The journey to publish my novel has been eventful to say the least. After a rejection filled December and January last year I was ecstatic to receive an offer from a publisher. A week later my novel I was shortlisted down to the last five in Rethink Press New Novels Competition 2014. The prize was a publishing deal but I had to bow out as I had already signed up with my publisher. The Relative Harmony of Julie O’Hagan was published on Kindle for one month in September and I was delighted with the reviews. I was less happy with my publisher and we parted company in October. Then Rethink Press came to my rescue and my novel is due to be published by them in January. It’s all been a very steep learning curve and I’ve found out a lot about the publishing industry. But that’s for another blog. Putting your novel in the hands of others is like sending your child to nursery for the first time and I’m very relieved that my baby is finally in professional and caring hands.
While all this has been going on I’ve been trying to get crack on with my second book. I naively thought that if I’d written one, the next would leap from my head onto the screen with ease. Not so. There are definitely techniques and tricks I’ve learned while writing book one but I’m discovering there’s a whole set of new challenges when it comes to writing book two.
You have less time. Any self published or traditionally published author spends a chunk of their allocated writing time promoting their work on social media. There’s also a search for reviewers, communicating with other writers on forums, a blog to write, reading events and a book launch to organise and all of this distracts from the real goal of writing. It’s like having a newborn and a toddler. You feel guilty that you’re not nurturing the little one because the toddler is demanding all your attention. My own kids were born fourteen months apart so I’m speaking from experience.
Then there’s the quality of the writing. I cringe when I think how I foisted the first badly written drafts of book one on my long suffering husband and friends. I’m not saying my writing is wonderful now by any means but my standards are higher so I find myself working harder to get the words right the first time.
Initially I thought I’d try something different with novel number two. I was going for something dark with a rip roaring plot that had twists and turns at every corner. A Mancunian Gone Girl. There was going to be hoodies, Bez type characters and violent scenes set in the underground car park of the Arndale.
I ditched it after ten thousand words. The voice didn’t ring true and the lack of laughs made me miserable. It felt strained, like I was writing it in a straight jacket. So I started again, wearing my own clothes this time.
Then other doubts crept in. What if it’s too similar to Relative Harmony? My main character is a sassy female who is having a mid life crisis. Is she the same as Julie O’Hagan but with night sweats? Should I have set it in Chorlton again? I’ve already taken a swipe at the hummus eating classes. Can I take another and get away with it? I just had to block out all of these thoughts and get on with the act of writing.
Some writers wrote wonderful first novels but didn’t bother with a second. After Catcher in the Rye was published J.D Salenger went on to write a novella Franny and Zoe and some short stories but nothing else. He became a recluse instead.
Margaret Mitchell of Gone with the Wind fame hated the limelight too and Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird found it hard to cope. Shortly after becoming an overnight celebrity she said this to a friend,
Others writers died before they had their second chance. Sylvia Plath committed suicide only a month after The Bell Jar was published and Emily Bronte contracted tuberculosis a year after Wuthering Heights was released.
Their success was phenomenal. I’ll be lucky if my novel sells a few hundred copies but I’m determined to write another simply because I can’t imagine not doing. It is getting easier though, I know where my story is going even though it’ll probably take me a couple of years to get there. And if I do get too constipated for words along the way there’s always Write or Die by Dr Wicked. Write or Die is a lovely piece of software aimed at writers who are blocked. You put in a time and word limit and start writing but if you stop at any point everything you’ve written is deleted. That’ll teach me.