Jonathan from Naperville, Illinois, writes, “Please write another book like True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.” One of my editors urges me to “write another book like Poppy.” My niece Rosa sends me a note, “I loved City of Orphans. Write me another one just like that.”
It is perfectly understandable why readers, having enjoyed a particular book, ask for another one just like it. There are writers who can and do replicate their work—we are living in the age of the series. I have done so only rarely.
For exactly what was going in my head, my world, my hands, when I wrote … Whatever … I cannot pin down. Even when I think I can, I cannot, could not replicate such a moment, such a book. Even if, sometimes, I might wish otherwise.
My books are more often than not the result of—I truly do not know. Yes, I begin intellectually, if you will—“This has the potential of a good story.” However, once I am engaged, it is my capacity to enter into the lives of my characters, to have them come alive as separate entities—separate from me anyway—that creates the potential to make them good stories, good books. The truth is it does not always happen.
I suspect it is the capacity to step inside characters—so as to make this turn, that turn, while stepping outside them, so as observe objectively what they might do, can do, will do, that brings life to the page.
I am a pro. Why can’t it always happen?
The fine balance between simultaneously being inside and outside your story, your characters, controlling while not controlling, seeing objectively while feeling subjectively, is what we mean when we speak of the practice of writing. It’s hard.