Did you know when you’re done writing your first book, or even before you’re completely done, you’ve got to turn around and start again right from the very beginning if you want to publish a second? Pretty rude if you ask me. I was under the impression all subsequent books would materialize fully formed once I’d proven my ability to land that first publishing contract.
In all honesty I’ve been thinking about book two since I signed with Danielle and Text. Of course I have. In an instant the goal posts were moved from ‘I want to publish a book’ to ‘I want to publish many, many books’ without giving myself time to celebrate that first dream coming true. I wonder if that’s the same for all writers. I have a feeling it might be for a lot of us. If you haven’t thought about it, people will soon make sure you do. It’s like the weird thing that happens when you have a baby, where people can’t help but ask when you plan to pop out another one. My book baby isn’t even born yet and I feel pressure to make sure it isn’t an only child.
People say the second book is harder to write than the first. It makes sense too; a lifetime of observations, thoughts and material goes into the first book. Where does that leave you in round 2? It means going back to the start of the process, the bottom of the hill, and doing it all again.
Where I’m at
I’ve had a rough idea of what I want to write about, namely Irish/Australian teens whose friendships grew from their parents leaning on one another as a support network far from home. I grew up with Irish friends we called cousins because people couldn’t really understand why all the kids with Irish parents hung out together. Those friendships were formative and intense and sometimes complicated, as family tends to be. I have wanted to capture the essence of that community for almost as long as I’ve wanted to write. So I figured out my characters right from the start. I know them well, but knowing what to do with them has been another thing all together.
So far I’ve written six entirely different outlines and three full drafts, at various times leaning into romance, coming-of-age narratives and even some more spooky themes. I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve got some ideas that might turn into book 3 or 4 or 5. I’ve gotten to know my characters so well they now pull me up if I’m not writing them in an authentic way. They lead, I follow. I’ve had guidance from my patient, knowledgeable, wonderful agent (did I mention I think having an agent is the best thing ever?) and now, touch wood, I am 15k+ into the draft that feels like THE draft. We’ll see.
It can feel like such a waste of time and effort to put so many hours into a project only to feel as though you’re right back at the start. I’m especially aware of that now that I have a child. My writing time is sparse, as is my mental energy. I’m trying to look at all of those words not as wasted, but as practice, as character development and background work. As part of the distillation process. I’ve also learnt a lot about myself as a writer. I’ve learnt that often the story I tend to want to avoid is the one I need to tell. That’s how it was for ‘Please Don’t Hug Me’, and that’s how it is for my (so far untitled) second book.
If all of this sounds a little negative, I don’t mean it to be. I’m actually completely chuffed on where things are at right now and want to paint an honest picture of the whole process. Words of wisdom and/or encouragement are always welcome.