Tackling the endeavor of writing a full-blown novel is hard, anyway. Many people start the process and never finish. Others manage to create at least one and feel overjoyed. And some of us decide to be truly
stupid ambitious, and attempt to write a series.
That means — one day, you will have to start working on the immediate sequel to your first book.
Here is the biggest question of all — will you survive?
Just kidding! Of course you will! If you follow these handy guidelines…
Don’t try to do too much at once. When I first sat down to write out my draft for Volume 2, I was like, “I am going to get this done this week before all my inspiration fades away!” Although I didn’t say this out loud, I am convinced my children heard and conspired against me. Of course it wasn’t finished in a week. Try 3 months later.
But this is really okay. Because no work of art — literary, musical, choreography, or culinary — has ever come into being after 5 or 6 days. Don’t push yourself too hard. Having goals is good, but even better is to have reasonable goals. Example: Rather than “I will write 10,000 words today,” go with, “I’m aiming for finishing a 10-page chapter by this time tomorrow.” That way, if you only hit half that plan after 36 hours, you will not feel like an abject failure.
Take care of yourself. The last few days, I have honestly been tearing myself up emotionally over the current state of Volume 2, and it’s not cool. Part of the reason I’m so on edge is because while I was expending a great deal of energy on formatting and editing, I was not really paying attention to things like fresh water and vegetables and yoga. Okay, I don’t actually do yoga these days — but maybe I should. My carpal tunnel was acting up, and my neck and shoulders are stiff from maintaining a constant posture of, “But what if I changed this? Oh my gosh, this is crap! What was I thinking?! Huh? Does that even make sense?!”
So, fellow wordsmiths, don’t neglect the rest of life’s priorities — like nutrition, sleep, and giving your body a break. Yes, it’s so tempting to just power through on caffeine and cake — but that only truly works for about an afternoon.
Remember to focus on things that are not your WIP. Laugh hard when your kids do something ridiculous. Listen to music that is not on your writing playlist. Put in a feel-good or nostalgic movie. (As creators, we need to fuel our minds and souls with art, not just try to produce it consistently.)
Taking a break from social media may also become necessary. Not simply for the distraction factor; also because these days stumbling across intense and vitriolic debates is kind of the norm on certain platforms. When you’re hoping to develop something that brings warmth and joy to others (hey, I don’t know what kind of person you are, but that’s my aim in life), that sort of thing really throws off your whole mindset.
Make notes. Refer to them religiously. Use that information to your advantage. For the months of February, March and April, I was spelling Mr. Jepson J-e-h-p-s-e-n in my drafts. When I was looking for something else entirely in Volume 1 and came across my mistake, I think birds in Taiwan heard me scream.
Do not beat yourself up for not being able to remember absolute word-for-word exactly what the first novel includes. So you wrote it — you are also human (and yes, this is still true for bookdragons). You will forget things or make mistakes. I promise, it is not the end of the world.
No one is forcing you to be perfect. Except maybe you — in which case, you need to tell yourself to knock it off. Especially when it comes to first, second, even third drafts. Usually by the third draft, I’ve ironed out a lot of plot issues, typos (intead rather than instead), and silly things like using Shuli Wang’s real name when he’s in his kitty form, Sammy, and being addressed as such. But if someone else catches something later, there is in fact still time to fix it.
Recently, as I’m preparing for my re-issue of Volume 1, I noticed a few things I’d kind of like to change, but that aren’t 110% necessary to. One thing I think I’m actually going to use it to my advantage, in terms of creating a plot twist many readers probably won’t see coming. Mwahahahaha…
Let the rest of the world come in. Not even waiting until you’ve finished your project to do so. Fresh air is important. So is company (yes, the autistic moth says this sincerely). Sometimes take a day off to go run around the park with your family, or just to shop for that laundry hamper you’ve been putting off replacing.
(I can guarantee 47 new witty lines of dialogue will come to you while you’re out of the house.)
There are days when you simply will feel the drive to knuckle down and produce 5,000 words that day, or edit 20 pages, and emerge somewhere after 8 p.m. from your workspace, resembling a hobbit who’s just come out of Mirkwood Forest after being chased by spiders — and this is okay, too.
In short, everything in moderation, don’t hate on yourself, and don’t give up. You will make it through this. (And, then, yes, one day someone will read your sequel, and probably even like it.)