marthawells: (Stargate)
[personal profile] marthawells
* The True Queen by Zen Cho (Sorcerer to the Crown) came out yesterday, and she has a great post here about her experience writing it: My Publishing Journey: How to Write Second Book. I think it will resonate with a lot of writers.

I had second book syndrome in spades. Two things contributed to this. The revision process for my first novel Sorcerer to the Crown had been extensive and emotionally challenging. Now, I have absolutely no doubt it improved the book, and it also developed writing muscles I hadn’t even known existed. But by the time I was done with the book — or by the time it was done with me, which is more how it felt — I had spent so long considering external feedback, working in a way that I found quite counter-intuitive, that it was very hard to find my way back to the inner voice that tells you what you want in your writing, what you are trying to achieve.

The second thing was the attention. Sorcerer wasn’t a huge bestseller or anything like that, but it did receive a measure of buzz and it led to far more people reading my work than ever before. This was great and what I’d been working towards, of course, but it was also stressful. Suddenly I had to contend with the pressure of reader expectations. I really, really wanted to get the second book right. I was terrified of putting a foot wrong, and that’s death to creativity.


I think it helps me to remember, when I'm buried neck-deep in the writing process, that everything about writing is stressful. Failure is stressful, success is stressful, even the fun parts are stressful. Writing is about making decisions, and pursuing a career in a creative field is about change, and decisions and changes are inherently stressful. As humans we can get decision fatigue just by going to the grocery store, and a novel is nothing but a series of hours, days, months, and sometimes years of nothing but decisions.

I'm working on the last third of Network Effect, the Murderbot novel, and the whole process has been very slow. Murderbot's ability to have multiple physical perspectives on a situation (its own eyes, security cameras, drones, other systems it has access to) all bring it information that has to be acted on and it makes the logistics and action scenes very complicated. I'm not a writer who outlines and I like to build my plots organically, so I'm used to a lot of revising as I go along. But with the Murderbot novellas and the book I've been writing 20,000 words, then cutting back to around 5,000 and starting over again, over and over.

I'm basically chasing that little feeling in the back of my head that says yes, this bit is right. (The little feeling only tells you when it's right, it doesn't tell you why things are wrong or how to fix them. It's like walking barefoot in the dark over a giant floor covered with legos, trying to feel for a lost marble.) Now that I'm on the last third of the book and the first two/thirds feels pretty solid, I'm hoping I'm on the right track. (knock on wood)

So this is a long way of saying that if I'm distracted or unable to make decisions about very simple things, that's why.

Date: 2019-03-13 02:26 pm (UTC)
mount_oregano: Let me see (Default)
From: [personal profile] mount_oregano
Sending understanding and sympathies. I'm on the third revision of a novel myself, having thrown out 30,000 words in an early draft, then coming up way short of novel-length and having to re-plot. Shit happens.

And no pressure -- but I'm eager to read more about Murderbot. I'm sure that when you're satisfied, I'll be delighted.

Date: 2019-03-13 03:28 pm (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
I'm basically chasing that little feeling in the back of my head that says yes, this bit is right. (The little feeling only tells you when it's right, it doesn't tell you why things are wrong or how to fix them. It's like walking barefoot in the dark over a giant floor covered with legos, trying to feel for a lost marble.)

Oh GOD, yes.

//cheers you on re Murderbot, whom I adore

Date: 2019-03-13 05:29 pm (UTC)
oracne: turtle (Default)
From: [personal profile] oracne
Ugh, that sounds tedious, but I'm glad it seems to be working out.

Date: 2019-03-13 08:03 pm (UTC)
voidampersand: (Default)
From: [personal profile] voidampersand
You have to be confident that even though your writing process is difficult, it is yielding excellent results. The Murderbot novellas have very complex action scenes as well as very personal introspective scenes with Murderbot's thoughts (and insightful comments from other characters), yet it all makes sense and it flows smoothly. It would be easier if you juggled fewer things at a time or maybe something other than chainsaws, but then it wouldn't so extraordinary. Also, please keep in mind that the joy I feel when I read the Murderbot stories is multiplied by a big number of other readers who feel the same way.

I run into the same thing in programming. For any problem to be solved, there is an easy way to do it, and there is the right way which tends to require a lot more diligence. I can do it the easy way and make a few users happy, at least initially. But if I do it the right way, I can make a lot of users happy over a long period of time. I have gotten to the point where I take delight in ripping out code that I wrote and then figured out it was better without it. One of my colleagues who feels the same way remarks that his superpower is he can use the Delete key. A lot of programmers can't. It's tough for them because the code they wrote is real and the design they are coding for is imaginary hand-waving. With experience comes the confidence that the design is going to become real, and that code can (and should) be deleted if it is not helping to achieve the desired design.

Date: 2019-03-13 10:54 pm (UTC)
mount_oregano: Let me see (Default)
From: [personal profile] mount_oregano
Use of the Delete key is a superpower -- thank you for that! I delete a lot. Now I'll feel happy as I do it.

Date: 2019-03-13 09:00 pm (UTC)
esteefee: (bite_lip)
From: [personal profile] esteefee
this is really cool insight, thanks.

Date: 2019-03-14 06:33 am (UTC)
archangelbeth: An anthropomorphic feline face, with feathered wing ears, and glasses, in shades of gray. (Default)
From: [personal profile] archangelbeth
I am squeeing a lot that Murderbot is not outlined (because, er, outlines have oft been death for my process), and send sympathies on the 20K steps forward, 15K steps back process that it's requiring. (Looking forward to the book very much!)

I hope the final stretch goes as smoothly as possible!

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