Writing Under Contract

I am writing book 2.

And I am in agony.

Everyone told me that writing your second book (first book under contract) would be much, much harder than writing your debut. I knew to expect it, knew that it would be likely I’d be grappling with doubt and imposter syndrome, and yet here I am in the middle of writing book 2, feeling completely blindsided by the process. Even though I knew this was coming, what I couldn’t comprehend was how hard differentiating what belongs to me and what belongs to the outside world would be.

Here’s the thing: the universe is full of possibilities when you’re writing on spec. When the story you’re writing belongs to you and you alone. You can choose to share your work with others, or not. You can choose to play in that sandbox today, or not. You can choose, you can choose, you can choose, and I hadn’t realized how much freedom there was in the choosing.

Something changes in the writing process once you know your book will be read.

It’s a different mental space to occupy, that’s for sure. Before, writing was my escape, my private playground. Mine. There’s something delightfully indulgent about keeping something entirely to yourself, almost sinfully selfish. You are writing to please yourself, and no one else. What other people think of your work is immaterial, because it’s yours and yours alone.

I wrote Wintersong while working a full-time day job, so naturally I thought I would easily be able to do the same with book 2. What I hadn’t anticipated was how much of my mental space would be devoted to Wintersong after I had finished writing it. How much time I would spend answering emails or questions or just plain thinking about it while trying to write book 2. Before I started pursuing publication in earnest, every previous novel I had written had gone into the drawer after I had finished, like toys I had outgrown. Writing those books was fun while it lasted, but as I grew older, grew better, I moved on. It seemed like the natural progression to things.

This, I think, was perhaps my first taste of how being an Author is different from being a writer. A writer creates, but being an Author is a job. It’s a job that like any other job, which requires things like emails, meetings, phone calls, travel, presentations, and—worst of all—performance reviews. So in addition to my full-time day job, I had the secondary gig of being an Author, but it took me a long time to realize that I seemed to have less time to work on book 2 because I had fewer “off-hours,” so to speak.

Similarly, the psychic pressure of “performance reviews” was another thing I had to wrap my mind around. Wintersong ARCs are out in the world, so for the first time, I’m hearing what people outside my critique partners, agent, and editor have to say about my story. I’m not necessarily upset by bad review, or even indifferent reviews, but it was unexpectedly difficult to shut out everyone else’s opinions, an endless refrain of what will they think, what will they think, what will they think. It’s hard to pick out your own voice when others are crowding it out.

I’ve only just recently started to navigate this strange, new headspace. Part of it did involve blocking Goodreads and limiting my time on social media, but the greater part was finding that private playground again. Remembering that writing, that the joyous act of being creative, is still mine and mine alone. These are my toys, and I can play with them however I want.

What about you? Have you written a book under contract? Can you reassure me there’s a light at the end of the tunnel?

6 Responses to Writing Under Contract

  1. Clai Oct 21 2016 at 7:27 am #

    Oh, these words are so, so true. And that’s whether you’re writing that next book under contract, or just under your own “brand.” That first book set a standard, and you know, deep down, your readers will be expecting the same, or better. But worrying about “what will they think” is paralyzing. I’ve found that if I just write it like nobody else will ever read it, at least I have something I can go back and edit.

    It’s almost November 1st–try writing it in NaNoWriMo! That will force you to write with “Exuberant Imperfection” – but you’ll have that first draft done. Good luck

  2. Jade A. Waters Oct 21 2016 at 8:35 am #

    Oh, man, J.J. I am right there with you on this. My debut novel (The Assignment, first in a series) comes out in December, and while I wrote it in like 6 weeks and I had that very freedom you described, book two, under contract, had me in tears on a regular basis. (Granted, it didn’t help that I had some life stuff massively getting in the way.) For the first time in my life I wrote a book but then rewrote the book entirely—four times! I don’t even recognize the first draft from what it turned into. On top of that, all the edits I got from my editor for book 1 were in my head, so I was trying to edit as I wrote rather than letting myself freely go. It was a definite struggle. And social media? Yeah. Fell right off of that…

    Nonetheless, now that we’re in final edits for it I’m realizing how much I like the book. I think the “working for it” made it that much sweeter in the end. Then of course book 3 came out pretty fast since I knew where the whole series was going. But, who knows; I’m about to dip into revisions before I submit it to my editor, so it might be crap… Heh.

    We have a beautiful and exciting but challenging job as Authors, don’t we?

    Lovely post and best of luck with Wintersong’s sequel! I hope book 3, as the ending chapter, is a little easier on you, too! It’s definitely the light. 🙂

  3. Ellie Oct 21 2016 at 10:25 am #

    I’ve always heard about the second book being the hardest. Thanks for sharing your story of yours. And good luck on your second!

  4. Rosalyn Oct 21 2016 at 10:45 am #

    I’m currently waiting to see what my editor thinks of book two–but YES to all of this, especially the way reviews get in your head with outside expectations. Good luck to both of us!

  5. allreb Oct 21 2016 at 4:20 pm #

    Yep, big ol’ SAME from me. I needed years and multiple ground-up rewrites to get my debut into shape – to find its heart, and its voice, and get all the pieces working together. My second book is a sequel (part two of a duology) and writing it was HARD.

    I did end up writing a terrible first version – fairly quickly, thankfully, because it was just… wrong. I had to rewrite from scratch, just like I had for the first book, but now, with a looming deadline PLUS all of the Author work. Which made it tough. Writing was a grind instead of an escape.

    And it was weird doing the rounds of revisions with my debut’s ARCs out in the world, too. I kept getting word that people were connecting VERY strongly with a couple of aspects, which was great! But it also meant that I kept asking myself if I had carried through those aspects enough, if the conclusion of those parts of the story would be satisfying, if people would end up disappointed by the way things played out…

    In the end, I got it done. Which was a feat that I’m proud of! But I’m still a little ambivalent towards it in a way I wasn’t with the first book. I think it’s a strong book, and it’s definitely more complex than the first, but the whole thing feels very different than the first book did.

  6. A.S. Akkalon Oct 24 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    Thank you for the beautiful, honest post. I’m not there yet, but I look forward with trepidation to being in your situation. 🙂

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