Second-book syndrome

I’ve been trying to blog for a while, and struggling to work out what it is I wanted to say. I’m still not sure what it was, or why I’m finding it hard. Perhaps as I get closer to publication, I’m more aware of what it means to have a public profile, however modest. In the meantime, things have been moving on. It’s suddenly gone from being eight months to publication, to less than four. Bound proofs are going out. People are reading the book. It’s all getting quite real.

Last week I also handed in my second book, currently due to be published in 2013. It turns out that ‘difficult second book’ syndrome is very real indeed. When I signed the contract back in March, I felt quite smug about making the October delivery date for book two, as I had already written most of it. No problem, I thought, mentally buffing my ‘Super-productive writer’ badge.

How wrong I was.  When I wrote The Fall I scribbled away in pleasing ignorance, no idea that I was even writing crime, or if anyone would want to publish it. I just had a story I wanted to tell. When it was bought, there was work to do, but at least I knew they’d read and liked it. The second book is very different, as I found out. A second book is jittery-making, because chances are it’s been sold on a one-page outline, when you weren’t entirely surely what was going to happen. You don’t know if anyone’s going to like it. It might sprout off in unintended directions. It might develop Excess Plot Syndrome or Prologue-orrhea (mine had two at one point). And if you’ve written a lot of the book before (as you probably need to in order to make the delivery dates), it’s likely your writing style has changed and improved. To me, re-working old material is like pouring hot water into cooling tea– never quite right. Even the awareness of writing in genre proved problematic, as I found the plot twisting and turning like an out-of-control rosebush.

In the end, with a good dose of hard work, plus advice from my agent, editor, and kind other writers, I did finish it, and it’s gone off. We have a lot of time, and I’m sure the editing shears will be wielded. My advice is, if you’re trying to get published, think ahead to the next book. It comes around more quickly than you’d think. Now I have time to think about what I’ll write next, and dip my toes in the waters of other genres, other forms. The six months since getting my book deal have been fascinating so far, and in a strange way I look forward to the next few, before everything changes and I become what I always wanted to be: a published writer.

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