by Sonja Stone
Leap and the net will appear.
Or you’ll plummet to your death. It could go either way.
HOW HARD CAN IT BE?
I started my first novel on a whim. My kids were in middle school, and a popular book series had just been made into film. All of my kid’s friends had already seen it. Girls were swooning over the love story. I’m a very slow reader, so I went to the theater to prescreen the movie (yeah, I’m that mom). The resounding message I heard from the story was this: Hey, girls. If you want to be with that hot boy, you have to change everything about yourself. Yes, he’s just told you he’s dangerous and you shouldn’t hang out with him. Yes, he warned you that he’ll hurt you—deeply. But go ahead… It’s worth giving up every part of yourself, all of your friends, your family, just to be with him.
Needless to say, I didn’t approve the movie for my kids. To be clear, I thoroughly enjoyed the film—it was an exciting storyline. But this wasn’t the message I wanted my children to hear. I hadn’t yet discovered The Hunger Games (if I had, I probably wouldn’t have written a book—I would’ve just passed that one along to the kiddies), so I decided to write the story I wanted them to read, the one where the girl saves herself, and then she saves the boy. And so, DESERT DARK was born.
Each morning after driving them to school I’d settle in at my desk and write the day’s pages. Each afternoon they’d read the story, offer critiques, ask questions. At dinner we’d discuss the plot—I’d get stuck, they’d give me ideas. I fumbled my way through the process because, as usual, I couldn’t be bothered to learn HOW to do something before jumping in (again, if I had, I probably wouldn’t have written a book. Ignorance really is bliss). I wrote the manuscript, found an agent, sold it to a publisher… I had arrived, right?
WHICH BRINGS ME TO…
I’m currently in the thick of the second draft of my second novel. My oldest child is away at college; my youngest is a senior in high school. They have neither the time nor the inclination to read my manuscript several dozen times. I find myself rudderless; I relied on their help even more than I realized. I’m left to plot alone, to breathe life into my characters without the guidance of my target audience. I’m at that point in the writing process where I hate my work. I hate the story, I hate the setting, I hate the people. The first book was a fluke; when the sequel goes to print I’ll be found out—exposed as the hack that I am.
I’ve been here before. I remember hating drafts of my first novel. But I can’t for the life of me recall how to navigate from this place. I had time. TIME. I’m slow. I’m a slow writer, a slow reader, a fast processor but slow to articulate the thoughts that break the sound barrier in my mind. I had seven years to write my first novel. Years to tweak, refine, polish. The second book is due in less than a month. I’ve been working diligently for the past year… I’m just slow.
Writing is solitary work. I require silence; no music, no people, no television in the background to keep me company. As an introvert, I love working by myself. But when it’s not going well, it gets lonely.
Want to know what’s keeping me off the ledge? Steve Berry.
|Steve Berry with KJ Howe, celebrating the release of THE FREEDOM BROKER|
Last July at ThrillerFest, Steve led a panel discussion on this very topic: he calls it second-book-itis. David Corbett, Barry Lancet, Chris Reich, M.J. Rose, John Sanford, and Simon Toyne shared their struggles—and they were many—about pushing through the second book.
Corbett said he had ten years to write the first book and ten months to write the second; he thought it stunk but the reviewers loved it. Toyne claimed to have written his on pure fear (which for him translated to high-octane energy). Sanford tracks his daily word count, as he finds himself lost and depressed mid-book: he can’t see the end nor can he remember the beginning. Boy, I can relate.
I’m comforted to know that I’m not alone. For many writers, this struggle is par for the course. I’d hoped to be the exception, but such is life. And I’m so grateful to the authors named above for sharing their second-book-itis trials and tribulations. These are the voices inspiring me.
|SECOND-BOOK-ITIS: ThrillerFest 2016|
WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, USE A MANTRA
If you don’t have one at the ready, feel free to borrow mine.
Leave your zen-like advice in the comments below!