were directly lifted directly from those books and then reworked, so actually I’ve been working on these stories for 20+ years. And while I love Abby and the gang and have a lot more of their story to tell, it’s time for me to grow as a writer. A new idea for a completely different type of book came to me recently, and I’ve recaptured that excitement in sitting down at the computer to write, and getting those “Aha!” moments in the grocery store in which a brilliant scene comes to mind and then rushing home (sometimes forgetting some of the things I went for) because jotting down storyline notes is far more important than remembering the milk. I love Abby. I really do. And I won’t leave her hanging forever, but her story wasn’t progressing because it had gotten stale in my head. There’s no point forcing something that won’t come; all you get is bad writing, and Abby deserves better.
2. The new book is screaming to be written! More about that later.
3. A fresh start is needed. Authors write for readers. Without readers, there’s no point in writing. I have a core group of faithful and encouraging Abby fans, and I am eternally grateful to each and every one of them for sharing Abby’s story and loving Camp Spirit with me. I started writing these books because this was the series I longed for when I was in junior high and high school but couldn’t find. I knew when I started that my audience would be a small niche, and I was okay with that, but I didn’t realize just how small. Marketing has been quite a challenge. It’s hard to go years and years without finding that audience and still sustain the enthusiasm necessary to keep at it. For the past decade, the YA market has been dominated by fantasy and dystopia, so I thought it might be time to join the ranks. Who knows whether I will find a broader audience or not, but if so, I’m hoping new readers will find my Camp Spirit books and come to love Abby as well.
4. This point is going to be hard to write without giving too much away, so if you absolutely hate spoilers, you should probably skip this one . . . but . . . A big part of my 2013 was watching as friends of mine went down a long, hard road. This road was a rollercoaster ride full of bumps and hopes and heartaches, and it is similar to what one of the main families in my Abby series faces starting with the next book. It’s all a bit hard to think about right now without letting my mind go to my friends, and I need a little time to let the events of 2013 fade. I figured that right now, with my creativity straining to go in a completely different direction, would be a good time to branch out and try the new genre while allowing some healing time, so that when I come back to Abby and these storylines, I can hopefully write a beautiful but difficult story with some objectivity.
I debated whether or not to let my readers know what my next book is about. Every book I’ve published so far has been a children’s or young adult novel set at a Christian camp in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during contemporary times, and this book will be quite a departure. I don’t know if I will even be successful, as it is a new genre as well as a new perspective. I will be writing in third person for the first time since I started publishing. Some of those old (very bad, embarrassing) books I wrote in high school were third person, but all the Camp Spirit books have been first person, and I’ve become very comfortable with that perspective.
There were way too many interesting characters (over the span of three generations) in this story to attempt first person, though, so I’m going with third person. I’ve been enjoying the challenge and freedom. Yes, freedom. I thought third person would be incredibly limiting, but I’ve discovered just the opposite—being able to follow many characters’ journeys instead of just one adds so many layers to a story.
For this and many other reasons, I have a huge fear of failure with this story. Fear that I won’t be able to create intriguing characters and convey their thoughts well enough in third person. Fear that the story will fall apart half way through my writing it. Fear that my research won’t be extensive enough to make it ring true. Fear that my inexperience writing something like this will make it sound like just a predictable clone of what’s already out there. Fear that it’s not the subject of summer camp that draws a small audience; it’s me, and that I won’t be able to find an audience for this either.
But it wasn’t until I flat-out told someone (Dave, one of my own camp deans and friends) back in the year 2001 that I was writing a book that I got serious about publishing in the first place. I had finally taken that terrifying step of telling someone outside of my family that I was going through with it, and from that moment on, I was accountable. I didn’t want to be one of those thousands of people who say, “I’d like to write a book . . .” and then does nothing about it. I wanted to be an author. So I made it happen despite the fears I faced.
I’m again in the same predicament. You’d think that with seven (almost eight) novels under my belt, that the fear of failure would go away, but it doesn’t. Especially when you try something new.
So . . . here’s the admission: I plan to spend the next year working on (and hopefully completing and starting the agent submission process for) a Medieval fantasy-type novel. I’ve always been fascinated with kings and queens, princesses and knights, fairies and castles and magic, as far back as I can remember. One of my earliest memories of going to the library was choosing the Disney version of Robin Hood from the video section every time. Every single time.
I’m 173 pages (and 51,000 words) into my new kingdom and having a blast, so if nothing else, it will be one gigantic writing lesson. I’ve been enjoying reading everything in the genre I can get my hands on, learning the ins and outs, and figuring out what I will do differently (there will most definitely not be pages and pages and pages of description of dew on leaves as my characters walk through the forest . . . sorry, just not happening, as I have better things to get to like dialogue and character development), and figuring out where the void is to fill.
Of course, at the core, there has to be a little summer camp in there, too, right? How can you make gimp/lanyard bracelets magical? (Hint: I’ve figured it out and it involves Pegasus hair and fairy-like creatures.)
Don’t worry, Abby, I will be back shortly—perhaps with a new appreciation for you and many fresh ideas to finish your story. I’ve already written much of the final four books, so with a little perspective and some time off to grow as a writer, I think we’ll charge into high school camp together just fine. Let me slay a few dragons before we tackle yours.
If you want to catch up on the first five volumes of Abby’s Camp Days before the sixth comes out this spring, they are available in both paperback and Kindle. Find out more information at www.jeniferbrady.com.