JOURNAL OF A DEBUT AUTHOR - CHAPTER FOUR: Does receiving a book contract change how you write new manuscripts?
Of course everyone writes differently.
Some authors take years to write a new first draft and others take a few weeks.
To be honest I write fairly fast, and definitely have manuscripts piling up around me a lot faster than they could ever be published (because the publishing process is sloooooowwww).
Over the years my writing process has changed as I learn new skills and better ways to do what I want to do, yet the biggest disruption I have so far experienced has definitely come in the wake of the (fantastic) news that one of my novels was going to be published. Like for real. By a publisher, soon to be out in the world.
Suddenly, after writing 5 manuscripts I’m very proud of (and 2 very early manuscripts I am somewhat less proud of) I was all at once no longer writing only for myself.
Suddenly I felt like I had an audience (even though technically I don’t have an audience yet as my publishing date hasn’t arrived yet), I felt like it mattered what I was writing because I was going to be judged.
I kept writing and writing, and pushing myself and wondering why on earth stuff wasn’t working like it normally does.
My realisation now, is that it wasn’t working because I was writing with an entirely different mindset to ever before.
I was writing and all the while I was thinking, would this be a good follow up to my soon to be published novel?
If people like that book, would they like this one?
Is it close enough in style?
Is it good enough?
Or what if they hate my debut?
Is this better than my first published novel?
It has to be better. Is it better?
So for the first time in my life, I wasn’t writing for myself. I was writing self-consciously. For other people who don’t even exist yet.
So that is fairly dumb.
I’ve often thought about the utter pressure that second time authors must feel when they have runaway successful books (think an author like Hannah Kent – and I've listened to her thoughtful interview on the pressures of following up a super successful book on the 'So You Want to be a Writer' Podcast) but the thing I never expected, was that I could ever feel a semblance of that pressure too.
But I did.
And it changed the kind of story I was writing, shaped it and squeezed it and made the entire process that I normally adore, suddenly feel awful.
Suddenly every hour I spent writing felt like complete and utter work.
And yeah, obviously writing can be very hard work, but if every single second you write is just awful and none of it is fun at all, and you end up with a book that wasn’t written exactly how you wanted it to be written, then I just can’t imagine what any of it is for.
So the biggest shift for someone who is a debut author or soon to be published author, is that writing changes from a hobby into a business.
That is my take on this whole situation.
That is not a bad thing. I’m serious about my work. Serious about my novels. Serious about my career as an author.
I want to do well. I want the opportunity to write more books and publish more books.
I’m no longer sitting alone at home writing only for myself with no intention of ever getting an audience.
So of course things have to change.
Writing as a Business and Viewing Novels as Products.
Is what I say to that.
I guess that has always been my initial reaction to a statement like the above. Just yuck.
And yet.... if you seriously want to be an author with multiple books published, it is true that as soon as your book is accepted by a publisher it becomes more of a product than an art form. And this is fine. Publishing houses are businesses. They exist to bring good books into the world. And to make money.
To ignore that fact is only silly.
So yes, books are a product.
So do you want to have a pool of products that have similar vibes and genres and stories so as to appeal to the same audience?
Or do you want to shoot off into the dark each time you get published and hope you’ll find an audience every time?
These are the things that were running through my mind and making it difficult for me to write.
In my previous post on this topic, I think I managed to sort out how to get past this dilemma, and find the joy in writing the story I want again (which you can read HERE).
I think there are two parts to that solution:
So I guess newbie authors need to find some sort of balance between these two.
A bit of both.
And I guess I’ll let you know how that works out in the future, if I manage to get this other novel off the ground.
If you are interested, here is some related reading from my blog!
Thanks so much for reading.
If you are a writer, I'd love to know your thoughts on writing a second book (no matter if you are published or not, this is a huge process either way) and if you aren't a writer, I'd still absolutely love to know your thoughts!