Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Yeah, but is it love?

Work is progressing nicely on my second novel, Empty Spaces. (The photo at left is how I imagine my character, Annie DeWitt, as looking.)

While the book is going well, it occurred to me today that I don't obsess over this one like I did The Devil You Don't Know. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

When I was writing TDYDK, it was ALL I ever thought about. At the gym, while working out or sitting in the steam room, I was constantly working out knotty plot issues and just generally worrying about the book. While I had several outlines for the first one, it was always changing because I spent so much time rolling the plot around in my brain.

It about drove me insane, to be honest with you.

Conversely, Empty Spaces is moving along at a nice pace -- without all the obsessing. To be honest, I kind of miss all that internal drama. I wonder if it's partly due to the fact that I know far more about fiction writing now? I mean, when I wrote the first one, I was struggling to just tell the damned story. I was always reaching deep to capture a particular scene or theme. After just a few hours at the keyboard, I was exhausted both mentally and emotionally.

Not so on this one. I write my scenes for the day, read it over and shut it down. Sometimes, I even whistle while I work.

This is not normal for me.

I LOVED my first story. It was personal. It was a story I had wanted to write for more than 25 years. It explores some very deep and deeply personal aspects of my life. It hurt to write.

This one is just plain a great story. Nothing more, nothing less. I like my characters, but I don't daydream about them like I did the first one. I honestly think this book has more intricate characters than the first one. It's certainly better written and better plotted (mainly since I know what I'm doing these days).

So why don't I love it? Is our first book like our first love, in that nothing after it ever feels quite the same? Or maybe I'm actually becoming a fiction writer and not just someone who is wrenching out his heart at the keyboard.

No matter the answer, this one feels good to write. Not painful. Not exhausting. Pleasurable.

Is that a problem?

I'm curious to hear from people working on second or third books. How did the experience differ from that first one? Can my book be great even if I don't daydream about it all the time?


  1. Well, since no one FINISHES my second book, I don't know if it's great or not.

    As for obsession, mine's ebbed a lot. Now I just have stories to tell. My first one is the one that means the most to me, and I think about it a lot. But my second one was just for fun, to try something random. My next two are my 'mood' books. Whichever one I'm in the mood for, that's what I work on. Or I just watch QI and get quasi education.

  2. As a matter of fact, I'm READING your second book as we speak. It beats working on mine. ;)

  3. I had this very same experience with my second one. The first was like teenage love, full of angst and passion, the second like a healthy marriage.

    For what it's worth, I think my second benefited from writing maturity. It came easier and has structure that makes a hell of a lot more sense.

    No worries, Terry!

  4. I wrote my trilogy in a rush. I'm glad the first novel didn't get picked up by an agent/publishing house, because I feel as though I wrote all three novels at the same time. Some of the scenes in the third had to be introduced subtlely in the first or second; and sometimes scenes in the third inspired clarifications or deletions in the others.

    I did obsess over these characters, and their personal stories. Like family members.

    I'm writing in a whole different genre now, with a new set of characters. Much more developed even at the draft stage than I think my original characters were/are. But I don't find myself obsessing over them.

    Still love them, but its just not the same love affair.

    Weird. And I never really noticed until you mentioned it.

    Maybe your writing has matured; you've become comfortable with your skills and writing knowledge. I think that's why I don't spend every waking moment creating the new people. When I sit down to write, they just flow.

    I don't know if that is a good thing or bad for my writing. I think its just a different mind set. I'm as passionate about writing as I ever was though. It just doesn't stress me out as much as it did.

    Perhaps thats where you are too. Comfortable with your characters.


  5. I feel like my next novels will be so much better written than the first. However, I doubt I will ever love another of my books the way I do the first. The story evolved in my mind for around 25 years before I ever started typing it out. The next stories all came to me in a relatively short period.

  6. I think you may be right. Our first books are always a labor of love and angst and whatever else because we don't really know what we're doing.

    Second books I think are easier to write. At least we know what we're supposed to be doing.

  7. Well, I do not have any experience writing a second book. But, I am happy to hear YOU are doing so well with Empty Spaces. It must be nice NOT to agonize over every little thing!

  8. Yeah, first books are always THE BOOK, the one we pour our hearts and souls into. But often we don't know enough about the craft of writing to make that first book as good as it needs to be.

    Not that the other mss come easier. Some of mine did, some didn't. But I learned from each one. And it shows, not always in the stories, but in the writing.

  9. I'm still trying to get through the first one as you know. But it's good to see that it gets less stressful. That gives me hope and a reason to get finished faster.
    As of right now, it still feels like someone is giving my brain an Indian burn. Remember those?