Yup. That’s me right now. Can any of you relate? For your sakes, I hope not.
They say the second book in a trilogy is the one that does you in, and I am here to tell you, believe it. The second book will rip something out. It might be your heart, or your brain, or your eyes, but seriously, you are not getting out of here unscathed.
Why is engaging in the drafting and revision of a second book so terrifying? Well, some simple reasons, for starters. The story must go on, but it can’t be the same. It has to be deeper and more powerful. The stakes must be raised. Whatever the characters were fighting for in book one must suddenly be more of a background issue. You need fresh problems, fresh challenges to face.
Right. That can’t be too hard, can it? Well, here’s where it all gets complicated.
Your second book needs conflict and resolution. It needs clean character arcs. It needs all the same story beats your first novel had. But it CANNOT TRULY RESOLVE. At the end, you need to still have another novel’s worth of even HIGHER stakes waiting. This is where I run into the greatest difficulty. My second book is different from my first in so many ways. It has a different main character. Most of the POVs are swapped. The stakes are crazy high by the time we get to the end — so high in fact that I’m not sure everyone won’t be staring at me with this look on their face:
Everyone goes through hell in this book. Everyone gets hurt. Everyone loses something dear. And yet, the show goes on. (And yes, I have a third book full of even crazier shiz already in my head.) But I can’t help wondering if this is going to be one of those, “Like, for real? You think you can get away with this?”
The thing is, no, I don’t think I can. I’ve been revising this manuscript by chopping it up and deleting and destroying and rewriting and then ripping up the beat sheet and starting a new outline with completely different events…*headdesk*. I just completed a rewrite of 40k of it. I’m still tossing out every version of the ending that I come up with. I tweak the dialogue. I tweak the dialogue again. I kill some darlings. I haven’t even sent it to my CPs yet because it’s too messy to be coherent. If all goes well, I’ll plague them with it later this month, as soon as I can string together all the madness.
Anyone else out there writing their middle novel? Lost in the mire? Neck deep in revisions? Dude, I raise my glass and wish you the best. This is where I’ve been lately, so I thought I’d share. At least we can all commiserate together, right?