Out with the Old: New Book Rituals

Out with the old, in with the new. Wickeds, do you have any rituals you do before you start a new book?

Sherry: I don’t have any rituals per se but I do have some pondering to do. If I read something really dark do I want to read something lighter? Or is my mood still dark and I want to keep going down that path? Or maybe I want to switch genres for a bit. I end up staring at my ever growing TBR pile and sometimes it takes reading several first pages before I settle on a new book.

Jessie: I always start new novels by asking myself questions in a notebook. The practice has come to take on a sort of ritualized quality since I almost always use the same sort of notebook and I tend to use a stub-nib juicy pen. I block out chunks of time on my schedule and settle in at my desk and just start writing down questions about the novel which I answer in a variety of ways. I always know that a novel is going to come into being when I feel an overwhelming urge to get a notebook started. I keep a stash of the ones I like on hand since it has proven a successful ritual thus far!

Edith/Maddie: I’d like to say I start a new notebook like Jessie, or clean my desk as some do. Sadly * I do neither. I might give myself a week to focus entirely on a short story, and last December I took an unheard-of week’s vacation after I turned in a book. But when I’m finishing a manuscript, the new story is already knocking at my brain. I set up my Scrivener project, pace back and forth while I find a perfect first line, and off I go. *I’ve stopped saying things like “sadly” about my practices. They work for me, and I’m happy and productive – what more could I want?

Barb: For new books, I’ll start a Levenger Circa notebook for the book. Usually the synopsis has been turned in to my editor some time before, so I’ll put that in and any notes I have (or stickies if I’ve worked with Jessie on the plotting). I’ll start a new Scrivener doc and transfer the synopsis into scene titles in the document and add a new folder on my desktop for all the other stuff that is related. I don’t joyously start a new book because first drafts are my least-liked part of the process, so breaking the startup down into all these little component parts helps me find my momentum.

Liz: Jessie and Barb, I love the ideas of notebooks! I may have to try one when I start my next book. Usually I have an idea of what my overall plot is and then I have a plotting session with Jessie, which helps me get the actual synopsis done. From there I create a Scrivener doc and start putting in whatever scenes I have. Then I start writing and hope it turns into a book…

Julie: I have a notebook where I’ll start jotting ideas as they come to me. I don’t try to have them make sense, I just take notes. When I feel like I’ve got an idea forming, I start bullet pointing some scenes, naming characters, etc. Then I’m on to the plotting (on notecards) and Scrivener. Then I begin writing. I do love starting a new book.

Writer friends, any rituals for starting a new book? Reader friends, how do you cleanse your palette between books, or genres?

19 Thoughts

  1. Thanks for asking, Julie! I start with what I think of as the preparation step: lining up ideas—the more the merrier. Then I hammer the best ones into an overarching premise—my strategic guide. Characters generate emotions for readers and me, so they come next. The plot gives characters reasons to react and show their emotions. I top off the preparation step by thinking through the potential external, internal, philosophical themes.

    That’s when I’m ready to take the next steps. For example, I build the story spine, giving me a story framework. Then I focus on the story body, which fleshes out the entire narrative, from hook to resolution. Now I have the makings of a solid story, and I’m ready to organize the structure and essential beats. After coming up with a viable logline, I nail done the 70 to 100-plus scenes. Finally, I do the self-edits, spending whatever time is required to make sure the POV centers on the lead character, plugging any plot holes, etc.

    Like Edith, I’ve learned to do what works for me AND have fun with the entire process.

  2. I don’t know that I have any specific rituals in between books but I do sometimes alternated between cozy mysteries and the more action-oriented high body count thrillers that I love as well. It’s not one-for-one or anything because I just read whatever I prefer at the moment but it does happen.

  3. Reading or writing, it’s the same. Open the book and go! I may take some time before writing a new book to think about the victim and possible suspects, but it never takes more than a day.

  4. Think about the next book if it’s part of a series. If not I’m happy for the great story I’ve just read, but sad that it’s over. Next it’s time to leave reviews. Then it’s on to the next great book. 🙂
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. I don’t have any rituals, but I do need to clear my head from one cozy to the next or I get the stories all mixed up. I’ll usually use some time catching up on magazines or on a non-fiction book. But I’m always eager to get back to the cozies!

  6. My thoughts are usually all over the place when I start a new book. I usually do a series of free writes to figure out what the book might be about. Sometimes some words from the free writes make it into the finished novel, but I usually toss most of them.

  7. I don’t really have any rituals between books. I usually try not to start the next book immediately, but after about an hour or so, I’m ready to go.

      1. It’s why I need a little time off between books. And I try to write the review within a day or so of finishing a book so I don’t have to keep it in my brain that long.

  8. I use a dedicated notebook for each new book and keep it with me to jot down ideas, characters names, and story line ideas before plunging in to write. I’ll use that to outline the first few chapters and leave the rest to fate. But that notebook keeps track of dates, character profiles, lots of stuff to refer to. And when I think if a scene I’ll need out of sequence, I jot that in there, too.

  9. I do not have anything that I do to cleanse my reading palate between books. I am not one to end one book and start another. I usually start another book another day. Thank you so much for sharing. God bless you.

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