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.
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