Yesterday, I emailed the MS for Liesmith‘s sequel–currently titled STURM UND DRANG, though I suspect this will be changed–to my ever-tolerant editor.
It was quite possibly the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done.
STURM UND DRANG took about six months to write, and by “to write” I mean “to get to the stage where I was contractually obliged to turn something in”. It still needs a few coats of paint and someone to sand out the splinters and re-do the wonky edges. That’ll happen, and then it’ll be released into the wild at some time determined by people who aren’t me, but the point is that the process has started. I wrote a thing, I turned it in, and now–once the US long weekend is over, I guess–I get to live with the consequences.
It’s true what they say; the second book is the hardest.
You think it can’t possibly be so, before you get there. I mean, the first book was hard enough, right? How can the second be worse?
Things I learnt from writing Liesmith included, a) that I could write a book, and b) that I could sell that book commercially. And the time I had to learn those lessons in was, generously, thirty years.
Even by the most conservative estimate, Liesmith‘s characters have their origins when I was a teenager, while the first drafts of the story come from my university days. I would write scenes as the ideas came to me, disconnected blobs of drama-meat that, a decade later, I learnt to pull together with the connective tissue of plot.
It took me ten years to write Liesmith and less than twelve months to sell it. Unfortunately, I sold it in bulk, part of a three-for-one deal that sounded great when I signed–who doesn’t dream of a series, I mean really–and has now coalesced into the reality of holy shit I have to write two more books.
And I don’t get another twenty years to do it.
So. Six months. Not the fastest thing I’ve ever written, but good enough for a deadline. Here’s the thing that’s terrifying, though, the thing they don’t really tell you:
It’s not about knocking out that first draft.
It’s about looking at said draft and realising that… shit. This is so much less polished than the last time Ms. Editor saw your work. That was your Showroom Piece, the best thing you could do at the time you did it. And yeah, she did her job–you got your edit letter and made your changes–so the thing you sent her wasn’t the final final, but…
You had a lifetime to write that one, and six months for the follow-up.
These feelings aren’t unique to yours truly, of course, and it’s not like editors and agents don’t know about them or, like, have their entire professions built around dealing with them or anything.1 But knowing that intellectually and actually getting to the point where you’re standing there with your kind-of-okay-maybe-somewhere-I-think-it’s-salvageable manuscript waiting for senpai’s judgement? That’s something else entirely.
Point being, waiting for a second edit letter is nothing at all like waiting for the first one.
So wish me luck.
Now. Time to get started on book three…
- This is, I think, the most startling discovery about the publishing industry: just how normal all your weird, vain, humiliating writer’s quirks are. As a new author, you fuck up in exactly the same way every other new author ever has fucked up, and need exactly the same handling in response. This is why it’s so important to get Good People. They’ll help you. Whatever happens happens, but Good People are forever.