I was advised by author Manda Scott to finish the next book before the first one comes out. If you don’t, bad reviews of the first book will convince you that you can’t write, and good reviews will convince you you can’t write anything that good ever again! Yes, I can see my mind would definitely do that to me, so I’m working on it.
These are the stages I’ve already been through:
1) During editing of The Whole World, we (obviously) focused on scenes that needed work. So the book seemed to me to be constantly out of context, in flux and impossible to judge.
2) Then, checking over the copyedit had me reading scenes I hadn’t glanced at in over a year (because my editor had been wholly satisfied with them), and I read the whole thing through in two sittings. What a great book! Superb! Panic: How will I ever write another novel this GOOD?
3) Reviewing the subsequent “first pass pages” I was utterly bored with how many times I’d already (and recently) read this absolutely pedestrian, predictable, tedious pile of paper. Bonus: a second book of *this* quality seems entirely doable!
I’m somewhere in between now. I adore The Whole World, but also feel like I’ve seen the trick from backstage: I know how it’s done, and I know how to (try to) do it again. It’s lovely, but it’s no longer amazing, not in the literal sense. I don’t look at the text anymore, at all. I’m convinced that if I so much as flip through the ARC I’ll see some small error or infelicity that will haunt me. But I’m proud of it, and hopeful for it. May 25th isn’t too far away.
I’ve handed in the first half of the next book. This is how that went:
1) I write and polish the first half. I have hope that it might be wonderful. I deeply fear that it’s awful.
2) I give it to my agent, who critiques some small things (very helpfully!) but mostly likes it. I fix things–she was right.
3) I visit New York, and listen to my agent tell someone else that the tension in the new chapters is so vivid that she physically hurt after reading them. I start to feel really, really good.
4) I hand it in to my editor. He reads it in three days. He LOVES the new character narrating the first section. He has some clarity issues with the police investigation–he’s right.
5) The half is officially “accepted” by Random House. I get paid. This is tremendously satisfying.
6) I book our homeschooled kids into an all-day, every-day play class for a week so I can work on the next chapters.
7) New panic: how will the next narrators ever live up to that first one??
…and that’s where I am now.
PS–And how cool is it to live in Cambridge? I just booked my sweetheart and myself for an all-day crime scene investigation workshop at a local manor house. I’ve taken classes there before–very civilized; lots of tea and cookie breaks.
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