Hi all! One of the many joys on the road to publishing, and beyond, is having the opportunity to meet and get to know other fellow authors. The beauty of blogging is that I get to share those connections with you!
What follows is a guest post by one such friend-author, Selah Tay-Song. Please enjoy! I can tell you, as someone currently toiling through writing their second book, it’s a huge relief to know my struggle is far from unique.
Lessons Learned from the Dreaded Second Book
(Guest Post by Selah Tay-Song)
A couple of years back, I attended a writing conference where the keynote speaker, Author Jim Lynch, said that the second book is always the hardest book for an author to write.
He explained that whether the first book was a raving success and you are terrified that the second book won’t be up to the same standard, or the first book was a flop and you are reeling with disappointment, it’s hard.
He went on to say that while the second book is particularly challenging, it never gets easier. Even the most prolific bestselling author will still have a hard time sitting down and starting another book.
At the time I hadn’t even finished Dreams of QaiMaj Book I, so I didn’t take his words too much to heart. Now that I am launching Dream of a City of Ruin, Dreams of QaiMaj Book II, I understand exactly what he meant. The challenges to writing book two were different from the first, but no less daunting.
In addition to being both terrified that the second book wouldn’t live up to the standard I’d set with the first book, and disappointed in the performance of the first book, I faced three seemingly insurmountable writing challenges while writing Dream of a City of Ruin:
- DCR is a “journey” story (the main characters spend most of the book traveling from point a to point b) which is really hard for me to write (I’m an action kinda gal).
- The two main characters in DCR have to go from being mortal enemies (literally, they tried to kill each other at the end of the first book) to bonded allies. And the reader has to buy this development.
- The scope of DCR was dramatically larger than the scope of the first book. The setting widened, the number of important characters increased, and the stakes grew much higher.
So how did I rise to these challenges?
For the first one, I read a lot of journey stories, and focused on journey or transitory portions of several of my favorite series. What I found that kept me engaged in these kinds of stories, almost overwhelmingly, were two things: one, the characters underwent an emotional journey that mirrored the physical journey, and two, there were actually plenty of ways to keep the tension and action high during the journey—have the heroes being pursued, or put obstacles in their path, or put them in conflict with each other.
For the second challenge, I relied largely on my editor and beta readers. I had a vision of where I wanted the character’s relationship to be when I finished, but there were a lot of places where I moved too fast, where the characters acted too accepting or friendly before it was reasonable for them to do so. My big learning experience with this project was patience, and a big part of that was being patient with these two characters, letting them figure things out at their own pace.
For the third challenge, I had to adapt my writing process. I spent a lot more time planning Dream of a City of Ruin than I ever have before when drafting a book. Not only did I plan out the plot carefully, I also planned out each individual character’s arc. Once I sat down to write, I had a much more clear idea of how everything should play out than I did writing the first book.
Patience, planning, writing in community, and research were my big take-aways from the experience of writing Dream of a City of Ruin. I will certainly be carrying these valuable lessons with me as I continue to write the Dreams of QaiMaj series!
What was your biggest writing challenge recently, and how did you overcome it? Leave a note in the comments and let me know!
Selah J Tay-Song is living proof that if you persevere, you’ll catch your dreams. She decided to be an author at the age of six. It took her 25 years to learn how to write a book. Today she is the author of the award-winning Dreams of QaiMaj series, described as magical, poetic and engrossing. When she’s not writing epic fantasy, Selah blogs about everything she wished she knew before she wrote her first book. When she’s not writing, Selah is stalking the urban river otters that live near her home in the Pacific Northwest.
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Dream of a City of Ruin:
Check out Selah’s latest book, Dream of a City of Ruin, available March 20th, 2015! The tale of QaiMaj continues in this gripping sequel to Dream of a Vast Blue Cavern:
War simmering for three thousand years is poised to explode on the surface of QaiMaj. The outcome might free the scattered survivors of an ancient disaster from tyranny, or destroy them forever.
Torn from familiar caverns in the midst of her own war, stranded in the icy lands of Khell, Queen Stasia of Iskalon knows nothing of the conflicts shaping QaiMaj. Her only guides are legends told by a Khell Healer and her own prophetic Dreams of her people suffering in a dark, ruined city. Unwillingly allied with the man who destroyed everything she holds dear, struggling to define her identity in the face of so much loss, stalked and assailed by death-hungry Dhuciri, Stasia sets out across the vast wastelands of QaiMaj to reach the city of her Dreams.
But Svardark, the ruling dynasty on QaiMaj, already knows she has surfaced, and they will stop at nothing to find her in . . .
Dream of a City of Ruin
Dreams of QaiMaj Book II