Blogger: Wendy Lawton
Location: Books & Such Central Valley Office
Weather: 89º and sunny
Yesterday I shared Susan Lawson’s journal entry. She, like so many waiting writers, asks what to write next? It’s a valid question. Does one begin the second book in a proposed series? Does it make more sense to start something fresh? Or should we think economically and keep from writing something that may never sell, holding off until someone shows interest in our first book?
Before I answer those questions, let me go back to something we’ve discussed here before. Too often a writer’s first book is far better than the next few. Strange, when we expect a writer’s skill to grow with each book, but here’s what too-often happens: a writers lavishes time on the very first book. It may go through edit after edit. The writer faithfully takes it to critique group and might even employ the help of an outside editor. The book is polished until it gleams. There may be years from first concept to contract. If that book releases and is successful, a second book is contracted. The writer may have nine months to write that book–maybe even less if the publisher wants to satisfy your emerging fan base. It begs the question, can you write a second book in nine months that compares with a first book that took half a decade to perfect? Maybe, but maybe not.
One way to anticipate this sophomore slump is to begin to build “inventory” while you wait for that first contract. When you’ve typed “the end” on one book, open up a file on the next book. To paraphrase Thoreau, move confidently in the direction of success. What do you have to lose? Some time, if you never do get published, but if you don’t love those hours spent writing you’re in the wrong business anyway. Look at successful authors. Many of them were able to go back and sell multiple books they wrote in those early years.
It doesn’t make sense to be time-stingy at this point in your career. In most industries we are encouraged to consider ROI– Return On Investment. At this point in your career you have no idea if there will ever be a return on your investment of time but perfecting your craft takes practice. If you are committed you need to keep writing until you decide to hang up your dreams.
Susan asked what to write. She’s a novelist and has a three book series planned. She already has book two and three sketched out. I would advise her to leave those for now and write something new. That way if book one never resonates with agents or editors, she’s on her way to a fresh possibility. As for the book she’s circulating, since she’s already spent time with the settings and characters it will be easier to pick this up and move forward if book one is contracted.
For a nonfiction writer there are a couple of possibilities. If you are well-branded and the book that is circulating is your signature book– the book that encapsulates your philosophy or your message, you might want to start working on some connected ideas. Line extensions are always an interesting way to go. For instance, if your flagship book is How To Talk Your Way Out of Anything, you may want to start on a book for women called How Women Can Talk their Way Out of Anything. Or instead, perhaps you need to turn your message on its head and write the opposite How You Can Talk Your Way Into Success.
If you are not a well-branded, go-to person you may just need to explore other nonfiction subjects and come up with your next new idea. Nonfiction writers can fill time by writing articles as well. You build writing credits, get exposure and make some money– all at the same time. Not a bad way to wait.
You need to use your waiting time well. Think how happy you’ll be when an editor asks you, “What else do you have?”
Let me ask you: What do you write while you are waiting for that big break?