I’ve scrapped and restarted Cruising with the Blues, the fourth and final book in the South of Forever series, more times than I can count now. I don’t even want to think about how many thousands of words I’ve thrown out and how many outlines I’ve crumpled up because this damned book just isn’t working.
Sometimes that happens.
It’s super frustrating, especially when you can’t figure out why. It was driving me absolutely bonkers, and I was thinking about it so hard that I swear smoke was coming out of my ears. Being a chronic over-thinker is simultaneously one of my worst and best traits. I can get in so deep that I think myself all the way into a state of woe, or I can think my way out of a complex problem in seconds.
This time things started to go the woe way—until I started talking things out with my friends J.C. Hannigan and Molli Moran. I’ve noticed that I’m much more productive if I start thinking out loud with someone who will listen and let me bounce ideas off them. Both of these ladies are super good at that, and it didn’t take long until it dawned on me.
The reason I’ve been having so much trouble with SOF4 is because I’d strayed from my brand.
I write stories starring strong belles who chose a different path.
That’s my brand whether I’m writing YA or NA, romance or suspense—women who do things they aren’t supposed to, who are strong in many different ways. In each draft so far, Krista wasn’t conflicted about her path. When I compared it to the other books I’ve published, each of my heroines did something she wasn’t supposed to. I couldn’t find any place where Krista railed against her expectations of herself or someone else’s expectations of her. So I grabbed my book of writing ideas and scribbled down some questions.
What does Krista think she should do or is supposed to do? Which path does she take instead?
I’m still trying to find the answers to these questions—especially since I also “have to” wrap up the series with this book. In the meantime I’ve decided to put it aside and work on something else, rather than make myself crazy. I might realize that there might not even be a fourth book. At the end of What Happens on Tour, the band has defeated their rival and strengthened their bonds. They’re planning on organizing their own tour and continuing recording and playing. That’s a pretty good happy-for-now ending; I might need to let go of the idea that I “should” write a fourth book.
That’s the not so exciting part of the writing process. Sometimes you have to let things simmer on the back burner. Sometimes you think you know something, but then everything changes because art. The creative mind is a beautiful but mysterious thing. It can also be kind of a jerk.
Plus, let’s face it: I tend to put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself, rather than going with the flow or letting my instincts guide me. I tell myself I “should” do something, even when I don’t necessarily have to, and stubbornly cling to the idea until it dawns on me that I can let it go.
So, for now, I’ve decided to let the South of Forever series be. Things are stable enough that there’s no cliffhanger to resolve but I can also come back and write more books later if need be. In the meantime, I’m going to focus on some other projects.