Someday We Will Be Able to Laugh at This

When we decided to write on the Book 2 freak out many months ago, I don't think we realized that four of us would be right smack in the middle of Book 2 when it came time to write this post.  I feel like this is a post that should be written years later, or at least after  book 2 is published.  When we can look back at our struggles with some perspective.  No wonder Donna opted for covering the amazing book launch (which deserved it's own day) and Katy is contemplating cradling her chocolate-stained copy of GILT in her arms.

The bottom line is that Book 2 is hard.

Me Time v. Deadlines

For many writers (for me at least), writing starts as a hobby.  No matter how you start, if you're not under contract, the first book can be written on your own timetable, when and where you feel like it.  Sure, it might take over a year to get through the first draft, but no one is waiting for the book to be done. Writing for yourself is an indulgence. A pleasure.

Fast forward to Book 2.  I was given roughly three months to turn in a draft. Instead of looking for free moments to write, I had to dedicate every spare minute to writing, setting word count goals and sacrificing a lot of social activities.  Writing under deadline has its advantages.  It's motivating, and it's productive.  But as a writer, I love feeling my way into a novel and savoring every moment of discovery.  When you write quickly, you lose some of that. 

Bottom line: It's critical to find a balance between productivity and pleasure.  It's a lot harder to do on a tight timetable, but you have to find your way back to your writing happy place.

And yes, it's hard.

A Blank Slate v. A Brand

In Book 1, you have the luxury of creating a world and characters from scratch. You can make things up as you go along, experimenting with characters and plot points. You can try out different writing styles and find the story's voice.  If something doesn't work for the plot, it can be thrown out and reimagined without constraints beyond what the story calls for.

With a sequel, you have to find that voice and rhythm again.  The characters' backstory and traits are largely known, and the known facts limit the possibilities going forward.  The main character has already gone through a transformation by the end of Book 1, but still needs to grow in Book 2.  The story needs to be different, but similar enough to the first book to appeal to the same readers. The stakes need to be higher.  The writing needs to be better. And you've already used twenty years worth of your best lines in Book 1.

Bottom line:  You have to find a new goal for your character and raise the stakes while staying true to the world and the story.

This is hard.

The Book You Want to Write v. The Book You are Contractually Obligated to Write

When writing on your own, you have complete freedom to write the book that is screaming to get out.  You can let your subconscious take charge and write the story that won't let you alone.  Book 2 is the book you have to write, whether it speaks to you or not.  You have to work to find the inspiration, you can't wait for it to find you.  This is one of the reasons Book 2 sometimes feels like trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

Bottom line: you have to push through and find the magic, even when it feels like a job.

And, you guessed it, it's hard.

Writing for Yourself v. Writing for an Editor

When writing on your own, you only have to please yourself.  I'm not saying that the first book that you sell is easy by any means.  Any author that writes with the goal of publication strives to a) write a book that people want to read; and b) write a book that publishers want to sell.  It takes a combination of personal sacrifice and blood-letting all over the page, combined with a fair amount of skill with a pen, luck and market timing.  Before that first sale comes a lot of rejection.  It's disheartening and gut wrenching, but it's not personal.  You wrote that book for yourself first.  You created it from scratch and perfected the story until you loved it. If the market isn't ready for Book 1, you can tuck it safely in a drawer and start again.  Yes, you can revise, rework or rewrite it, but you don't have to. If it does sell, chances are the editor that buys it will already be the book's biggest fan.

Book 2 is written on demand, and the opinion of one reader has never been so important. Your editor bought this book when it was an idea that held only promise. The pressure to live up to that promise is huge.  It can bring out your own inner editor and make you second guess your decisions before you've even made them. Sometimes you can feel that person reading over your shoulder as you type.

Bottom line:  you have to put all expectations (readers, your editor's, even your own) aside and let the characters and the story grow organically (while staying true to the story and your world).

Yeah, this is really hard.

First Draft v. Finished Book

After revising Book 1 for your critique group, agent and editor, it is polished so perfectly that you can see your reflection in it.  And a year or more has gone by since you've tackled a rough draft.  It's hard to look at the rough jumble of words in Book 2 without feeling like you have no idea how to write anymore.  The wooden dialogue, lack of conflict and complete absence of setting in the story make you want to flip shut the screen and go for the chocolate.

A novel is a marathon, but it's easy to forget that Book 1 did not appear on the page in the form that was ultimately published on the first try.

Bottom line:  you have to recognize that it's okay to write an ugly first draft and remember that it's part of the process.  Draft 2 will be better.  Draft 17 will be awesome!

Bottom line:  hard.

If writing a first book involves baring your soul, writing a second book involves crushing it.  Maybe it's not this way for everyone, but based on the four of us, I'd say it's more common than I thought.   Luckily, writers are a tough group.  We've been prepared by years of rejection.

Someday, sooner than we think, we will look back on this and laugh.

Or at least not cry.


Add another writer to the "crushed soul" category. Book 2 was brutal, and I am still revising it before I send it to my editor. I am terrified that it doesn't do everything it's supposed to, but at last after reading this post, I realize I am not alone in my terror. Thanks, Talia!

Only 3 months!!! Wow. Intense. Great post, thank you!

Eve Marie, you are definitely not alone! PB, to be fair I was given as much time as I needed to REWRITE the book :). See, I'm laughing already. *eye twitch*

Eek! The pressure. Definitely reminds me to enjoy the moment of where I am in this process. I love this, Talia!

This is all so true that I could cry. Or laugh. Well done, Talia Brilliant post.

Post a Comment

Grid_spot theme adapted by Lia Keyes. Powered by Blogger.


discover what the Muses get up to when they're not Musing

an ever-growing resource for writers

Popular Musings

Your Responses

Fellow Musers