When I was expecting my second baby, the midwife told me that I couldn’t be sure what to expect because all births are different. She said that, quite often, second babies arrived quicker and the birth was often easier than the first. In the event, it wasn’t quicker but it was different. She was right about that. Don’t worry, I’m not going to give you any gory details. This isn’t really about babies at all but about books, and how “giving birth” to a second book is very different to producing the first. In my experience anyway. You, on the other hand, may be scratching your head, having produced forty books in an identical fashion, in which case congratulations and hats off to you, and how do you have time to read other people’s blogs anyway?
Since I am a relative newbie, I thought that I would have learned how to go about writing Book 2 through the process of writing Book 1. Ah, Book 1. How long ago the conception of that seems…Cue music and wibbly-wobbly visual effects as we head back to 2011…
I wanted to do things “properly”. Well, it was my first “baby”, after all. I duly read all the “how-to” books and magazine articles that I could and signed up for a creative writing class and made copious notes. I had a full scene-by-scene plan and I had signed up to NaNoWriMo to ensure that I didn’t flag or lose motivation. November the first dawned and there was I, fingers hovering over the keyboard of my laptop, about to embark on a whole new adventure. How naive I was, because as any parent will tell you, giving birth is a struggle – unless you’re Sticky Vicky or some other dubious Benidorm entertainer in which case you probably don’t even notice. Where on earth did that thought pop up from? (Excuse the pun).
Anyway, to get back to the subject. I followed my plan religiously. I wrote furiously and stuck to the scenes I had outlined and if other thoughts occurred to me I pushed them firmly out of the way because, well, I already had my novel plotted so what on earth use were these rogue ideas? Fast forward two-and-a-half years later, and I am making final edits to Book One, a novel which bears very little resemblance to the first draft which I sweated over and fought so hard to bring into the world. Because, when I left Book One, Draft One, alone for a while and then went back to it with fresh eyes, I started to see that it was, well, dull. And the love story between the two main protagonists barely featured because I had buried it among so many other characters’ stories and so many clever but irrelevant scenes that, really, they could have been two minor characters for all the notice I’d taken of them.
I think it was the terror of going “off-plan” that made me stick so rigidly to my outline. I am a control freak and like to know what I’m doing, but I think I went a bit too far with it. The story just wilted under my rigid hold and the characters weren’t allowed to grow and develop at all. It took me a long time to relax enough to let them change and allow the story to follow its own path.
So, I sat down to start Book Two while Book One was off with my lovely Beta-readers and this time, it was a bit more scary. Firstly, because having read through Book One, all I could think was, ‘How the hell did I do this? And what if I can’t do it again?’ Secondly, I hadn’t really made a thorough outline. All I had were a few ideas for key scenes, where I wanted the two main characters to start, and how I wanted it all to finish. The rest was just a vague idea and I really hoped it would all come to me as I wrote.
The first couple of weeks were terrifying because, no, nothing much was coming to me. As I told you in my last post, my hero was difficult to get to know and it took me a while to figure out what his problem was. My heroine was easier because she was quite a strong character and a couple of my Beta-readers had singled her out for praise, which rather pleased her. Actually, she wasn’t supposed to be the heroine of Book Two. I had earmarked her a long time ago as a minor subplot for Book Three, but she wasn’t having any of that and bit by bit she took over and the book became about her. It soon became obvious who she wanted as her hero and he was duly summoned, and having had a chat to him we realised there was more to him than we’d initially thought and so I set to work on their story.
What has astonished me is the way my heroine has changed, too. She has developed a storyline that I had no intention of writing. It hadn’t even occurred to me, but then as I was reading through I realised where she was heading and was quite surprised to find that I had actually been laying the foundations for that, albeit gently, even in Book One. How did that happen? I have now made a very unexpected discovery about her and we are dealing with this together. We haven’t broken it to the hero yet. It’s a girl thing. Really, I can’t believe how different it is when you just relax and let the characters lead the way. They really do, you know. It’s not in my head. Well, it is in my head actually, but you know what I mean.
So yes, having your second baby is definitely different to having your first, if you ask me. Both are very hard work, though. Nothing much changes about that. But, as they keep on telling you (and you never believe it!) all that pain and struggle will be forgotten when you hold that child in your arms for the first time. The hard work is definitely worth it!
Have a great week xx