Congratulations to Teresa Frohock on the official release of her debut novel Miserere: An Autumn Tale! I was lucky enough to get my hands on an ARC of Miserere, and thoroughly enjoyed the read. Teresa does a wonderful job with her characters – her protagonist Lucian’s struggle to earn redemption for his past mistakes is both poignant and compelling, as are his relationships with the twin sister he’s trying to escape and the lover he betrayed. If you like dark fantasy, you’ve got to read this book – so make sure to comment and tell me the name of a sequel or second novel you enjoyed, for your chance to win a signed copy in this week’s giveaway!
This week we’re talking about what it’s like to write the second novel – in particular, the one after you’ve got a book deal in hand. In my case, you’d think the second novel should come easy. After all, The Tainted City is a direct sequel to The Whitefire Crossing; the two books essentially form one story. So I’m working with an established world and characters – and what’s more, I had about 100K of Tainted City’s first draft (~3/4 of the story) written before the books sold. (I wrote the draft way back in the summer of 2008, while I was first querying Whitefire.) Mind you, my first drafts are pretty rough, but thanks to that draft, I know the major signposts of Tainted City’s plot, and how the book ends. Piece of cake to whip out the finished product, right?
Er….not exactly. First off, while the overarching plot of Whitefire didn’t change much during my massive rewrite-from-scratch in 2009, the characters did. I added one major secondary character, and the relationship of one of my two protagonists to another secondary character also underwent significant changes. While that doesn’t necessarily alter the main plot arc of The Tainted City, it sure as heck changes a lot of the details. I knew from the moment I finished the revised version of Whitefire that I’d have to do a full white-page rewrite of The Tainted City as well.
But still, I thought: no big deal. I did my rewrite of Whitefire during the horrifically sleep-deprived months immediately after my son’s birth, when my brain felt like zombified sludge and I had to snatch writing time in 20-minute chunks during his brief moments of sleep. Surely now he’s no longer screaming nonstop from acid reflux and we’re gradually recovering from our massive sleep debt, writing will be so much easier!
Hahahaha. Back then, whenever I had spare time (fleeting as it was!), I had could focus with absolute concentration upon a single task: revising Whitefire. I know good little writers are supposed to be tweeting and blogging and all that before they ever get a book deal, but I never did. The queen of lurking, that was me. Which honestly was a good thing – if I’d been trying to be social on the ‘net as well as write, I’d probably STILL be revising Whitefire, unagented and unsold.
But now? Now when I get a precious hour at the keyboard, in addition to working on Tainted City, I’ve got a to-do list long as my arm: write both Night Bazaar and guest blog posts, handle blog admin duties, read and write emails to editor/agent/fellow authors/booksellers/convention folks, plan and set up giveaways and other promo stuff…you get the picture. And it’s all too easy to let that hour slip away on all the peripheral tasks, because they all feel like they need to be done NOW NOW NOW, whereas my deadline for turning in The Tainted City isn’t until Jan 2012.
But my God, how time flies. (How is it halfway through 2011 already? Excuse me while I go hyperventilate into a paper bag.) Honestly, I’m still struggling with the time management issue. I’ve decided to take Brad’s advice from back when we talked about “Balance” here at the Night Bazaar, and force myself to spend at least one hour a day working on The Tainted City, come hell or high water.
As for the psychological aspects…you can’t underestimate those. It’s pretty scary to have that deadline looming and know you no longer have the luxury of revising as many times as you like. I want The Tainted City to be even better than Whitefire – and that means I’ve got to apply everything I learned from the year I spent rewriting Whitefire, and work smart, not just hard, so I can get Tainted City right the first time.
But if I think on that too long, I’ll stress myself straight out of productivity. I’ve got a little ritual these days. When I open my Tainted City draft, before I type a single word I close my eyes and pretend I’m back in the pre-book-deal days, where I was just writing the story for myself and didn’t think anybody else would ever read it. If I’m particularly stressed or worried over something, I focus on a specific memory: one of the times writing Whitefire that I was so fired up about the story I had to pry my fingers off the keyboard to eat. Sounds silly, maybe, but it helps me.
Lest you think I’m saying life after a book deal is all stress and no fun, let me assure you that the highs more than balance out the lows. For example, back in an earlier post, I said my one goal for publication was to have a stranger read and enjoy my book. Well, late last week Whitefire‘s first review came in, and wow, the utter thrill of seeing that the reviewer – a complete stranger – had enjoyed my book and looked forward to the sequel…oh, yeah. All the nerves, all the stress, all the long hours working on the story are SO worth it. I’m sure not every reviewer will enjoy Whitefire the way this one did, and that’s okay. I’ve met my goal, and it feels GREAT. And my new goal? Same as before, only with The Tainted City in place of Whitefire.