Our own D.A. Bartley’s second book, Death in the Covenant was released last week. Amid the flurry of excitement and buzz, she took a moment in a rock on the Miss Demeanors’ summer porch to share her experience with “the second book.”
I Survived Book #2
It was only after I turned in the manuscript for my second book that I began hearing all the stories about how difficult writing that book can be. Don’t get me wrong, writing Death in the Covenant was a challenge, and probably for all the reasons second books live in infamy. I simply went through those challenges unaware that what I as going through was pretty much textbook. Now that I’m through it, I’ll pass on what I learned.
First: Get out of your head and write. When you work on your first book, you have all the time in the world to polish and revise and edit. With all that time, I could completely indulge my tendency to overthink. The manuscript for my second book was due at the end of the month that my first book came out. There simply wasn’t time for me to overthink. Of course, the trick is not to write a story when a deadline looms, the trick is how to write the right story in the shadow of a deadline. That’s where the “get out of your head” advice comes in. When I use that phrase—and I do—I’m telling myself to stop being a critic when I need to create. Being brutally focused is an important skill for a writer: when it’s time to write the story, you need to be creative. When it’s time to edit and revise, you need to be a critic. I, for one, need the critic part of my brain to leave the room when I’m being creative.
Second: Get into your head and be ruthless. After I spilled out the story, it was time for some pretty heavy lifting in terms of revisions. There was a moment when it seemed impossible; there just was no way I could do it in the time I had left. Instead of completely succumbing to despair, I just took out my calendar and divided the number of words by the number of days left before my deadline. Then, I was ruthless about meeting the daily goal and ruthless about changing what needed to be changed.
Third: Trust your editor. Even if you don’t have the luxury of time, you do have the luxury of an editor. Trust that person: he or she reads critically for a living. If there are problems with your writing or with your revising, your editor will let you know. Once you know the problem, you can fix it. Believe me, you can fix almost anything.
After the manuscript is off, and no more changes can be made, let it go. Celebrate. Then, after you’ve caught your breath, start the process all over again.