That difficult second novel
On trying to write a second novel when everything seems to be stopping that happening. And then it being okay.
It’s been more than six years since A is for Angelica, my debut novel was published.
That’s a long time. So many things have happened to me since then and though there have been challenges, most of those things are good. I’ve had three children, moved house, changed jobs several times and ended up starting and running a successful freelance business.
There is one reality I cannot escape: I have not written a second novel.
On the Write for Your Life podcast, me and Donna Sørensen would joke about our lack of writing progress . We were both new parents and I like to think that, for our listeners, we were able to show that being a published author isn’t quite as glamorous as it can sometimes seem or be sold. It was a conscious choice – and came naturally – for us to laugh at ourselves.
It’s not been funny for ages.
Most sensible debut authors, when their novel comes out, will spend the next few months writing a follow up. These opportunities do not come around often. You need to make the most of them.
But I did things a little differently. A is for Angelica was published in the same month we had our identical twin boys, which was five days before I was made redundant from a job I’d been happy in for more than six years. I wrote about it at the time and reading back, I can’t believe how calm I sound.
As you might imagine, I was not calm at all. In fact, those initial months – years, really – were spent flailing and doing whatever I could to keep me and my family on an even keel. It was difficult. Really difficult.
It’s only with hindsight and an older, wiser head that I am able to look back on that period and forgive myself for not being able to write a second novel. Because at the time, for all my best efforts, I just couldn’t make it happen. Whenever I found a small writing-shaped hole in the day, almost always last thing at night, the words weren’t there.
I would get cross. I would feel guilty. And occasionally I would stare at an empty screen and have a little cry, knowing that it would be several days before the opportunity to write would come again.
Thankfully, things have changed.
I can now accept that although I wasn’t able to prioritise writing fiction, and as much as it really does hurt, I have achieved a lot in the last six years. I can recognise that some of the decisions I made were the only ones available, and that includes spending the last two years establishing a stable business that I hope will grow and last.
So, why share this now? Because I feel like I need to draw a line in the sand and that I should say some of these words out loud. I also know that it seems weird for it to have been so long and for me to have said so little about it. And lastly, though I’m not a well-known author, I do know that there are people who really loved my first book and would like to read another. I’ve been a bit rude in my silence.
Of course, I would love to end this post with an announcement that a second novel is imminent, but I’m afraid that’s not the case.
Yet there is good news – I am back to writing on a regular basis. There is one big novel idea in the works and one shorter piece that might become something too. I am making the time and feeling positive. That’s a huge step forward from where I have been for quite a while.
One of my favourite things about my old podcast was that it (accidentally) documented the process of me writing Angelica and then it being published. I’m not sure how yet, but I would like to share my progress with you again. Could be here on the blog. The newsletter. Even another podcast. I think that shouting about what I am doing helps me. The when and how doesn’t really matter that much.
The important thing is that I am writing again. I’ve regretted setting targets before, so I won’t do it now. But I hope that this is the year. It feels like this is the year.
Editor's note in 2021: it was not the year. Not yet.
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