The Reality of Writing Book 2

May 15th, 2012 | Blog Uncategorized


If you follow a lot of writer blogs–and certainly if you've been following this one for the past few months–you've probably seen authors mention struggling with book 2. (Okay, fine, for my part there was some serious whining)

And I'll confess, when I dove into KEEPER 2 I'd naively hoped I might be immune to the problem, since I thought the Book-2-Woes had more to do with trying to write a second book for the first time, and I'd already triumphed over that challenge with LET THE SKY FALL.

But no, writing LET THE SKY FALL came with its own set of difficulties–but it was NOTHING on the stressful, brutal, nightmare that was writing KEEPER book 2. And while a small part of that probably has to do with the KEEPER series being a BEAST of a series (those of you who've read book 1 understand), honestly, it had much more to do with what I suspect makes Book 2 so freaking hard for everyone: the nature of sequels, and the reality of writing a book under contract for the first time. 

Let's look at each of those one at a time.

So… sequels. Yeah, they're HARD. So much harder than I ever thought they would be. Why? Because you're stuck building on something that already exists. Book 1 is a concrete thing and for better or worse, whatever is in there needs to be acknowledged and then taken to the next level. So you not only have to figure out a way to remind the readers of everything that happened (which, side note, means you need to remember–in precise detail–what happened, or spend a LOT of time going back and checking, like I had to), but you also have to then take all of that and find a way to continue with the story.

Which sounds simple enough except… plots have a way of taking on lives of their own and not going the way you expected them to. With Book 1, it's easy to let them do as they will because if you hit any walls you just brainstorm a solution and then go back and adjust as needed. But with Book 2 you can only go back so far. You can't let the plot do anything that will ruin/contradict anything you've already built in Book 1. Which I know sounds like it wouldn't be a problem–especially when you pre-plot the whole series like I did. But trust me–it was a BIG problem. Making KEEPER 2 work seriously broke my brain, and I'm SURE my amazing editor is in the process of catching all the things I still have wrong.

And then there's the whole challenge of creating a story that has a beginning, middle, and end but is also, in essence, the middle of the longer trilogy ARC. Yeah. Wrap your head around that one for a second. It. is. so. hard.

But all of that aside, I think the REAL challenge of Book 2 has to do with the fact that for most of us, it's the first time writing a book under contract, which has a whole other set of stresses and worries. A big one being: WHAT IF MY EDITOR HATES IT?????

Sure, we had that worry with Book 1 when we queried it and shopped it. Of course we did. But… it is SO MUCH WORSE when it's for a book you are CONTRACTUALLY OBLIGATED TO DELIVER. Trust me, that is a whole other REALM of pressure.

As if that weren't fun enough, you also catch yourself comparing book 2–in its rough, unedited state–to the shiny, super-polished, been-revised-a-billion-and-a-half-times state of book 1 and thinking: see–it's not good enough. It's never going to be good enough. Book 2 is going to be a raging disappointment and I'm going to let everyone down and my career will be over before it even began and ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! (Sadly, I'm not exaggerating–though it's possible not everyone is as neurotic as I am).

I'm very lucky that I have a seriously incredible editor who went out of her way to assure me that there was nothing I could do with book 2 that would scare her or make her doubt my abilities. But despite that, the nightmares of WHAT IF SHE HATES IT???? did not fully go away. Especially as the plot threw me twists and turns and led me farther and farther away from the synopsis her and I had originally discussed. It became an almost crippling fear that made me question every chapter, every sentence, every WORD—and it led to long hours staring at the screen, doubting myself, afraid to move on because what if it isn't right and I'm only making it worse?

Oh, and have I mentioned deadlines yet? Yeah, those are FUN–and the fear of what if I don't make it???? only seems to slow things down more

So, yeah. It's a bit stressful. And at this point I've probably thoroughly traumatized all of you and you're wondering: why is she telling us this????????

And the reason is: because someday you'll all be there too and I want you to know it's normal to struggle with book 2.

One thing that REALLY helped me through this process was knowing that I wasn't alone in what I was feeling. In fact, I had several friends fighting the same battle as I was and we'd send each other these long, desperate emails about how brutal this process was and somehow that made it better. We lost sleep together. We threw out large chunks of writing together. We stressed and obsessed together.

But the best part? The really, really awesome part?

We all survived.

And turned in our drafts on time!!!! 

And in my case, I've already heard back that Book 2 is on the right track!!!

(*pauses to happy dance*)

It still needs work–LOTS of work, I'm sure–but it's not the raging disaster I was afraid it would be.

And now that I'm on the other side of all that panic and worry I can see that even if it HAD been a mess, it still would've been okay. Because here's the thing that's SO HARD to remember when you're drafting book 2 for the first time: Editors LIKE editing. (I know, novel concept, right?)

They've also been through this eleventy billion times with eleventy billion authors and have seen it all. They trust you. So you need to trust them.

Trust that they want to work with you and are happy to help you fix any problems the draft may originally have. Which is–of course–why having an editor is such an incredible thing to begin with. They make you a better writer. And in order for them to do that, they have to catch your mistakes.

And yet, I knew that going in and I still couldn't shake off that crippling fear of WHAT IF SHE HATES IT??? You probably won't be able to either. But the more I think about it, the more I wonder if that's just part of the process. It seems to be for a lot of us. So if it happens to you here's the only real advice I can give you: push through.

I can't tell you how many days I had to FORCE myself to open my draft and work on it. It wasn't easy and it wasn't always fun. But being a author is a job. An awesome job. But still a job. And to be professional means to push through the hard parts. Rally your friends around you. Whine and vent as needed. But keep writing. Keep going. Push through.

It will get better and you will get done. Everything will work out okay!

(And btw–can one of you guys remind me I said this in a few weeks? 'Cause yeah, thanks to my crazy schedule I have a SECOND book 2 to write this year and who knows if I'll have to fight this same battle all over again. *shudders*)

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