AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!
Back to the Grindstone – How and When to Start Your Next Novel
Yesterday we talked about how reviews (good and bad) can sometimes hurt the creative process, today we’ll look at how and when to start your second book.
Second books are notoriously tricky. A quick Google search of “second novel syndrome” yields thousands of discouraging results. In the spirit of this blog series, I’ll use my own experience to frame the advice I have about sophomore slumps.
So When Should You Start Your Next Book?
My knee-jerk reaction is to say AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! After publishing Peter Nimble, I spent nine months on the road visiting schools and festivals all over the country. There is no question that those events made a difference in the success of the book (15 months after pub, we were still selling strong hardcover numbers!), but that effort came at a price. At the end of my debut year, I found myself staring at a literal blank page for my next book.
Not only was the page blank, but I was creatively paralyzed. I had so many voices from reviewers/readers/editors/friends in my head that I could hardly think. Even though I had an idea of what I wanted to write, every word I put down felt somehow compromised—like I was writing for someone else’s approval rather than some internal need. For me, at least, this was a recipe for disaster: after months of daily writing, I had only four good pages.
During this same period, I made a point of talking to veteran authors about their second books. That’s when I realized my first big mistake: Almost every other author had written a draft of their second book before their debut came out. Even if that first draft was ugly, it meant that when they resumed writing, they weren’t working from a blank page. It also meant that when interviewers asked “what’s next?” they actually had an exciting answer!
So how did I beat the slump? Well, I did a few different things that ended up working ...
Skip the Line
One reason I think that the new-second book was easier to write was that it was very different from my debut. The Night Gardener is a spooky story about two children trapped in a cursed house ... very different from the silly, fantastical high-seas adventure of Peter Nimble. The books are almost impossible to compare to one another, which, as it turned out, is hugely liberating. (Bounus: people who were only so-so on my first book, have LOVED this new one ... so maybe changing up my game was a good thing!)
Fast Then Slow
The biggest benefit of getting out of my head was that it finally let me sit down and just write the dang thing. Instead of painstakingly crafting sentences, I just made quick notes (using: option + command + A) in the margins to fix later and KEPT ON WRITING.
Please note that I am not suggesting you should rush to publish your second—only that you should get a draft down early. After that, I think it’s permissible (and maybe even preferable) to slow down and take your time in revision. We’ve all read those tragic novels that could have been great ... had they not been so obviously rushed.
For me and the way my brain works, careful revision is essential. (Case in point: I actually ended up cutting over 16 pages from the arc of The Night Gardener.) Of course, if you’re one of those authors who can write quickly, go for it! But never let the pressures of publication force you to release a book into the world before it’s ready.
That’s it for AFTER THE BOOK DEAL! Tomorrow we’ll be talking about the tricky world of money management for authors. You can catch up on previous posts (listed below), and please-oh-please spread the word!
AFTER THE BOOK DEAL – Stops So Far
WEEK ONE: Before Your Book Comes Out
4/21 – Finding Your Tribe: entering the publishing community
4/22 – Do I Really Need a Headshot?: crafting your public persona
4/23 – I Hate Networking: surviving social media
4/24 – A Night at the Movies: the ins and outs of book trailers
4/25 – Giveaways! … are they worth it?
WEEK TWO: Your Book Launch
4/28 - Can I have Your Autograph?: 5 things to do before your first signing
4/29 – Cinderella at the Ball: planning a successful book launch
5/1 – Being Heard in the Crowd: conferences and festivals
5/2 - The Loneliest Writer in the World: surviving no-show events
WEEK THREE: The Business of Being an Author
5/5 – Handling Reviews … the Good and the Bad!
JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores onMay 20—why not come to his book launch party? You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children's books old and new.