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Accountability, Science Fiction, and the Curse of the Second Book

 

 Red planet with a blue aura shines against a black background. Maryanne M. Wells. The Hearts Fire. Book 1 of the Hearts Trilogy.


Some weeks ago, I wrote a post about an accountability challengefrom an artist friend. Kent Harris of Blue Sage Pottery challenged me to finish my second science fiction book, the sequel to the Hearts Fire, by the end of January.

I didn’t do it.

Oh, I actively worked on the sequel throughout the month of January. I made a lot of progress, but I didn’t finish a draft.

Initially, I thought I had a good chance of meeting the challenge. Yes, what I had done needed a major rewrite and that was going to take time, but I had so much material to work with. Of course, I’ve heard the regular writing advice about “just finish a draft no matter what, don’t stop and go back and rewrite,” but that advice is useless if you get 75% of the way through writing a book and realize that the story is completely wrong. At that point you essentially need to write the book over, you don’t limp through the last 25% just for the sake of saying “I’m done.”

That’s what I did in January – massive re-write. That is what I am still doing. I am making progress, and I will be done with this draft by the end of February. I will also be reliving the fun of the Hearts Fire this month as editing proceeds on the audiobook for that novel (yay! New audiobook coming!).

Any of you who have followed me for a while or know me personally know that I can get upset when I don’t achieve goals. This time, I’m not that upset. I’m actually proud of all the progress I made in January. The reason is that I have a long recognized the existence of The Curse of the Second Book. Other authors warned me about it, and I do believe it is a real thing. I believe in the Curse of the Second Book much more than I believe in imaginary writing nonsense like “writer’s block.”

The Curse of the Second Book is this: how ever easily, quickly, and elegantly the first book in a series or set flowed from your brain and out through your fingertips onto the screen or page, that is exactly how difficult, prodding, and miserable the writing process of the next book in the series or set will be. I’ve heard authors warn about this time and time again, so I know the risk of suffering The Curse of the Second Book is always there. Fortunately, the sci-fi trilogy has not contracted the Curse. Why? Because I recognized that one of the reasons the first book flowed as easily as it did was that it was semi-autobiographical, and because the second book wouldn’t be the writing process would be markedly different.

The Hearts Fire was semi-autobiographical? Yes, it was, and no, I won’t go into more detail about that right now. I may never go into more detail about that. Let’s just say that the Hearts Fire was an opportunity to exorcise some personal demons. Not uncommon, a lot of writers do it. The point is that when I was writing the Hearts Fire I recognized that I was exorcising some demons, that that process would be done within the first book, but that the story would continue for two more volumes. That means that the process for writing the second and third books of the trilogy will be different. I think if I hadn’t recognized that reality and the impact that it has on my writing process early on, I’d actually be struggling a lot more with the second book than I am. But I did recognize it, so I’ve been OK with it. No Curse.

What has been slowing down the process of the second book? The villains. I love good villains, the kind of villains that everybody loves to hate, or villains who are complex individuals, who could be anti-heroes if the situation was a little different. Until the Great Re-write began in January Book 2 didn’t have the right villains. Oh, there were villains present from the beginning of Book 2, and Book 1, but there are reveals I’m saving for Book 3. Book 2 has needed its own villain. I’m relieved to say that it finally has one. That is the big thing that came out of the January writing challenge.

Oh, and it will not be our intrepid Jane Wingfield who brings down this particular villain. I know a lot of people really like Jane, and I like her too, but she’s not the only character in the trilogy. She wasn’t even the protagonist in the first book, and she’s not the protagonist in the second book either. So, don’t be looking for James to take down the bad guy this time. She is Book 2. She is present and extremely busy, but frankly, Jane couldn’t take down the bad guy this time even if she wanted to. She’s going to be dealing with some fairly unique problems in a Book 2. The woman has a full schedule.

 

So, the writing goes on! Draft of a sequel to the Hearts Fire by the end of February. Production of the Hearts Fire audiobook done by February. Stay tuned, and hold me accountable!

Some weeks ago, I wrote a post about an accountability challenge from an artist friend. Ken Burns a blue Sage pottery challenged me to finish my second science fiction book, the sequel to the Hearts Fire, by the end of January.

I didn’t do it.

Oh, I actively worked on the sequel throughout the month of January. I made a lot of progress, but I didn’t finish a draft.

Initially, I thought I had a good chance at meeting the challenge. Yes, what I had done needed a major rewrite and that was going to take time, but I had so much material to work with. Of course, I’ve heard the regular writing advice about “just finish a draft no matter what, don’t stop and go back and rewrite,” but that advice is useless if you get 75% of the way through writing a book and realize that the story is completely wrong. At that point you essentially need to write the book over, you don’t limp through the last 25% just for the sake of saying “I’m done.”

That’s what I did in January – massive re-write. That is what I am still doing. I am making progress, and I will be done with this draft by the end of February. I will also be reliving the fun of the Hearts Fire this month as editing proceeds on the audiobook for that novel (yay! New audiobook coming!).

Any of you who have followed me for a while or know me personally know that I can get upset when I don’t achieve goals. This time, I’m not that upset. I’m actually proud of all the progress I made in January. The reason is that I have a long recognized the existence of The Curse of the Second Book. Other authors warned me about it, and I do believe it is a real thing. I believe in the Curse of the Second Book much more than I believe in imaginary writing nonsense like “writer’s block.”

The Curse of the Second Book is this: how ever easily, quickly, and elegantly the first book in a series or set flowed from your brain and out through your fingertips onto the screen or page, that is exactly how difficult, prodding, and miserable the writing process of the next book in the series or set will be. I’ve heard authors warn about this time and time again, so I know the risk of suffering The Curse of the Second Book is always there. Fortunately, the sci-fi trilogy has not contracted the Curse. Why? Because I recognized that one of the reasons the first book flowed as easily as it did was that it was semi-autobiographical, and because the second book wouldn’t be the writing process would be markedly different.

The Hearts Fire was semi-autobiographical? Yes, it was, and no, I won’t go into more detail about that right now. I may never go into more detail about that. Let’s just say that the Hearts Fire was an opportunity to exorcise some personal demons. Not uncommon, a lot of writers do it. The point is that when I was writing the Hearts Fire I recognized that I was exorcising some demons, that that process would be done within the first book, but that the story would continue for two more volumes. That means that the process for writing the second and third books of the trilogy will be different. I think if I hadn’t recognized that reality and the impact that it has on my writing process early on, I’d actually be struggling a lot more with the second book than I am. But I did recognize it, so I’ve been OK with it. No Curse.

What has been slowing down the process of the second book? The villains. I love good villains, the kind of villains that everybody loves to hate, or villains who are complex individuals, who could be anti-heroes if the situation was a little different. Until the Great Re-write began in January Book 2 didn’t have the right villains. Oh, there were villains present from the beginning of Book 2, and Book 1, but there are reveals I’m saving for Book 3. Book 2 has needed its own villain. I’m relieved to say that it finally has one. That is the big thing that came out of the January writing challenge.

Oh, and it will not be our intrepid Jane Wingfield who brings down this particular villain. I know a lot of people really like Jane, and I like her too, but she’s not the only character in the trilogy. She wasn’t even the protagonist in the first book, and she’s not the protagonist in the second book either. So, don’t be looking for James to take down the bad guy this time. She is Book 2. She is present and extremely busy, but frankly, Jane couldn’t take down the bad guy this time even if she wanted to. She’s going to be dealing with some fairly unique problems in a Book 2. The woman has a full schedule.

So, the writing goes on! Draft of a sequel to the Hearts Fire by the end of February. Production of the Hearts Fire audiobook done by February. Stay tuned, and hold me accountable! 

Heart’s Fire, Book 1 of the Hearts science fiction trilogy, is available now on
Kindle     Amazon