My novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western, has been out for nearly a year now. I released it on August 18, 2017. It's been doing well. It sells pretty steadily, with some big jumps every three months or so when I run a promotion. It has received great reviews--seventy-nine, currently--and I love reading what people think of it.
I am now working on the sequel! I've found though that it's tricky getting back into a story after taking time away from it. I am finding my way back though, and figured I'd share that process, since it might help other writers, maybe even you.
Over the last year I've been researching San Francisco from 1850 to 1900. Most of the second book, Bodacious Creed and the Frisco Syndicate, will take place there. I read several books, did a ton of highlighting, and ended up with about sixteen pages of typed notes. San Francisco was crazy during those years and will make an amazing setting.
Rediscovering My Characters
The next step was figuring out what had changed in the world between the books and what each of the main characters was now up to.
When writing a novel, I always think about what my characters' goals are, and what they'll do to achieve them. That inevitably leads to conflicts and ideas for scenes as the characters do what they would do, and their interactions lead to the story. So, I don't "plot" exactly. Plotting is telling characters what to do. I follow their lead.
There is one caveat, however. A character might want something that leads him away from growth and the other characters. Yes, for any given book, I will have a general direction that I want the story to take. If an established character wants to take a boat to France when the story is taking place in Mexico, I need to put the right pressure on him to get him to decide to go to Mexico (or get kidnapped, or something similar). In either case, the character stays true to himself.
It made sense to figure out what my characters actions were based on their desires between the books as well. I got a notebook and started writing down what each of the main characters wanted, and what they would do to get it. I had to know how this would lead to the majority of the story moving from Santa Cruz to San Francisco, how it would get the heroes entangled with the outlaws, and so on.
In Their Own Words
That worked well, but I needed something more. Over the last week, I've been writing journal entries for the major characters. This has been fun, and I highly recommend trying it, even if you're just stuck in the middle of a book. I'm learning what they have been up to for the past year, and how they feel about it. I'm discovering what they now want to do going forward, and getting a sense of what will motivate them.
I have, so far, written entries for three major characters: the undead former U.S. marshal James "Bodacious" Creed, brothel madam and inventor Anna Lynn Boyd, and an outlaw whose name I will not mention here. They've let me know not only how their lives have gone over the last year, but how their world is changing thanks to the technological revolution taking place in their reality, in 1877.
I'm now close to being ready to start writing the book itself. I still need to figure out the first few chapters. I still don't have some of the specifics nailed down, but I have good ideas, and my characters have hinted at things to come.
I plan to have Bodacious Creed and the Frisco Syndicate out around April, 2020. Meanwhile, I'll keep you posted on how the process is going, and will share any insights that might help with your writing.
Meanwhile, you can get the first book here:
Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western