Second book blues

I’ve discovered that the biggest barrier to the second book is the first one.

Saxon’s Bane started in hubris, that ‘of course I can write a book’ arrogance that had me scribbling away, blissfully unaware of how much I had to learn.  Six years ago, IT – the proto-book, this literary spermatozoa – bore no relationship to the end result.  IT started in hubris, and finished through bloody-mindedness, a stubborn refusal to succumb to the cycle of rejection, rewrite, rejection, rewrite.  Plus, of course, the oh-so-necessary criticism and help along the way that taught me the basics of the writing craft, and ultimately led to Saxon’s Bane, an agent and a publishing deal.  Good result.  Fabulous.

And then…

Then there’s just a blank page and another writing mountain to climb, but this time, there’s a difference.  Now I know what ‘good’ looks like, and no first draft is good.  So there’s my first lesson; learning to write on, in the uncomfortable knowledge that I’m leaving imperfection in my wake.  Goodness may come with the third, or fourth, or fifth, or ‘n’th draft, but it is only there in embryonic form in the first.

The second lesson was an amicable divorce.  Not, I hasten to add, the marital kind.  Mission Control will still be giving in-course guidance.  But in creating Saxon’s Bane I had created a world that could only be real to a reader if it was real in my head, with characters that existed so powerfully that they danced from page to page.  Their pain was my pain, their joy my joy.  Walking away from them to create a different world is like severing ties with good friends, friends who still call me, when my mental guard is down, to remind me of the good and bad times we have shared.

The solution, I’ve found, is a road map, something to help me look forward rather than back.  Fifty thousand words into the next book, a new world is taking shape.  I’m starting to know a new set of characters, and I’m making friends – and enemies.  They’ve become real enough for me to take a three week writing pause in which I created something very close to an outsized submission pack: character profiles, a synopsis, and four thousand words of chapter plans.  I like it.  I really like it.  I’ve even became fired with my own vision.  This is gonna be good.

Or is that hubris?

Published by

Geoffrey Gudgion

Author of contemporary fiction that's grounded in the past. Represented by Sheil Land Associates, Literary Agents.

12 thoughts on “Second book blues”

  1. Before taking up writing, I had no idea how vivid my characters would become nor how intimate we would be. My second novel included cross-over characters from the first which eased the pain of separation. My third involves a totally different cast of characters who are slowly becoming friends. Good luck with yours, Geoffrey.

    1. Hard, ain’t it? I’m told artists draw a ‘cartoon’ of the complete canvas before they embark on the proper painting. That sounds like the first draft. My challenge is to leave all these colours in my head and play with a charcoal stick.

  2. Oh I totally relate to all this! I love the first draft though – however rough. It’s a bit like moulding a lump of clay – get the rough shape first and then start carving it about to get it perfect. Well, hopefully perfect, or as near perfect as it can be 🙂

  3. Fantastic to have had such staying power with your first book, despite the rejections. Perhaps one day I’ll have another go at my earlier novels. I’m presently obsessed with the first draft of novel number 5, and, like Kate, loving the whole writing process.
    Saxon’s Bane is on my reading list. It sounds very much the type of novel I’d thoroughly enjoy. Good luck with your second one. You sound as if you’re making great progress.

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