Taking the Summer Off…or will the best laid plans go awry?

Kate Flora: After my agent declared that she didn’t like my new book and found my character “not very likeable” I sulked in the corner for a bit and then decided that I would take the summer off. Evidently my habit of referring to my writing as “homework” was telling. I need to put some space between my current self and the self I need to be to write more likeable characters.

That is the plan, anyway. But plans, like rules, often seem to be made to be broken. At least that is the message that I am getting from the universe. I’m a week into my resolution, with a stack of wonderful books on my lamp table waiting for my attention. There’s the new 700-page novel, The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese, whose book Cutting For Stone is an all-time favorite. There’s The Comfort of Crows by Margaret Renkl, a gift from a recent guest. A beautiful book about poisons by Ben Hubbard that I got for Mother’s Day.

Yes, it looks like I have my summer’s break full of great things to read. Plus it is summer in Maine, which means guests. It means lovely dinners and drinks with my neighbors. It means spending a lot of time in my garden fighting back the weeds and the pests. It means harvesting my blueberries and making lots of jam.

So what, you are wondering, might make these idyllic plans go awry? It’s that darned writer in me. I need to find out why my character—a character I like a lot—isn’t striking my agent as likeable. And then, because evidently the write’s nature abhors a vacuum, I sat down at the keyboard to play the other day and dug up a series of linked stories from long ago. I wasn’t sure where I’d left them but in the process of rereading and trying to figure that out, I got hooked on the last story, actually more of a novella, and find I have to finish it and figure out what happens. I may have to write more stories to explore where the character goes from here.

It should be fine. I’m always curious to see where writing takes me. Where my imagination wants to go. One New Year’s Day several years ago, I had two different books warring in my head that both wanted to be written. I decided I would sit down at my desk, poise my fingers over the keyboard, type “Chapter One” and see what happened. What happened was a Joe Burgess book. I have a feeling this summer will be a bit like that. I have no deadlines. I have nothing I have to write, so it will be fun to see whether the linked stories become a book, or whether something else comes along and elbows them aside.

There are writers who are planners, I know. My late friend Lea Wait always had a five year plan and was very disciplined about her work. I am not like Lea. I’m more willing to go with the adventure of the thing. Lately, though, I haven’t been feeling any sense of fun. But I hope that by September 1st many more books will be read, and I will be back at my keyboard feeling the passion and adventure of writing instead of calling it “my homework.”

Stay tuned…

Trying to sell books on a cold and rainy day. Is that an adventure?

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9 Responses to Taking the Summer Off…or will the best laid plans go awry?

  1. John Clark says:

    Gotta be genetic. I get antsy if I break for a bit and try to ‘just read.’ That’s what made me go back to Thor’s Wingman, a book I abandoned 7 years ago that’s close to being done.

  2. Katherine says:

    Attending the recent Maine Crime Wave as a not-yet-published writer, I heard the same advice from several presenters: write the book you want to read. Many presenters also described tussles with agents and editors who didn’t like some feature of their work (like the editor who said “Nobody wants to read about Covid”). And then Matt Cost wrote yesterday about how writing is pleasure except for the pain of figuring out the release. I hate that the opinion of one gatekeeper soured you even temporarily on your book and hope that these new ideas take flight!

  3. John Lovell says:


  4. kaitlynkathy says:

    Kate, if this is the ms. I read a while back, I didn’t find your character unlikeable at all. Tastes vary and (dare I say it?) agents (even very good ones) aren’t always right. Remember the famous case of Tony Hillerman’s agent (a well known one with a good reputation) telling him to get rid of all the Indian stuff?

  5. Alice says:

    First, if the character is the one I beta read, go for it.
    Second, the Verghese book is amazing; hope you can take the time to read it.

  6. julianne spreng says:

    Thank you for the book mentions. Just read an excerpt from The Covenant of Water, I can’t wait to get a copy! Wish I lived closer to Maine. It would be beyond wonderful to actually meet all of you at a library talk or market stall and purchase books directly from their authors.

  7. Kate Flora says:

    Thank you, friends. Yes, Alice and Kathy…this is the match-making dog book. I think maybe I can write rom but not com. Spent months reading rom/com and didn’t like most of them.

  8. Judy Alter says:

    Thanks for confirming that I”m not the only one who goes through what I call a funk. I’m just coming out of one and realize what will “cure” me is to focus on what I really want to write. One of the pleasures of being older and “retired,” is you can write what you want without worrying about agents, the market, even to some extent the reader.

    • Anonymous says:

      So true. I know I am hooked on a story when I’m composing before I fall asleep or just before I was up.


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