"Like you, I am writing a trilogy. I have finished the first draft of my first book and I am steadily going through it and improving areas. I really want to get my first book polished up and perfect but I have a strong urge to write book two straight away. I really like my first book but I have been looking forward to starting the second book for a long while because a lot of exciting things happen. I know I should knuckle down and get the first book re-drafted, but it is really hard to resist beginning book two. Did you experience this problem when writing your trilogy?"Rebecca, sweetie, who told you that you 'should' knuckle down and redraft your first book? Do you have a Writer's-Rule-Fairy sat on your shoulder giving you orders? Because if so, my advice is to slowly reach out for an old magazine, roll it up, and swat that thing off. Then stomp on it. Hard.
|No, YOU listen, you annoying little beggar...|
(Obviously there are rules and 'shoulds' once you get into trying to land an agent and a publishing contract, but that's an entirely different ballgame. We move on).
When I finished The Night Itself (the first book in The Name of the Blade trilogy), all I wanted to do was dive straight into the next book. I was desperate to stay with my characters, stay with my story, just keep going. It felt so completely natural that I never questioned it. There was this immense rush of creative energy and enthusiasm. I could feel, instinctively, just how to begin, and just where my characters were going to go next. It was amazing. I fully intended to put The Night Itself to one side to 'mature' for about a month, so that I could get some distance from it and do a better job of revising it. Why not do what my heart and my instincts were telling me to do and have FUN with the next book in the meantime? I even signed up for NaNoWriMo, figuring that this would add to the fun factor.
Do you know what happened next?
I tripped over my dog's bed and got a herniated disc in my spine. Unceasing agony in anything approaching an upright or sitting position forced me to do pretty much nothing for the next two weeks but lie completely flat in bed. I couldn't write like that. I tried. Oh, I tried. But it hurt too much. And by the time I'd gone through those two weeks of misery and hopeless longing and boredom, my sense of inspiration had seeped away into nothing. I couldn't find my book's starting place anymore. My characters had closed up like oysters that were startled by the shadow of a passing boat, and I couldn't pry them open. It was horrible.
I still think back to that day and that attempt to step over my dog's bed that went so disastrously wrong - in the way that only very ordinary things you do everyday without even thinking about them can go suddenly and spectacularly wrong - and curse myself for not just walking around the damned thing. Events could have gone so differently if I had.
It might sound really pointless to still be obsessing over a little thing like that eighteen months later... except that I ONLY JUST FINISHED BOOK TWO OF MY TRILOGY THIS NOVEMBER. Which means that it took me a full year to do what I might - just might! - have been able to do in a single month, or maybe six weeks, back when I had that amazing sense of inspiration and joy, when I had that precious little bit of free space and I could have gloried in writing what I wanted to write and having fun.
Couldn't I have gloried in writing what I wanted to write and having fun after my back was healed and I was up on my feet again? Well, I tried. I coaxed and swore at my characters and wrote different versions of my beginning and eventually I got my rhythm going and started making progress on book two. But I never really got that sense of instinctive inspiration back. Besides which, real life hadn't been standing still, even if *I* had (or rather, lying still). My boiler broke down, and then I was snowed in, and then Christmas came and brought the first round of The Night Itself edits, and then my dad's care routine changed, and then MORE TNI edits came back... all stuff that needed to be dealt with while still getting a certain number of words down per day.
You get the point I'm trying to make here?
Professional writers have to do without inspiration a lot. We have to force ourselves to write, because there are deadlines to meet and we need to keep on moving the story forward. Over time you learn that some of the best stuff you write can grow out of stubbornly putting one word in front of the other with gritted teeth - which means there's really no excuse for *not* writing, even when you'd rather be doing anything else. And once you find yourself in that desirable position of having a couple of books contracted for publication, you also often have to put aside things that you're in love with right now so that you can work on other stuff, stuff that has a contract and a deadline, because if you don't turn this set of edits in on time not only do you let your editor and publisher down, you don't get the next part of your advance. Which is helpful for, you know, eating.
But that? Just makes the times when you do suddenly and inexplicably connect with your creativity all the more precious. I once wrote non-stop, longhand, for over eight hours, because I was in the grip of irresistable inspiration. By the next day I felt like I had been put through a blender. My eyes were full of sand, my head ached, and my hand swelled up and became so painful that I had to ice it and take anti-inflammatories. And it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. That was one of the best days of my life as a writer. I would do it again tomorrow if I felt the siren call of inspiration.
(You can read the product of that day in the final two chapters of The Night Itself, by the way).
From how you're phrasing this question I'm going to guess that you don't have a publisher or a deadline, sweetie - it seems less like you're worrying about how to manage your time and more like you're just unsure of the 'right' way to go about things. So here's my advice. The right way is the way that lights you up with happiness and makes you feel right.
Follow your inspiration. It's one of those few things in life that you will never truly regret doing, no matter how everything turns out in the end - and one of those things you always regret, often for a really long time, if you don't.