Writing a novel from start to finish is a very long road. So by the time you finally finish your last round of editing and have that perfect manuscript sitting in front of you, it can be easy to forget how it felt when you first stared at that blank page, searching for the right words to open with. And if you plan to write another manuscript, you are going to have to go back to that first daunting step all over again. Even worse, you are going to have to face ‘The Second Book Conundrum’.
With all the focus you put into writing your first novel, you probably haven’t even begun to consider how it will feel to go back to square one. So I want to outline a couple of the challenges you will encounter, why they happen and why you shouldn’t worry about it.
When you come to write a fresh manuscript, even if it is a sequel to your first, you are going to need at least a fresh plot. If you are writing something completely different, you are also going to have to come up with a whole new premise and that’s a big ask. It may well be that you already have a few threads of ideas, or even a central theme to follow, but until you start planning or start writing, it’s bound to be only a foundation for what is to come.
This is the point where you start to think to yourself, “Why does this plot feel so bare when my last one felt rich and complete”? And, following on from that, “Maybe I only ever had one good book in me to begin with and I’ll never come up with any more good ideas.” When these thoughts start to enter your mind, it can be easy to panic and give up, declaring yourself completely spent. But the key word among these thoughts is ‘complete’. Your last manuscript was just that. When you began your first novel, it was probably just as threadbare as this one feels now, it’s just that you didn’t have anything to compare it with at the time. As you continue to write, then as you go back and make changes and additions, this novel will have the potential to be just as inspired as your last. You just need to give it time.
This next one was a killer for me. After knuckling down and writing the first chapter or two of your new novel, you will probably go back and give it a read through for errors. To your shock and horror, you find that the quality of your prose, the style of your dialogue and the flow of the action are completely sub-par compared to what you left behind in your old manuscript. In short, it seems to be written badly.
So now you start to wonder if you’ve just lost your touch. But here’s the thing; you just finished scouring your first manuscript for even the tiniest error. You probably had countless reads of it and by the end, all you could find to correct was the odd small typo, or one or two words that just weren’t quite right. You’ve gone from reading a manuscript that was in the very best shape you could make it, to one that is completely raw with no edits whatsoever.
You will be surprised what a couple of rounds of really tough editing can do. Even if you don’t make major changes to the plot in general, just swapping out unsuitable words and rearranging the flow of your sentences will make you feel like you stand a chance again.
You aren’t alone in suffering ‘The Second Books Conundrum’. Most authors will have this panic at some point. But if you find yourself on the brink of insanity just remember this; most authors do not write their best manuscript on the first try. Statistically (and logically) speaking, this second manuscript is actually very likely to be better than your first.
Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this article, please click like and follow, and join me again next week when I will be talking about how to hide your plot devices.