I’ve been lucky in the authors I’ve met and have come to call my friends. Auston Habershaw is one of those. His name makes him sound like a Bond villain, but I’ve been assured this has never been proved in a court of law. He first stopped by about a year ago to talk about guilty pleasures when his debut novel, The Oldest Trick, came out. Auston is an eloquent and gifted writer, be it novels, short stories, or blog posts. Which of course means I hate him as only the truly envious can. I’m kidding of course (mostly). His second book, No Good Deed, comes out today. If it’s anything like his first, or his blog posts, or short stories, or, well, it’ll be awesome. Yep, hate him.
Anyway, he’s back to talk about, rather fittingly, writing a second novel.
For many young writers trying to break into the traditional publishing world, the primary focus is getting that first book deal, and with good reason—that deal represents the foot in the door, the start of the journey, the admission to the secret club with the secret handshakes and snake pit and what not. There’s a lot you learn while writing your first book (often the hard way), and there are huge amounts of good resources to advise you on what to expect on your way to that magical “yes” moment. I, however, want to spend some time talking to you about what comes after that.
Say you’ve gotten that book deal, published that first novel, and now your contract has you writing a second one for the same publisher. Or maybe your agent is there telling you what would be the best next move. Or maybe you’re just on your own again. The fact is, while everybody loves talking about how to deal with your first book, not at many people seem interested in telling you what goes on with your second. You’ve already got keys to the clubhouse, right? Why worry? Well, sadly it isn’t as easy as all that. Here’s a list of five things I learned while writing my second novel.
#1: Writing Every Novel Is Different
This is probably the worst thing I can tell you, but also what I think is the most true. The experience of writing one novel is not likely to be the same as writing any other. All that weeping and crying and grim determination you mustered in mastering that first book? Yeah, it’s coming back. Yes, you do learn from each book you write, and yes, you hopefully will improve as a writer, but you are almost guaranteed to get somewhere in the midst of your next book, face contorted in anguish, and yell KHAAAANNNN at the sky.
Thing is, though, that this is normal. It’s okay. I daresay it means you’re even doing it right. Novels are complicated beasts and, what’s more, they should be unique. You can’t and shouldn’t write the same book a million times in a row, so you shouldn’t expect the same experience every single time you do it.
#2: Editors Are Not Forever
If you’re anything like me, you expected your relationship with your editor to be something like when Butch met Sundance. “You and me,” the editor would say, with a steely glint in her eye, “are gonna take on the world, buddy!” and then we’d jump on our individual jet skis and fight ninjas with our laser axes.
Yeah. It ain’t like that.
My experience with my editors (note the plural) has been very good, mind you—no real complaints—but you are probably only one of their many, many authors all of whom they are trying desperately to give their attention to equally and all of whom are smothering them in a staggering workload. They are also human beings who have other things going on in their lives and sometimes that means leaving their job, or switching jobs, or going back to school, or whatever. And then there will be another editor there to take their place—hopefully every bit as professional and talented as the last one—and you will continue on with them. This is the nature of the business and it happens. It isn’t the end of the world.
#3: You Mean I Need To Worry About Word Count?!
When you are trying to get a book deal, you might think a bit about word count, but most of us probably just shrug and say “the story is going to be as long as it needs to be” and keep writing. In an ideal world, I suppose, this would be true—books should be as long or as short as prudent (assuming they’re well edited and not wasting our time or leaving us hanging). Unfortunately, once you’re under contract for another book, this isn’t the case anymore. The publisher wants a book that is between 90K and 100K words and no more and no less. That’s a binding document, buddy—a document you signed—so you’ve gotta do it now. And writing a novel with a word-count target is very hard. It’s a bit like shooting a tennis ball from a cannon and getting it to land in a trash barrel five miles away—it’s going to take a few tries.
The first draft of my second novel was 124,000 words. My editor needed it as far under 100K as possible, preferably closer to 90K. That meant I needed to cut 25-35 THOUSAND words from my complete, polished novel to make it fit. I lost a few years off my life there, let me tell you, but I did it (and am a much better editor of my own work as a result).
#4: Series Fatigue Is a Thing
When you start writing your series (and who doesn’t write a series these days, right?), you think you’re going to be writing that series forever and ever and ever. “It’ll have 9 books!” you’ll crow. Oh, my, what a glorious decade of book writing that will be! Ahahahahaha hahaha…hah..ha…heh…
Okay, so maybe that will happen—maybe the series will hit it big and you will write it forever and forever be known as the “space laser monkey lady” or whatever. Almost certainly not, though. And what’s more, you very probably will get tired of those same characters and that same world and that same story. I know it sounds crazy, but it is a very, very distinct possibility. Consider this: for every hour you spend reading your favorite series, the other probably spends a hundred hours writing it. Now, in a trilogy, that adds up to about three hundred hours of writing. Do you have many books that you would love to read for three hundred hours? Yeah, probably not. Sooner or later you, as a writer, will struggle with some heavy I’m-sick-of-this-shit-itis. You can get past it, but I’m telling you it’s coming.
#5: Writing Is a Calling, Not a Whim
For all the hard truths I’ve mentioned so far, though, there is one thing that is very, very worthwhile that you learn in that second book: writing is something that fulfills you on a level all other work does not. Even when it’s hard and you’re not making your word count and your editor has disappeared into the Sudan on a commando mission and you hate your stupid protagonist’s stupid face, you realize something: you’ve done this before, you can do it again, and, in the end, you will love having done it. That second book, and the conquest thereof, is a true rite of passage—plenty of people write one book, but authors write many. You are about to confirm what you’ve always known is true in your heart—you are an author, and this second book proves it wasn’t a fluke.
Press on. We’re with you. If you need me, I’ll be waiting by the snake pit.
Cursed with a magic ring that forbids skullduggery, Tyvian Reldamar’s life of crime is sadly behind him. Now reduced to fencing moldy relics and wheedling favors from petty nobility, he’s pretty sure his life can’t get any worse.
That is until he hears that his old nemesis, Myreon Alafarr, has been framed for a crime she didn’t commit and turned to stone in a penitentiary garden. Somebody is trying to get his attention, and that somebody is playing a very high-stakes game that will draw Tyvian and his friends back to the city of his birth and right under the noses of the Defenders he’s been dodging for so long. And that isn’t even the worst part. The worst part is that the person pulling all the strings is none other than the most powerful sorceress in the West: Lyrelle Reldamar.
Tyvian’s own mother.
No Good Deed is available at all the usual places or you can read an excerpt here.
Barnes & Noble
You can also find Auston on his blog, Twitter, Facebook, or writing to his cousin.