It’s about time I blogged! Things are very busy right now. I’ve just handed in the first draft of my second novel, EDEN, Book Two of the Bennett/Archer Series. While I wait for a structural report on that, I’ve begun book three, which is titleless at this point, and refocused the majority of my attention on my PhD. Semester one is about to start, so I’ll go in soon to find out what I’m teaching over at the uni. Aside from that, I’m bombarded daily by promotional activities for HADES. It’s a real juggling act here, people. But no excuses! I’m back, and I’m here to speak.
When considering what I might blog about this time I decided that I have the most to say about the second novel experience. Most good writers write all the time, so the chances are that the second novel experience for most people comes when book one is doing the rounds. That’s the way it is for me. The most difficult thing by far is ignoring criticism of the first book. There hasn’t been much of a negative variety, thankfully. But reflection on what fans enjoyed or wanted more of in book one reaches my ears daily, and threatens to steer me right off my path in the upcoming books. It would be so easy to bend to requests for my main characters to get together, to reveal their secrets, or in some cases, to disappear completely. But I think resisting these requests is critical to writing something I’ll enjoy – and when I enjoy the writing, you seem to enjoy the reading. I always tell my writing students to forget trying to write to the market, as so many AskHow instructional lists on How to Get Published – Quick! will advise you to do. Do not browse the New Releases section for inspiration. Vampires, zombies and werewolves come and go, as do apocalyptic teenage love dramas and life manuals by desperate housewives. You have to write who, and what, is in you first and foremost or risk fading into a wash of trend novels with no publicity, rather than sticking out as the best new thing to come along since God knows what. It takes heart, not business sense, to win at this game. Don’t let Goodreads reviews direct your work, either, an author friend told me recently.
For every Goodreads reviewer that has the time and inclination to put down their thoughts, a hundred and fifty don’t, so what you’re catching are leaves in the wind rather than echoes of any widely held truth.
Like any novel, the first steps are heavy. The road ahead looks long, barren and lonely, and when it’s a second book the path is darkened further by the pressure to do what you did the first time as well, or better, with the same characters. The challenge has been to prove what I did with HADES was no fluke, and that there’s a career writer in me – one who can shock, surprise, and captivate over and over. It’s terrifying, as failure is to most people. But I’ve gotten around this by remembering that I started this thing with one dream, to be published, and that’s happened. Everything from here is bonus time. What’s important is the writing, the delicious, delicious writing.
I’ve made a commitment to myself not to write unless I feel excited about what I’m putting down.
It seems what I’ve been doing is working, because both my agent and publisher raved about the first draft of book two. I spent most of my time at the keys enjoying the process, and I have faith in what’s on the page. My advice to second book writers would be to remember that what’s important is that moment you began writing all those years ago, when all you knew about words was that you liked putting them together into stories, that you found you could escape, excite, entertain yourself with nothing but your computer and your mind. You felt empowered. You felt free. First books, second books, publishing contracts and international rights deals should be on the shelf, and your hunger for the worlds you create should be on the desk.
Never get the two mixed up.