Having put your debut novel out into the world, and started what you dream will be an exciting, fulfilling and long career as a writer, the question of Book 2 soon starts to dominate your thoughts. The temptation is to focus purely on the marketing and self-promotion which comes with self publishing your first novel as an indie author, but the danger in doing so, is that the business of actually writing your next one gets lost along the way.
I’ve fallen head first into this trap over the past 12 months, torn between how much time I spend on social media publicising ‘Dancing Through Fire’, and how much time I devote to getting on with Book 2. My intention to self-publish Book 2 on 1st January 2019, exactly a year to the day I published Book 1, turned out to be the aim of an innocent; a first timer in the industry. It was bold, it was sincere, but it turned out to be unrealistic in between navigating this strange new world as a writer and working full time as a teacher. Lesson learned.
On the plus side, I have made enough headway to be pleased with the progress of Book 2 and to know I’m on the right tracks, something which can be more difficult to gauge than you might think, particularly if Book 1 and Book 2 aren’t linked an any way. I’ve been incredibly lucky to receive some amazing and generous reviews from readers who took a chance on me and my book (this, I should add, is the most motivating thing of all) and who offered positive feedback around my style, my use of language and my storytelling. As a writer, I therefore want to make sure that I build on these strengths so that Book 2 doesn’t disappoint. I might still be a very small fish in a very large pond but it really matters to me that I get this next book right, not for the sales, but for the readers who have encouraged me, supported me and invested in my very early writing career.
Taking a different approach in Book 2 is therefore a gamble of sorts. I wrote the first chapter initially as a short story, over a decade ago. When I got to the end I filed it away knowing that I hadn’t quite finished with the main character yet: she had a much bigger story to tell. I worked on it a little, in the years between finishing ‘Dancing Through Fire’ and actually publishing it, and found that my voice in Book 2 was very different: that first chapter had been written at a time in my life when things were quite difficult and I was disillusioned. I’m ok with this change in voice though, given the difference in the female protagonists in the two books, and the very different contexts, but it did raise the question in my mind as to whether or not readers would welcome the change.
So why take a gamble at all? For me, I change, develop, experiment and mature as a writer not just as part of the natural process which comes with time and experience but also out of fear of becoming a formulaic writer. Whilst I want to retain the personal writing style, use of language and storytelling techniques which have been well received in ‘Dancing Through Fire,’ I am hoping that the story and the characters in Book 2 will be a departure from what could otherwise so easily become the ‘same old.’ It’s a very real fear for me, having read so many formulaic books through the years.
At the moment, with Book 2, I’m in the writing no-man’s land: the middle. I think most writers would agree it’s the trickiest place of all. You’ve set the scene, started telling the story, and you know where you want it to go (mostly anyway – characters have a habit of changing the plot mid-way, taking you in a whole new direction) but there’s a whole lot of story to happen in between. The middle area is the danger zone for me – the area where I can start to lose structure and direction if I’m not careful. It’s where I can lose focus. The challenge, as I see it, is to keep the writing and the plot tight and to resist rushing to the end which is already planned out in my head.
There’s also something about Book 2 which says you’re in it for real. It isn’t just a passing phase, this writing business, it’s a life choice, the pursuit of a passion , a new career in the making and a commitment to the readers who make it possible for you to write at all. The thrill of publishing that first novel, your debut, is just the beginning. When I talk about my plans for Book 2, when readers ask me how it’s going, when it’s likely to be published and what it’s all about, I feel an energy like no other: the kind of energy which comes when you’re in your element. There’s an excitement about knowing there’s more on the way, that you can and will, and already have shared your words and your stories with the world. And that makes all the challenges, the self-doubts, the ‘what – ifs’ and that ever present imposter syndrome worth it all in the end.
I remind myself of this as I sit here, the white screen waiting for me, with a thought provoking cup of tea in hand…
Here’s to Book 2!
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