Writing the Second Book–What I Learned

The production process for The Plague Legacy: Assets took five times as long as the process for Acquisitions, and it really all boiled down to one simple reason.

I second-guessed myself. I had the basic plot already figured out before I finished Acquisitions, which took me 2 1/2 months to draft and another month to cycle through revisions with the professional crew. But then I started to THINK about my plot for Assets and decided that the story line should take nine months instead of nine days and I drafted on that premise. Why did I make this decision? I can’t even remember. I just remember the spike in my anxiety when I realized that fans had expectations. Assets doesn’t have a ton of reviews, but most of it is pretty encouraging. I sent it to a professional review site and they liked it. It won the Silver Quill for young adult literature from the League of Utah Writers. I had fans find me at events for signatures. (Gulp.)

And the success kind of freaked me out. I’m sure there are others out there who just get used to the comfort of that ‘good enough’ mediocrity and then don’t know what to do when you deliver something better than that. I’ve never been very satisfied with mediocrity, but I’ve also not received much in the way of recognition for doing something well. It was always just expected. Like writing a great second book. Which led to my overthinking the plot.

A year and 88,000 words later, I’m back at the original nine-day time frame for Assets and realize that I had it figured out from the beginning and should trust my gut. I have a good writing gut. Thinking just messes things up. While I was floundering in several excess scenes, I also learned a few other things.

1. Know YOUR process. Every author I’ve ever talked to about their writing process says they do things differently. Actually, we all do this very much the same way. We all have to go through the entire writing process–pre-writing, drafting, revising, editing. Some of us just do it in shorter cycles than others. Pantsers do this cycle in a short time frame, so it looks like they just sit down and draft without thinking too far ahead, but really they are pre-writing and drafting in little bursts that make me think of the blinker on a car when a fuse has burned out. Others, like me, deal with all of the parts over a longer period of time. I like to spend more time outlining and less time drafting, so I outline before I sit at the computer. I even use notecards–the real ones made of paper–and tack them to a bulletin board to keep track of my time frame and chapters. And I listen to loud music and move around a lot while I draft. Yep, a twitching, rockin’ drafter. That’s me.

2. Spend it all. When I first tried to wrap my head around the plot arc for a three book series, I had this weird idea that I couldn’t put too much in the first book because I had to stretch it out over all three. Stretching is for after kickboxing class, not for books. Pack it in. I thought that the series would end where the second book ends. I told my sister that (she’s my consultant) and she looked at me like I’m crazy and told me, “It can’t end there. What happens to …. after…? And …?” She went on and on. Really. For at least three hours before I accepted that she was right. What happened as I put all the great stuff in the second book was that the third book practically outlined itself. And, yeah, there’s plenty of awesomeness left for a third book. More than enough. And more ideas for other stuff. It’s like that blinker with the fuse out.

That’s it. Two major lessons. As far as I can tell, that’s about all I need, except for maybe a publicist. I could really use a publicist–one who works for free and at all hours of the day.

And the end product? What do you think?


Click on the image to pre-order on Amazon. The Plague Legacy: Acquisitions is also avaiable for 99c until April 12.

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