So I mentioned last week that things with my new book were Not Going Well. I think I also may have mentioned that I haven’t worked on it since the beginning of April. What I didn’t mention, however, is that I’ve decided not to finish it, and to start over with something new. From scratch. It’s a huge bummer, actually. I started working on this book – really writing it – back in January. I had an interesting idea, I had some great characters, I had done quite a bit of research. The problem was, this book, as my lit agent so eloquently put it, was a “departure.” As in, it wasn’t chick lit. As in, it didn’t even resemble chick lit. As in, if you put this book in a short skirt, some knee high boots and stuck on a long blond ponytail with a swingy little curl at the end of it, it still would not fool anyone into thinking it was chick lit. No, this book I attempted to write was Women’s Fiction, and it was serious, with a serious subject matter and serious characters who had serious problems. Like I said, it was a departure. But I didn’t care. I wanted to grow as a writer, to take on something different, to not get pigeonholed into the mommy-lit genre and to not be writing books about a woman whose kids are coincidentally the same ages as my own. I wrote two-hundred and sixty five pages. That’s half a book, at least; maybe more. I was making progress. I was going to be finished by August.
But then we went on vacation at the beginning of April, and I took a week off, and then I took another week off because the show was premiering and I was distracted and couldn’t really think about anything else. And then two weeks turned into four, and four into eight, and I’ve been playing with my kids and taking them to the park and hanging out with my daughter, trying to squeeze every last, delicious ounce out of her final few weeks of preschool. And although I’ve really enjoyed every second of it and I’m not sorry for it at all, I didn’t want to not be writing. If I’d been itching to write, I could just as easily have poured those last few ounces of preschool down the drain and sat happily at my computer for eight hours a day, twice a week, just as I’d been doing since January. My heart just wasn’t in it, though I couldn’t quite figure out why. After all, I was on a roll, I knew where I was going with the story, why couldn’t I pick it back up again? I am NOT a procrastinator – I was the girl in college who turned papers in two weeks early because I couldn’t stand having them hang over my head.
Then, about a week or two ago, I decided to finally pay attention to the constant, gnawing feeling that’s been in the pit of my stomach since the day I first conceived of this story. And what I realized it is that it isn’t the right time for this book. I realized that it would be a mistake to come out with something so serious right now, when, thanks to ABC, my last two books are just starting to find an audience. I realized that I should capitalize on the show and whatever name recognition I might get from it, and I should write a book that is less serious, that is funny, that is more like my last two. I should write a book that people will expect from me. Because otherwise, all of this show stuff might as well have never happened. You can’t market a book as a “Risa Green novel” and then have it be nothing like my other two novels. You can’t say that a new book is from “the author of Notes From the Underbelly” if that new book is in a completely different genre. If I want any chance of a long-term career as an author, I’m going to have to build my brand, as they say. I’m going to have to be consistent. I took enough marketing classes in college to know that.
And so yes, I’m starting over. I’ve got a new idea, with funny characters. It’s not mommy-lit, necessarily, but it’s definitely more like what I’ve written before. And though I feel like I’m selling out, that I’m sacrificing my art for the sake of my career (not that I really consider it art – I’m not that girl who walks around in black turtlenecks and pretends to have deep thoughts) – I think it makes sense to put this other book on the back burner for a while and write something that is, well, less of a departure. I think it’s the right move. I hope it is.