Writing Novel #2 is Not Easy
Written by
Sheila Grinell
August 2016
Written by
Sheila Grinell
August 2016

My first novel, Appetite, was published in May, and I’m on page 83 of my second novel. It’s growing slowly, mostly because I am busy marketing novel number one. Marketing requires a different kind of writing than fiction does, more didactic and less poetic. I find it hard to switch back and forth—to jump from magazine articles, social media posts, questions-and-answers for interviewers, etc., into my new characters’ inner lives. But I can do it. And I confess it’s not only the marketing that’s slowing me down.

            In some ways, writing number two is easier—and faster—than writing number one. Words flow more readily because the self-editing process has become reflexive. I don’t write cutesy turns of phrase anymore because I know I’m just going to cut them on my next pass back through. So I am more efficient. Structural questions are also less daunting. I have confidence that a fine shape will emerge from my skeletal concept because one did so before from an even more meager plot line. I also remember that I truly enjoyed the development edit, when all the parts of the book were finally laid out, and I could see how they did or didn’t fit together and make the necessary changes. I can’t wait for all the parts of this new novel to be laid out so I can mix and match them!  I’m convinced I’ll get there in less time than with the previous book. But still, there’s an impediment to my productivity.   

            I remember reading Norman Rush’s first novel, Mating, at the suggestion of a yoga buddy, a dozen years after its 1991 publication. I loved it and hastened to read Rush’s second novel, Mortals. (Although much lauded, Rush is not prolific. His third novel came out in 2013.) Mating’s female protagonist treks alone across an African wilderness to chase a man. Mortals’  male protagonist travels in an African wilderness, basically alone, fighting villains. The two books are not a series, but the voice, the setting, and aspects of the plot are so similar that my enjoyment of the second was dulled by my experience of the first. I don’t want a reader to be able to say the same thing about my work—in both my novels there’s a married couple, some exotic foreign stuff, a big idea in the background, and my characteristic voice—and I certainly don’t want to write the same book twice.

            So I need to up my game. I need to further develop my craft, to make a more deliberate effort to connect the local and the global using techniques I didn’t contemplate last time. (At this point, I have no idea what they are.) Yet I worry that making too deliberate an effort could ruin a scene. Or the story. It could damage my enjoyment of the act of writing itself.

            How much effort is the right amount? What new techniques will I employ? I won’t know for months and months. I need to maintain a balance between extra effort and native inspiration for all those months. That makes writing novel number two extra hard.




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  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    Congratulations on publishing novel #1 and best of luck working through novel #2! I wish you the best in finding an enjoyable balance between producing marketing content and writing fiction. 

    I am still working on my first and my daughter says I need to add darker tones, and a more decisive villain. She is right.  Whether I am writing for adults or the YA set, I need to do both, and I'm looking forward to it.  ~:0)