The First Time’s The Hardest
I was chatting the other day with Steve LeBel, who’s currently working on his first novel Bernie and the Putty. He mentioned that finishing it was a bit of a struggle – which we can all identify with – but also that he expected the second book would be easier.
I’ve defintely found that to be the case with THE COMMONS. So what was most different the second time around?
1. I changed from a pantser to an outliner.
Vorare, the basis for the Gentleman Ghouls series, was intended as a one-year arc ending with the hero’s destruction that turned into a three-year arc of ambition. For many months in the middle there, I was writing without a clear direction.
For THE COMMONS, I specifically wrote a full outline of 12,000 words in and of itself. This gave me much more line of sight into the flow and rhythm of the story. And I’m a convert now – I will never go back to discovery writing for anything more than short stories. The outline made even bad writing days feel like forward momentum.
2. I gave myself more realistic deadlines.
I was originally accustomed to writing serial-style: A few thousand words a month. It soon became clear that wasn’t going to get me to the length a novel needed. So with THE FARM, I started flailing, trying to cram as much work as I could into small, intense bursts.
With THE COMMONS, the outline above let me track my progress much more effectively. I’ll admit, I still missed the initial deadline due to outside circumstances. However, I was able to alert the publishers about a month in advance that we would need to push back this single date, why I needed the extra time, and how we could tighten future dates to make up the time.
3. I considered the future more seriously.
When THE FARM launched I didn’t fully realize the amount of follow-up work a book launch required. Posts, guest posts, events, conventions, signings, and of course the endless round of self-promotion that you worry must become tiresome.
With THE COMMONS I know what I need to do. Re-start the blog months in advance of the book coming out, establish guest areas, develop guest topics and interviews, and generally pay more attention to the human side of this horror equation.
Luckily, I tend to extroversion. How YOU doin’?
4. I fell more in love with the process.
Nothing about THE COMMONS has felt like a chore. It hasn’t always been sunshine and sorbet, but it’s also never been a task I dreaded approaching. With THE FARM and the endless editing required, I did have days when I considered chucking the whole thing.
I guess you do love your second child more than your first, though I’d have to ask my mom and younger sister.
5. IT CAN BE DONE!
I find the simplest way to procrastinate is to scare yourself out of succeeding. If you’ve never said “This will never work” or “Why am I trying,” why, I envy you, my friends. I envy you with mallets and meathooks.
But once I wrote “The End” I saw I could finish a book. Once I got the final edits back I saw that I could adjust a book. Once I saw the cover art, got the cover blurbs, received the books in the mail?
It can be done. Which means it can be repeated, and it can be done better.
So to Steve and all the other two-time runners, I would definitely say yes; the second book’s simpler than the first. Your milage may vary, of course – though if it has, I’d love to know how!