Writing Two Books at the Same Time

Strange but true that I am writing two books at the same time. Let me explain how this makes perfect sense.

I began Finding the Source, next in my Isabel Long Mystery Series, on Dec. 3. I was inspired while making the final edits for no. 7, Missing the Deadline, which had a release three weeks later. Being in the thick of this story and its characters made me want to start another right away.

When writing novels, I aim for 500 words each day of the week, well, except for holidays and family visits. I started that practice when I worked as editor-in-chief, first for two daily newspapers, and then three at the same time. I got up at 5 a.m. (before the heat came on in the winter) and that was the amount of words I wrote before I left for the newsroom.

Actually, 500 is a satisfying amount of words that helps me maintain the quality of the book I’m writing while making progress. Sometimes I do go over, not realizing it until I look at the bottom of my novel’s document. But I found purposely trying to write longer took the fun out of it. That’s my experience anyway.

But now that I no longer have that job, I wanted to write more. Certainly writing for Substack and my website helped fulfill that desire. But recently I felt it wasn’t enough.

That’s when I found The Talking Table, a YA book I began the day after Christmas in 2022, according to the file’s info. Thinking about that time, I recalled certain family members got Covid, so our holiday gathering that year was postponed. Instead we had a quiet celebration with meals for those who were well and lived nearby.

I was a couple of thousand into The Talking Table when I dropped it. Frankly, I forgot about the book, but there was also a lot of personal stuff going on at that time. I discovered it last month in my computer’s files and was inspired to continue.

The Talking Table is a story told by 16-year-old Vivien Winslow, who recently moved to a trailer park with her mother and brother when they could no longer afford the apartment they had. Their father, who wrote one great book that brought him acclaim, is out of the picture. Why that title? It’s my secret for now.

Here’s how the book starts: We lived in an crappy place, my mother, brother, and me. It wasn’t really a house, but something that came on wheels just like the others in Murphy’s Trailer Park and only a single-wide with white aluminum siding. It was like living in a tin can.

Sure, I told myself, I could write 500 words a day for that book, too. And so I have.

I believe that’s possible because they are two very different books and the readership I am trying to reach is likewise different.

Both are first-person. But in the mystery series, I use present tense to get readers engaged in the cold cases solved by Isabel Long, a smart and savvy older woman. In The Talking Table, I chose past tense as Vivien Winslow reflects on her life as a teenager and what turned out to be a critical experience.

One book is present day. The other takes place in 1967.

The settings are not the same. Finding the Source along with the rest of the series is set in the fictional hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. The location for The Talking Table is a seacoast town inspired by the one where I grew up in the eastern part of the state.

I work on Finding the Source right after I get up and while having my first cup of coffee.

Typically, I save The Talking Table until after I have taken a break doing household chores, errands, shoveling snow, and social media promotion. Sometimes it happens in the late afternoon. But there are times, like yesterday, when I’ve gone from one book to the other. To heck with the other things I had to do.

By my calculations I should finish both by mid-spring. After all, the YA book is significantly shorter than the adult mystery. When that happens, I will get into editing mode and give my books the attention they deserve.

What’s with the sign above? That and another are posted in the Trolley Museum yard in Shelburne Falls Village. 


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