I've begun serious work on a second novel, now. Technically, I started another novel at the end of 2006, but I realized that I wasn't quite ready to write that one just yet, so I put it back on the shelf for the time being. At present, there are no fewer than four distinct ideas for novels in my head, and I wasn't quite sure which one I'd end up writing first; it came as something of a surprise, actually, when I decided to work on the one that I'm now writing.
I find it interesting how so much of what I'm doing feels different and how so much feels the same when I think of what it was like to write my last novel. It's certainly a long, involved, highly daunting process, but despite how timid I might still be about the whole thing, I know from experience that it's a very rewarding one. There's a story in my head, and like most of the stories in my head, I don't know precisely where it came from--I know only that it's asking to be told, and it's my job to channel it. That makes it sound like a chore, but it's not (even though, at times, the process of sitting down to type things out can feel a little bit grueling; usually it's a lot more enjoyable, though).
One of the scariest things about the whole thing, though, is facing an unwritten novel as some kind of Great Unknown. For me, the elements of my stories and the world around them are almost like things that I discover more than things I make up; so, when I'm writing the novel I am now, I need to remind myself that it's okay that I'm not 100% sure where everything is going or how all of the pieces are going to line up. The word I like to use for storytelling that goes smoothly is organic--and I forget, very often, that there was a time when my first novel was only a string of vaguely-connected ideas, and it was up to me to determine how it all went together.
Thinking about that, it's comforting to see the similarities to my current novel and my previous one, here in the planning stages: I have the conflict, I have the characters, I have the setting, a very strong visual image of the climax, and half of the ending. I have a vague idea of what's going on during the middle of the story.
But really, I think that's part of the fun of actually writing a big story like this: I get to find out for myself what happens as I fill in those blanks, and if I'm telling the story correctly, it'll all grow organically into place in order to end up where it needs to.
The other exciting thing about that is that I know that there are events and characters and happenings that are going to surprise me. There are things in store that I'm 100% unaware of, and when I figure out what they are, I will probably squeak with delight as I fervently jot down a note in my notebook or pound out a paragraph on my keyboard. I recall quite clearly the moment of epiphany that I had at Burbank Airport when I was halfway through my last novel and the events of the second half just suddenly fell into place inside my head, and I look forward to that "Eureka!" happening to me again this second time around.
Most importantly, though, I think that I have a fun, engaging, and meaningful story that folks will enjoy reading, and I'll be very happy if I can get all of those words out into a form that other people get to see someday.