Join us today as we welcome Susan Sey, author of Money, Honey – a favorite of mine! Today Susan will tell us about her journey with the second book – Money Shot. She’ll be giving away a copy (as soon as it comes out!) so don’t forget to leave comments!
Now I like firsts as much as the next girl but today, I’d like to talk about seconds. Specifically, I want to talk about the second book. My second book, MONEY SHOT, is due out on June 7, and it is without a doubt the best, strongest book I have ever written. But I won’t lie to you people. Writing it was a career-shaking disaster.
Because here’s the thing about second books. That magic formula you finally discovered, allowing you to write a book that actually sold? Yeah, you’re not allowed to use it again. You can’t write the second book that same way.
And why not? Because when somebody buys your debut book in a two-book deal, you have to give your editor a proposal outlining what exactly it is you’re planning to write for that second book. And then you have to write THAT. Or something approximating that.
As it turns out, I have two problems with this model.
Problem one: I don’t know what I’m going to write before I write it. Even when I outline it in excruciating detail, I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen. Or, wait, I do know what’s going to happen–the broad strokes, anyway–but I don’t know to whom. Or exactly how.
See, when I outline a book, it looks mostly like dialogue, only without any attribution tags. Because it’s not the who that’s important to me, it’s the what. It’s the argument. When I write a story, it’s all about letting the two opposing viewpoints in my head duke it out. The characters are just vehicles for the argument. And back in the day, when my writing was just another invisible mommy chore I sandwiched between loads of laundry, this was no big deal. Draft one rolls around and I assign my heroine Opinion A and my hero Opinion B because, hey, it seems reasonable. And if, three drafts down the road, I realize the book won’t work unless it’s my heroine who holds Opinion B, and the hero who’s all about Opinion A? No worries. Nothing but time, baby.
Except now? Not so much. Now there are deadlines and expectations and oh dear lord I’m disappointing everybody who ever believed in me or–worse–cut me a check which I’m totally going to have to give back because I can’t write this book. Not only is it not what I said it would be but it sucks, too!
Which brings us to problem #2: charm.
Despite what I just said about the story being about the argument, nobody picks up a romance novel for the arguments. We read romance for the characters. We want to fall in love. And so the argument doesn’t matter until you fall in love with the characters having the argument. And my characters don’t get charming or loveable until about draft three. (I’m sad to say three truly is the magic.) Drafts one and two? The balance is all off. Light/dark, humor/gravity, plot/character, it’s all wonky. But something magic happens in that third draft and it suddenly balances out. The characters start to sparkle, the argument tightens up, the humor and depth dial themselves into harmony.
Which is why, for my money, you should always write the proposal AFTER you’ve written the book. It’s way easier. And more accurate. And, unfortunately, impossible. Not when you’re getting paid to write books.
I wish I could tell you I had a plan for fixing this but for me, this was the Lesson Of The Second Book: You can’t fix how you write. Your process is your process, and the sooner you embrace it, the better. And if you can get your editor and agent to embrace it, too, and plan deadlines and/or contract negotiations accordingly, please drop me an email to let me know how you did that particular bit of voodoo. I’d love to know.
RU Writers, do you have a process for writing? How do you think it will change for your next book?
Join us on Wednesday when Author Steven James talks about the Essence of Story
Susan Sey is the author of MONEY, HONEY, a 2008 Golden Heart Winner released by Berkeley Sensation in July 2010, as well as MONEY SHOT, her dreaded second novel, coming June 7. She lives in the Twin Cities area with her wonderfully supportive family where she studiously avoids the laundry and dutifully rewrites everything three times, because three truly is her magic number. (She wishes it were two. One would be nice.) You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, blogging with the Romance Bandits (www.romancebandits.blogspot.com) or on the web at www.susansey.com. She loves to hear from readers.
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