Tuesday, 22 April 2014

"That difficult second book..." (and third book... and fourth book...)

Those were the words I heard a lot when I was writing the second book. It's a line oft-repeated by agents, editors and authors alike. The first book is still a hobby piece; an act of hope and faith; an expression of joy. When you finally land a 3 book deal it's balloons, silly hats and champagne all round. You pat your first book cover fondly and giggle when you see it on a real shelf in a library or book shop.

And then comes Book 2. This time, you're a professional writer. This book isn't just a bit of fun - someone has paid you actual money, trusting that you will write it. This brings a certain responsibility. My life had changed a lot by the time I was writing The Mortal Knife, mainly because I had become a mum. I had always been an evening writer; now I had to learn to sit down during the day and treat writing like the job it was and is. It wasn't easy but having a deadline on the horizon is a mighty effective combo of the carrot and stick. Maybe this is why writers find the second book tough - up until now the writing has been all carrot.

Which brings me to Book 3. I'm not sure why I thought it would be easier. Maybe all that 'difficult second book' stuff implied 'that stupidly easy third book!' Except it isn't easy. It's difficult. And finally I am beginning to get it. Writing 80-90,000 words of gripping, funny, consistent, warm-hearted prose is NEVER going to be easy. No matter how many times I do it, I will never be able to describe it as easy. The day I can describe the process as easy, I'm not growing. I'm not stretching myself.

But - and there is a but - one thing does get easier and it's the thing that gets me past all the other difficulties. No matter how hard it gets, I can tell myself: 'I've done this before.' As I limp towards the finish line of Book 3 I know I've been here and lived to tell the tale. For years I was the queen of the half-finished novel - but no one will ever read your half-finished novel. It will languish on a long-defunct laptop or memory pen - or even a floppy disc (revealing my age. Remember those?)

So, if there is one thing I have learned about writing in the last few years, it's this: FINISH SOMETHING. Because the power of finishing something - be it a poem, a story or even a book - is that once you've done it, YOU KNOW YOU CAN DO IT AGAIN. And even if your first or second or tenth efforts don't get the reception you want, that's okay. Next time you'll do it better.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've a book to finish.


Julie said...

you speak the truth young jedi.

Debbie said...

Delighted to find your blog. I am a fellow Debbie Jane just starting out on submitting my children's book to agents. And I chose Gillie Russell as the first agent to submit to a few weeks ago! Submitting by email is a bit unsettling though as I've no idea if it arrived or if the attachments were openable. Or even if they reply to you if they're not interested. I wonder if you had to make many submissions before you found your agent. I will browse your posts to find out! Thanks again for reaching out to us fellow writers. Best wishes Debbie

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