This blog was featured on 01/02/2018
Second Book Blues

Two hip replacements, and wrangling a book manuscript through an umpteenth revision in the deep freeze of a Michigan winter is enough reason to be seeing the world through a blue filter, but something more has been at work these days. I have a case of the second book blues. I thought I’d made up this particular diagnostic label, but after a simple Google search, I find I’m in plenty of good company.  YA author Shirley Marr wrote her explanation of first novels this way… “It might have been an easy write or it might have been difficult, requiring many years and re-writes, but the most important thing is that the manuscript belonged to you. And you didn't belong to anyone.” 

Marr goes on to suggest that once you have readers, a publisher, a reputation, and a sales record, you contend with expectations that were at best amorphous with your first book, but become insidious the second time around. No one will like this book. My reader fans will be disappointed. Switching genres will be a disaster.     

Neither of my books “poured out of me.”  One took 15 years and one seven years to write and edit and bring to publication. The two novels share strong, resilient women as central characters, but that is where the similarity ends. Even in Darkness is Jewish historical fiction with a very literary bent, and is based on a true family story. I knew that narrative and crafted the novel to accentuate the themes that celebrate the legacy of the great aunt on whom the story is based.  I created characters, events and settings to supplement the real ones in the service of the novel. 

Hard Cider is contemporary women’s fiction with an edgier voice. While some events and characters are taken from real life, the story is mostly fictional. Encore careers, self-determination, infertility and how we form families— and of course hard apple cider— are all important motifs in Hard Cider. I agonized over this manuscript and with the generous support of family, friends, editors and fellow authors, have honed it from a quasi-memoir, treatise, and collection of vignettes into a real novel.

I came to the writing life late, which sometimes discourages me into feeling like the writing world is passing me by. I have to look no farther than the beautiful books of so many She Writes authors to see that age has nothing to do with the power and beauty of writing the messages that are deeply powerful to us.  A recent column by Roxanne Gay in the NY Times encourages writers of any age to "write as well as you can, with as much heart as you can, whenever you can."

I realize I have done that with my second book.   In the closing words of Green-light Your Book, by the amazing Brooke Warner, I found the inspiration to counter my second-book blues.  “Give yourself the gifts of legitimacy, validation, and authority.  If you’ve come this far, you’ve earned it.”

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  • Thank you Suzanne and Barbara and Bella! Suzanne, let's see how we feel as we move forward!

  • Suzanne McKenna Link

    I feel much the same Barbara. Thank you for expressing these thoughts and fears so eloquently.

  • Barbara Ridley

    Love this! So struck by some of the similarities between us in our writing trajectories

  • Bella Mahaya Carter

    Great post, Barbara! Thanks for writing it.