Earlier, whenever I read a really good book, one I couldn’t easily put down, I inevitably thought, “Wow, that story must have just flowed right on to the page.” I figured it was so clear in the author’s mind, it had to fall on the page with equal ease.
That may be for some authors, but not this one. When I first started writing book one, I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted it to go. In fact, I’ve kept many of the same characters, plot lines, and themes as my original concept. But all of these elements have evolved over the four years I’ve been working on them. They're taking somewhat different shapes and subtleties, and plot lines unfold a little differently, but the essence is all the same.
I didn’t know if I’d been moving closer to my original vision or farther, but I kept going until I hit a wall last summer. I finally heeded the advice of writer friends who suggested it might be time to start a new project.
So I moved on to book two. I brainstormed and outlined until National Novel Writing Month, last November, when I actually sat down to write. And surprisingly, that partial draft is not half bad. I certainly think I’ll keep more of it than I did from my original first draft of book one. Soon, I was raring to go again, getting excited about mapping out books three and four.
The biggest challenge I've faced with going from the first story to the next in the series is in timing. I’ve learned so much and have evolved greatly as a writer since I began the first novel. Keeping myself focused on improving my craft, trying a new outline technique, and mastering dialogue made writing the start of the second book easier, but it also left me with the burning desire to polish the first book until it, too, was up to par.
With my enthusiasm level way up, I went back to finish what I started with book one. So I’ve gone back in, pulling it apart, word by word, chapter by chapter, deleting scenes, adding new ones. I wish I could move on to the second book already, but I can’t until I rewrite and revise the original to the best of my new abilities.
It’s painfully slow, picking at every tiny element, but in the end it will be worth it. I’ll have not one but two books I can be proud of (and hopefully sell). I don’t plan on being one of those writers I often hear stories about: “He wrote fifteen books before the first one sold.” While I currently have a love-hate relationship with book one, I do believe the process is making the novel as good as it can be and me a better writer.