Monday, February 28, 2011

Endless Possibility

As I mentioned earlier this year, I'm fascinated by the second-book process, and I will have several guest posts this year on the topic. The latest one is by a brilliant and witty YA writer whose second book comes out any day now!

Endless Possibility
by Saundra Mitchell

The problem with getting your first novel published is that you have to then write your second novel. I know, a problem most people would like to have. But for many writers, Book 2 becomes the millstone. The albatross. The @#()* piece of @#()&*@ that just won't gel.

I threw away 60,000 words' worth of misbegotten Second Books. And now that I can think about it without rocking and singing lullabies in a dark corner, I think I understand why.

The first publishing experience made me forget that writing is about endless possibility. Because I wasn't yet published, I didn't spend my time writing the first book wondering if first or third person sells better. Not once did I rewrite a section because I knew my editor had just published another book with a similar scene.

Drafting the first novel, I hadn't read any reviews worrying over the lack of character development, or the overdevelopment of the characters to the detriment of the plot, or the strength of the plot overshadowing the setting, or blah blah blah. The only voices in my head when I wrote the first book were my characters'.

I was there, fully in the moment, devoted to writing that book. Everything was possible. Nothing was forbidden. And it wasn't until I believed anything was possible on book two, that book two actually came together.

THE VESPERTINE was, once upon a time, the book I thought I should write. It was set in contemporary Indiana, it had a little magic, a little family drama, and a big romance. It was the appropriate book for my "brand". It catered to the library market.

I was miserable writing it. I hated getting up, I hated opening the file. I hated that I wasn't so much writing a book, as carefully crafting some words to fit a bunch of market considerations.

I got so discouraged, I threw it all away.

Then I wrote the book I needed to write, the one that would make me all kinds of happy. In the beginning, my new version of THE VESPERTINE was a historical (doesn't sell!) serial killing (overdone!) vampire (market's too crowded!) novel.

Ultimately, it became a gothic novel about a young woman who can see the future in the sunset, and a young man who seems to come and go with the wind. No vampires. No serial killers. But nonetheless, the book in my heart, a book I loved writing, whether anyone else would love it or not.

But I hope people do—it comes out in March. I'm trying to remember as I revise Book Three, and start Book Four, all the lessons THE VESPERTINE taught me. Every idea has to have every possibility, if it has any possibility of becoming a novel. Business comes later. Today, it's just about the writing.

Saundra Mitchell has been a phone psychic, a car salesperson, a denture-deliverer and a layout waxer. She's dodged trains, endured basic training, and hitchhiked from Montana to California. She teaches herself languages, raises children, and makes paper for fun. She's also a screenwriter and executive producer for Fresh Films and the author of Shadowed Summer and the forthcoming The Vespertine and The Springsweet. She always picks truth; dares are too easy.