Monday, March 22, 2010

Greg Smith, Morals & The One-Eyed Man

Did you hear the joke about the writer who tried to start his second novel before publishing the first?

Okay, there’s actually no punch line. I was just wondering if you’d heard.

Of course, we’ve all received those warnings about finishing what you start and not starting on something else before you finish the first thing (no matter how much you love broccoli and hate beets). So, why is it that so many writers begin planning the second novel before getting the first one published?

I find it telling that the successful writers of today get big contracts and then have to scramble to prepare a follow-up novel, sort of like RKO Pictures when the success of King Kong forced producers to rush a sequel to the screen. I hope Land of the Blind does gangbusters, but I won't hold my breath. Since I'm still tweaking it and have to go through more of the query letter-manuscript-rejection letter stage, so I can't even say it's really finished. Theoretically, I shouldn't even be worrying about the next book.

Thus, the moral of this story should be to wait until the first novel is published before working on the second.

But, since I have no morals, I'm hard at work on my next novel. And the next and the next one after that and after that, et cetera, et cetera. I’m probably channeling David Weber and Honor Harrington too much, but I’ve got my Land of the Blind at least vaguely thought out to the ninth book (and will probably add in some anthologies like Alistair Reynolds did with the Galactic North series from his Revelation Space novel).

Anyway, The One-Eyed Man is the sequel to Land of the Blind. All jokes aside, prepping this next book is proving enigmatic at best.

Unlike CJ Ellisson and her characters, I only have to worry about one   person – Devereaux Marshall Fox. Then again, after making him such a tantalizing and brutal mystery in the first novel, I now have to explain a lot more of his background. There’s no M or Miss Moneypenny to help shoulder the load (or Pussy Galore or Plenty O’Toole either).

On the up side, I can create a brand new world, with brand new technology. New challenges. New dangers. New thrills. New chills.

On the down side, I have to create a whole new set of supporting characters. And for those who have glimpsed bits and pieces of Land of the Blind, you know how big a task that will be. I mean, last time, I created dozens of people with names and annihilated scores more. I haven't even imagined how I'll top the cataclysm next time around.

What I think I will enjoy most about the succeeding novels is the joy of research. Those new worlds will need a firm foundation to be based upon. In the first novel, I used the Brazilian Amazon, the Panama Canal, Texas, Area 51 and Florida. So far, in The One-Eyed Man, I’ve got Machu Picchu; Phuket, Thailand;

[caption id="attachment_1683" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Machu Picchu"][/caption]

Irian Jaya (also known as West Papua or Papua Barat); Yokosuka, Japan; K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen in the Himalayas), and Cape Canaveral.

Despite the tough tasks ahead, I look forward to the challenge.

And so – I hope – do you.


  1. Thanks for finally helping me pinpoint what I like best about you, Greg. No morals ;-)

    Great post!

  2. Oh there is a sequel to Land of the Blind!? *jumps for joy* I'm so excited! Fox is my fav character - I just love him - though I'm not sure why!

    On another note, I don't understand why some people say to wait to work on your second until the first one is finished. What if the second one calls for a total rehaul of the first? If the first was already published, you could lose a great battle scene or something in the second! At least, that is exactly what happened in my novel. If I already had book 1 published, the second would have fallen flat! Now, though, I think I can get book 1 finished (as in totally finished) then finish book 2 (and three!).

  3. I have a somewhat different perspective on this but you'll have to wait till Thursday to find out why. Enjoyed your post, Greg.

  4. I've heard such mixed opinions on this one, Greg. Some say write the second while trying to sell the first. Others preach to write other stand-alone books and when one of them gets picked up you then write a second in the series. And then there's my husband (who is not a writer), who says why bother to write a second one if you can't sell the first one? (similar to your opening line)

    I'm torn - I think you have to do what's right for you and not always listen to the "experts."

    Personally, I think you need to make the first one fairly sing before moving on. If you change too much then the amount of re-writing in the subsequent drafts in the series could be monumental.

    Work until you hate it and think you can't possibly improve on another word. Then send it to an editor who will turn you on your ear and point out mistakes you never knew existed. Rewrite it while working on your second and learn as you go. Oh wait - that's what I did (and am still doing) ;-)

  5. Ah, yes, there is a sequel. I've already fleshed out the prologue and it should be a shocker -- again.

    As for writing the second before finishing the first, I guess my perspective is from the point of a series. Writing the second might be like coming in on the Tuesday episode of a soap opera (when soap operas used to exist) and missing the cliffhanger and all the twists and turns from Monday.

  6. Show-off.

    Just because you have an agent and a pen name and roots in Jersey (well, that's actually a knock) and a great first novel, you think you're so big.

    Well, I guess you do have a point.

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