On writing a (2nd) book: what I didn’t know and wish someone had told me.

Last night I finished what I hope is the final draft for Book 2. It has been a long journey–much longer than I ever expected. From start to finish (once she is published), it will be more than two years. I began the first chapters of Book 2 in June of 2014, and completed the first draft a year later. A few drafts and several melt-downs later, here is what I learned the second time around.

  1. The second ‘child’ is a much harder gestation than the first. There will be more bumps in the road–or there were for me. The first book was written for myself, a little diversion which I ended up putting out into the world. It was (for me) a happy accident. I meant to write the second and subsequent novels, and therefore…
  2. You will put twice as much pressure on yourself to be amazing. The first book was fun. This one was work. I set a standard for myself, and labored to meet/exceed it. I came to realize that my artistic standard was higher than my skill level. On-the-job training was the only option at this point, so I just wrote, wrote, wrote. And trusted my editor and a few close writer friends to help guide me in the right direction.
  3. You will wish you had never decided to write in the first place. Do I need to explain this one? I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself, “I give up. I can’t. Why did I tell people I was going to write another one?” I already have a vocation which can be tough and subjective. It would have been nice to have had, say, Accounting tap me on the shoulder and call me into service. Or Librarianship. Or… you know, pretty much anything that includes a steady paycheck and a 401k. Thankfully, these days were liberally interspersed by days when…
  4. You will wish you could just write and write forever, with no other obligations. I did have good days. Days where the writing flowed, and I filled pages and pages with brilliance! (brilliance is subjective… at the very least I had pages and pages I could edit into brilliance.) And going to my real job (the one that pays money) was the last thing I wanted to do.
  5. Encouragement is both a saving grace and the bane of your writer-ly existence. I enjoyed the encouragement of many. It’s a good place to be, and to hear, “I loved your first book; can’t wait for the next!” warmed my heart. Except when I was having an ‘I. just. can’t. even.’ sort of day. In which case, I usually smiled and said thank you, and privately bewailed my lack of progress/skill/talent.
  6. You will (sometimes) struggle not to compare yourself with other writers. Last November I joined a writers’ group. They are my friends, comrades-in-the-trenches, staunch allies, best cheerleaders. And at first, I was absolutely, completely, utterly intimidated by them. Whether they were old hands at writing, or newbs like me, I was certain they all possessed more talent in their little fingers than I had in my whole being. I quickly learned that, just like in the music world, we all feel like that sometimes, and the best way to beat insecurity is to punch those gremlins in the face. And have friends who will do it for you on particularly rough days. (Thank you, friends!)
  7. You will be easily twice as proud, knowing just how much work went into this one. Apparently, publishing isn’t that hard. One just has to do it. Simple, huh? HA! I can’t wait to hold the real-live book in my hand. I will probably cry, just like I did the first time around, and I will probably say (in my head, because talking to a book is crazy), “Mama loves you, and I will always love you, and I am so proud of the novel you have become!”

No matter how many books I write, whether this is the last (don’t panic–it isn’t) or there are a dozen more in the wings, I treasure this one for the lessons it taught me in perseverance, grace, patience, and skill-building.

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4 thoughts on “On writing a (2nd) book: what I didn’t know and wish someone had told me.

  1. I’d have to agree with that McKnight person and say I’m sure you’re equally intimidating, especially since you’ve finished your second! That means you’re on a roll, so I’ll eagerly await Book Three (no pressure)!

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