Starting a Novel

The hardest thing about starting a new novel is everything.

-Which of the 20 ideas that have been floating around in my head is the one I want to focus on for the next year or so?

-Once I choose one, who the hell are these characters?

-What the hell is going to happen to these characters?

-Where does the novel start?

-How will it be told?

-How will I connect with the individual voices?

-How will I stay in my seat when I just want to run away and do something easier?

I like to use a cave metaphor when describing the process of writing a novel. You enter a pitch dark cave and you start feeling around for anything to hold onto. You feel along the ruddy walls, hoping to find a door that you can push open, anything to illuminate the cave. You find what you think is a doorknob, but most often it’s just more wall.


I have found that the most important thing is to get comfortable in the dark. Because that’s where the magic happens. The moments of illumination will come if you can simply learn to be okay with not knowing.

HONESTLY BEN was a particularly daunting book to write, because it’s a sequel to OPENLY STRAIGHT. I never expected to have to know what happens after that first book, so it was a new type of cave exploration, where I had to search out clues from the first book to figure out the second one. There were times when I felt pretty sure that dark cave was going to swallow me whole. I was certain that I wouldn’t be able to figure it out.

And then I did. It just … happened. One clue led to another, and suddenly Ben had his own life, separate from Rafe’s. And I am utterly certain that readers will be very happy to re-enter the universe of The Natick School for spring semester. All sorts of surprises await!

Now I find myself entering the cave again. I’m starting work on a book I’m calling CRAZYTOWN. It takes place in the late 1980s in New York City, and it’s a dark romance between two high school seniors. While I’m definitely afraid of the cave as always, what I am enjoying about this is the world, which was my teenage world. Remembering those times and that place is giving me lots to work with as I figure out what’s at stake for each of the boys.

So that’s what I’m up to these days. I still don’t know when HONESTLY BEN will be released. I’ll update you when I have a date.