Hi, this is Anjanette Fennell, Your Literary Coach, and I wanted to chat to you today about Second Book Syndrome.
This is a real thing, people, and it doesn’t always happen with the second book, but often times if you have had published (either self-publishing or traditional publishing) a book that has had a certain amount of success then following on that project you can run up against certain hurdles that you might not have been expecting. You can go online and find lots and lots about the second book syndrome, but I want to break down for you some different things to think about to help you get past this if this is what you’re dealing with now, and I know for sure that some of you are dealing with this specifically, and you know who I’m talking to.
Tip no.1 – Recognize that you ARE a writer
The first book that you wrote was not a fluke, it was just the first book that you wrote. Every manuscript is different. Every single manuscript is different, and often times we sort of forget what it was like at the beginning process, or what our first draft was like, and we lose touch with how many changes we would have made. The exception could be maybe the first go round for your book, the first book was really easy and it just seemed to flow, and you sort of felt this energy around it, and you’re not feeling it now. Well, we’ll get to ways you might fix that, but just recognize that just as children are different, every single manuscript is different, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s a beautiful thing. If you only churned the same thing over, and over, and over again that would show no growth whatsoever, and that’s not what we’re going for.
Tip no.2 – Remember, this is a first draft
A first draft means first go. It will be edited, so don’t worry too much about this next thing that I’m going to talk about, which is: STOP self-editing. Please stop it. A first draft is supposed to flow, and so I often spend a lot of my time breaking this down for my one-on-ones and my group coaching clients. Getting out of the habit of editing as you go. You don’t want to do that. Think of your content, your creation at this point as a river. It flows in one direction, in this case that is forward. Don’t look back and fix your typos or anything else. You have heard me say this before and I will continue to say this until it gets locked in: The creative process doesn’t edit. It’s not analytical.
Tip no.3 – Stay with the story
If you are fully emotionally involved in the story that you’re writing, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, how-to, self help, doesn’t matter. There is an underlying story, and if you are present with that story, you will not worry about what’s going to happen when you finish the story and it’s sent out to other people. You’re not there yet. You don’t have a full story, so don’t worry about what’s going to happen later. Stay with your story.
You might be struggling a little bit because of that flow. There are a few things that you can do to help with that. One is story map. That is pretty key. You don’t need to have structure to the nth degree. In fact, I normally recommend against that because I like my clients to have a little bit of flexibility to let their characters and the story refine itself and take them down paths they weren’t expecting. But you do need to have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and so spending some time on your story mapping, or revising it and getting comfortable with the fact that you will revise and that is good, that’s OK. Again, growth is so important here.
Tip no.4 – It’s okay to write out-of-order
The other thing is as you’re writing, if you’re really feeling it and things are good, but then we hit a certain scene and it’s either emotionally a change or energetically a change from what you’ve been doing, or, I’ll be honest, a little bit too like something else that’s going on in your outside world, then it is perfectly OK to put a placeholder in there and move forward to another scene. The goal would be that you actually do get some writing done, and your writing isn’t just a succession of placeholder, placeholder, placeholder. However, listen to your own instinct, and if you want to skip ahead and write a scene out of order, that’s perfectly OK too. My best advice when you’re heading up against blocks is to take the path of ease. Take the path of least resistance, write what feels good to write, get yourself into motion and that will help you. Then you can go back and fill in those other pieces.
Tip no.5 – It’s OK to step away from the writing
Really, it’s OK to step away from it. If you are feeling really constricted or anxious and not feeling good, that’s not the sort of energy you want to bring to your project anyway, so whilst it’s really good to have yourself set out with a writing practice where you’re sitting down at a particular time every day, and generally speaking you know that your energy is really good for writing there, mentally you’re switched on and you’re not lethargic after lunch or something like that. I mean, literally you could write any time of day, it’s really dependent on your personally practice and what works for you, but just the same, if you’re sitting down and you’re not feeling good and you find that your mind is really caught on this broken record of anxiety of not really engaged with your story, step away. Do other stuff, and honestly, do that for as long as you need to.
This maybe doesn’t fit if you are under a book contract and you’ve sold a couple of books, although publishers can be flexible at times as well, but most of the time if you are writing from your own volition and you have to sell that story later, you have permission to step away from the computer, or if you’re old school, the typewriter, or your paper and pen. Go and live life. Get your energy back, get your passion back for the project and sit down when you feel good about sitting down. If that means taking a longer step away, that’s OK. I said maybe that last piece was my last piece of advice, but I’ll give you this as my last piece of advice. If you are pushing forward with a story and you’re really feeling that there are several things that aren’t necessarily coming together and you’re losing a lot of the intensity or the passion that you had, you also have permission to switch to another project. It may be just the break that you need to get yourself, your head and your heart, back in the game for this other project,
I might have left some stuff out and, if I have, please send me an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Ask me questions about what’s going on in your writerly life, and I will address those to you specifically…and I might even have another video to help others if I think it’s a comment sort of issue. Please don’t hesitate in sending me an email, and I look forward to seeing next time. Bye!