On today’s Book and Brew takeover, author Jennifer C Wilson tells us about the dread of second novel syndrome.
A writer’s worrying is never done and just because you’ve published one book doesn’t mean you can do it again, does it? Let’s find out.
Last August, in a pre-breakfast writing session at Swanwick Writers’ School, we were given the challenge of asking ourselves a question. The same question, three times, to our half-awake subconscious. It was meant to be about a plot problem, but for me, things got very dark, very quickly.
My question: What is Mary’s (my lead female, the famous Queen of Scots) resolution to her problem (the plot I’d given her in my novel)?
My response: A stream-of-conscious rant against myself, out of nowhere, covering all the fears and anxieties I hadn’t even realised were there.
The next one
Getting my debut novel published in October 2015 had been a dream come true, but as soon as it was out, the questions about ‘the next one’ began. Friends and family, however well-intentioned, started to pile on the pressure: of course, I should be working on the follow-up.
Yet, if I dare say so myself, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was a smidge different (it wasn’t even the book I had ever imagined myself writing!) – and can you pull off ‘different’ twice, or does it just become ‘dull’? Furthermore, perhaps everyone does ‘have a book in them’ but what if it is only one?
The self-doubt began to creep in, only clear after Swanwick, but on reflection, it had been there almost as soon as I’d started working on it. Delay-tactics of not settling on a theme, then, when I did, over-researching, and writing around things, rather than focusing. Even when I started, almost anything acted as a distraction: my flat had never been tidier.
It took a nudge from a fellow Crooked Cat writer, Sarah Louise Smith, to finally get me into the frame of mind to finish, when she pointed out that Kindred Spirits: Tower of London had been published almost a year ago. Somehow, this fact hadn’t quite sunk home; it still felt like it was just months since publication day! It was what I needed to hear: I love writing, and I won’t lie to you, I really love seeing my name on the front of a book. If I wanted that to happen again, there was only one way to get there – finish that second book. Yes, it might get rejected, but equally, it might not.
I thought the moment I opened the email accepting my first novel was the most exciting I’d ever had, but I was wrong: the email from Crooked Cat saying they would take my second knocked me for six. The validation that I’d managed a second one was incredible, and the fact that I am now working on the edits for it is even more so.
So my advice, after getting the amazing news that somebody wants to publish your novel? Bundle that positive energy up, don’t let it go, and use it to keep pushing you on. And never, ever end up ranting against yourself at 08:00 on an August morning, when you’re meant to be having fun – it completely ruins the rest of your day.