Second Book Blues

After finishing my first manuscript, I thought my second book would come easier.  I cracked my knuckles at the typewriter and anticipated the words, perfect plot structure, witty dialog, fresh dialog tags gushing from my mind.

As much as a desert can gush.

Why am I finding it harder to write my second book? It’s a continuation of the first, the second of a planned three books.

Part of the problem, I believe, is that when I began my first book, on a whim, yet at the insistence of my characters, I felt no pressure. I wrote when I had time. I didn’t set any writing goals. It was basically a hobby and I’d see where it led.

Now? Now I have query letters and synopses and books on plot and structure and blogs and online groups. Holy shit. What happened? From feeling like I had all the time in the world to write the one book, I now feel like if I don’t finish this second book in three months, I’m a failure. It’s pressure I’m putting on myself because I’m not published, so what gives?

Is it because I have this silly notion I should know more? Or maybe I do know a tiny bit more, and that’s making it harder to plot out my book because I’m applying the knowledge instead of letting things flow freely? I didn’t have all the plot elements worked out when I starting writing my first book. I’m part pantser and part plotter.

When I started my first book, I wrote whatever came to me (some of it never made it into the final draft), explored various options for my characters, and the scenes and twists and turns just came to me. Ah, maybe I should shove the plotter in the closet and pull her out later. I’m sorry pantser. I’ve neglected you.

When I let a few days pass without writing, and it happens, I have kids, a job, fatigue. But when those days go by, something begins to creep into my psyche, a slithering, nasty thing called self-doubt and anxiety that I’m fooling myself. You know that anti-muse that all writers refer to and I begin to shrivel AND it’s at that precise moment I know I must write again. I begin to emerge from the darkness (the words don’t always emerge) and the anti-muse’s whispers in my ear grow less fetid and destructive.

I see the light. I set writing goals. And I feel better, less apt to burst into tears of angst.

And maybe, just maybe, shudder at the thought, I should give myself a break.

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