What to Write Next?

By Nina Mansfield

It’s been almost six months since my debut young adult mystery novel, SWIMMING ALONE, was released into the world and I’ve started thinking about what I should write next. With this thought comes the overwhelming dread that I’ve exhausted all original ideas—that I’ll never write again.

It’s not the first time I’ve felt this fear, and I am pretty sure that I’m not the only writer out there who’s felt this way. I have a feeling this paranoia might be common among creative people. But somehow, now that I’ve published a novel, the pressure seems greater than ever to get another creative work out into the world.

And mind you, I am the only one putting the pressure on myself. My novel is a stand-alone, so it’s not like my readers are waiting for number two in the series. And it’s not like I haven’t been writing, I’ve actually been writing quite a bit. I’ve been working on a major rewrite of another young adult novel (a paranormal romance/thriller), putting the finishing touches on a graphic novel that will be published online at the end of the year, and I even wrote a brand new short mystery story.

And yet, I live in constant terror that my creative well will run dry.

In fact, I’ve been writing so many guest blogs lately, I was convinced I wouldn’t think of anything to write for this blog. Seriously. It was keeping me up at night.

But you know what they say: write what you know. And since currently my biggest fear is that I’ll run out of ideas, I decided to write about that.

Of course, the write what you know mantra doesn’t always work for mystery and thriller writers. My background is in theater and education, not law enforcement or international espionage. I’ve never committed any major crimes, at least none that I’ll ever admit to. And my current day job—stay-at-home mom to an energetic toddler—isn’t necessarily exposing me to the type of material I’m looking for to write in my next crime novel.

So I’ve trained myself to look for the evil in the every day. Why exactly was the librarian late for story time? Did cousin so-and-so’s husband really die of a heart attack? Is that awkward nurse at the doctor’s office up to no good? How well do I really know the man I married?

It’s one way to feed the well.

The other is a little more challenging because—and I know it’s a cliché—I’m a recluse and an introvert. I sometimes wish that never leaving the house was actually an option. But the truth is, the best way to feed the creative well is to venture out into the world, interact with actual human beings, and do something totally new.

This year I’ve taken up Zumba. Don’t laugh. I know it’s just a start. And, who knows…this morning, while wishing I’d picked up the two-pound weights instead of the three-pound weights, I actually got an idea for a Zumba murder mystery. And if that doesn’t pan out, at least it’s helping me get out of my head for an hour so I can stop stressing about what to write next.

Nina Mansfield is a Connecticut-based fiction writer, blogger and playwright. Her debut novel, SWIMMING ALONE a YA mystery, was published by Fire & Ice YA in August 2015. Her plays have been published and produced throughout United States and internationally. Her graphic novel FAKE ID: BEYOND RECOGNITION, illustrated by Leyla Akdogan, will be out with Plume Snake in 2016. Nina’s short mystery fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Mysterical-E.

To learn more about SWIMMING ALONE, click on the cover below: