The Curse of the Second Novel

I finished my first novel in 2014. I’d started about ten novels before then, but Meadow Perkins, Trusty Sidekick was the first novel I finished. Writing Meadow was almost (almost!!) easy for a couple of reasons. I had no idea what I was doing and I was writing from a place of pure joy. I was in love with the characters and I didn’t worry one bit about plot structure, character arcs, passive writing, or marketability. I just wrote the story I wanted to read which is always a good place to start. Of course, that book went through five or six revisions before it even went to editing.

Then it came time to write my second novel. I had this idea I was super excited about: a YA murder mystery set in a small town with a tiny bit of the paranormal. Great. I had the idea, the characters, arcs, a plot, and I was ready to go. I had this idea (I was very wrong) that writing my second novel would be easier than writing the first.

I wrote the novel during Camp NaNo in 2014. The awesome thing about NaNoWriMo is that you don’t have time to wobble. There’s only enough time to write if you want to get 50K words in a month. I took a month off from the first draft before diving back in. And when I did dive in, I found approximately one billion issues. Maybe more. So I started revising. I revised for months. I got beta readers and incorporated their suggestions and then did another revision or two.

At that point, I thought it was time to submit. I started querying agents and got some solid interest. I still kept revising before sending in full requests. I’d lost count of how many revisions I’d done at that point.

In the end, I went with a small publisher. When I got my edits back, I realized I still had a ton of work to do. I spent months working and reworking little tiny things that hopefully made the plot better and the mystery more mysterious.

The entire time, I worried that it was too dark or too edgy. But it’s YA. At this point, there’s no such thing as too dark or too edgy. But that didn’t stop me from ringing and twisting about it. I kept revising until the last possible second and when I sent it off for copy edits and proofreading, I kept panicking. I don’t think I panicked one time when I was working on my first book. My confidence level was high then.

My confidence with book two was in the toilet. I had this crazy idea that after I jumped over the first book hurdle, I’d be a more confident writer. Not only would i have experience with the process, I’d be a better writer in general. Or at least that was the hope. But at any rate, it would be easier right? Not true, my friends! So not true. In fact, it might get harder with each book. But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

My second novel, Bellamy Rising, will be ready for the world to see on Friday. I’ve made my peace with it. But I have a feeling that my easy breezy experience with book one was a fluke. I’ve written two more novels since then and the struggle is real. BUT it’s a good thing. The struggle means I’m growing. The struggle means I’m getting better. And hopefully, it means I’ve written a good book.

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