Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Writing the Second Book

By Amy MacKinnon

So a friend just emailed, asking for advice on writing the second book. Me. Laughable and wholly misguided considering how many times my dear friend Lynne Griffin had to talk me off the ledge. It takes a great deal of faith to write a book, a whole lot more to write the second. This is how I responded and I hope you'll share your experiences with your own writing process:

As for writing the second book, you will be filled with dread, self-competition (a word you make up because you no longer have any grasp over language), anxiety, self-loathing, thoughts of self-mutilation, your finger will constantly hover over the delete key, your first chapter will suck and suck and suck, your trusted readers (whom you now doubt and maybe despise a little) will tell you it sucks, and then, finally, it will be good enough for you to move on to the second chapter, but not yet *good*, just good enough, but not really that good at all; you'll cry -- a lot -- doubt every cell of your being, knowing you suck, your goal will be to write two pages every goddamn day, but you can hardly write two godforsaken paragraphs and they are, simply put, pitiful -- you write, revise, revise, write, write, revise move on to chapter three and it will be the slowest chapter of your life -- ever -- but you push through to chapter four and it won't be so bad because you reward yourself with food, it's the only joy left, you eat chocolate! chips! wasabi peas! -- a lot -- constantly, really, until your sides overflow your pajama bottoms, but it's worth it because you're writing and someday, when you sell the book, you'll be able to afford those Spanx, then on and on you write, and at this point, when your finger hovers over that delete key it won't linger there quite so long as before, resignation will be your constant companion, until one morning an epiphany strikes you between the eyes and you dare to believe you're a freaking genius, and you write and it's hard but no longer excruciating, just hard as hell, but you're writing and you see an impending shape and that keeps you moving forward because if you don't move forward it's not as if you're going to fall backward, worse, you'll just stand still and that's when you'll fall off the grid completely, so you move forward and you fully see -- there! -- the path you're on, strewn as it is with enormous boulders you must surmount every few miles, you become familiar with the people accompanying you on this journey, your darling characters, and you start to love these people -- who exist only in your head and on your page, crazy you! -- more than most people in your real life (which doesn't feel quite so real anymore) and you care for them and your soul starts to inhabit their (paper) bodies but they're real (aren't they?), and you write them with your heart and head, you bleed for them, and then the end is only a chapter or two away and you begin to slow down, not wanting it to end, not wanting to lose the omnipotence of breathing life and loss and love into these people -- and what if you get the ending wrong and all of this is for naught?! -- but you won't because you always intended to go there, right there and a spot to the left, and finally you do write the end and you make yourself cry and are convinced, most days, it is probably, mostly, hopefully good enough, at least it's the best you can do at this point in your life, and you hit save draft, stand, stretch, walk away, rush back, and start again -- at the beginning.