Well, Book 2 is turned over…and now the panic sets in…
I’ve written about this before, what I call the “second album syndrome,” where an artist or writer struggles with the expectations, and to some extent, the even greater freedom, that comes with a second or third work after the first one is successful. My situation is a little different, because I’m turning in Book 2 even before THE FAR EMPTY hits the shelves. I have no idea if that book will be a success, moderate or otherwise, but I didn’t feel the weight of expectations any less.
The writing process itself wasn’t necessarily more complex, I didn’t struggle to find the time or spend weeks suffering from writer’s block or paralysis. The words weren’t harder. However, I was constantly aware of having an audience, and here’s what I mean: much is made that a writer should write for his/her ideal audience or reader, but that’s not what I did for THE FAR EMPTY. I wrote the book I wanted to, with the idea that the only reader who mattered was me. This go around, however, I was very conscious of the fact there were other people out there who had both an interest and investment in the book I was writing, and who were curious if the first book was a one-hit wonder or not. Hell, how could they not, when I've been wondering the same thing? Now, I’ve never felt an ounce of pressure or doubt from my agent or my editor or anyone -- they’ve been by biggest champions -- but I do put lots of that pressure on myself. I’m at the point where I’ve realized the art is a business, and a very difficult one at that. I always need to produce my best work every time out, because there may not be another time if I don’t.
We’ll see how successful I was with Book 2. I know I’m happy with it, and that -- again -- it’s the story I set out to tell. I dug up an email from a year ago that I sent my editor explaining what additional Big Bend books might look like, and this is pretty much exactly the story I outlined for her (a few changes at the margins, but otherwise I hit the target I set up). It’s different than THE FAR EMPTY and it’s supposed to be, but I know get some of the same “vibe” when reading it.
That's a good thing, I think.
It’s definitely still my book, even though I wrote it with “my” audience in mind...
Here's what my storyboard for the book looks like:
And here's what it's like in my head wrangling all that into a book...
I did want to take a second and point out Kate Brauning's post below, "It's Over Now." Obviously it's powerful and thought-provoking, particularly for someone like myself who hasn't shared this experience. However, as a father of three girls I'll eventually be sending out into the world to meet their significant others and have relationships, I'm always concerned about teaching them to be strong enough to recognize and walk away from ANY abusive relationship. Kate's piece is good, and well worth a second or third read.
As always, keep writing - JTS