Second Book Blues

by Mimi Sebastian

After finishing my first manuscript, I thought my second book would come easier, after all I’d learned so much since the first book. I cracked my knuckles at the computer and anticipated the words, perfect plot structure, witty dialog, fresh dialog tags gushing from my mind.

As much as a desert can gush.

Why such torture? The second book continued right from the first, the second of a planned three books. The characters were fully fleshed out in my mind.

Yet when I began my first book, on a whim, at the insistence of my characters, I felt no pressure. I wrote when I had time. I didn’t set any writing goals. It was basically a hobby and I’d see where it led.

But with the second book came query letters and synopses and books on plot and structure and blogs and online groups. What happened? From feeling like I had all the time in the world to write the one book, I felt like if I didn’t finish the second book in three months, I was a failure.

Was it the silly notion I should know more? Or maybe I had learned more about plotting and writing, making it harder to plot and write because I was trying to apply the knowledge instead of, well, plotting and writing? I didn’t have all the plot elements worked out when I starting writing my first book…pantser express train.

When I started my first book, I wrote whatever came to me (some of it never made it into the final draft), explored various options for my characters, and the scenes and twists and turns just came to me. Ah, maybe I should shove the plotter in the closet and pull her out later. I’m sorry pantser. I’ve neglected you.

When I let a few days pass without writing, and it happens, I have kids, a job, fatigue. But when those days go by, something begins to creep into my psyche, a slithering, nasty thing called self-doubt and anxiety that I’m fooling myself. You know that anti-muse that all writers refer to and I begin to shrivel AND it’s at that precise moment I know I must write again, to emerge from the darkness (the words don’t always emerge) and the anti-muse’s whispers in my ear grow less fetid and destructive.

I see the light. I set writing goals. And I feel better, less apt to burst into tears of angst.

And maybe, just maybe – shudder at the thought – let the words come.

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