How To Survive Writing Your Second Novel – Fab Guest Post by @bookish_yogi

Many creative moons ago I asked bestselling romance author Rachel Burton to write me a guest post. If you don’t know Rachel, let me tell you about her. She’s the author of The Many Colours of Us, The Things We Need To Say and The Pieces of You & Me.

Here is the guest post from Rachel. I love this post because Rachel gives good practical advice. 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that second books are difficult beasts. There is a lot of expectation, particularly if your first has done well, there is usually a deadline and often a lot of people’s opinions to take into account.

All in all it’s very different to writing your first – which in general you are often writing completely for yourself.

I spent the best part of three years on my first book. I wrote my second in eleven months. In that time I re-wrote the whole thing twice and went through two big structural edits; one with my agent and one with my editor. It was eye-opening to say the least and here are a few things I learned:-

1. Trust your gut

As I said, there will probably be a lot more people involved in this book. With your first will mostly have been all alone, or at most being buoyed along by friends or a writing group. I wrote my debut The Many Colours of Us by myself in my free time, while working full-time and running a business. I didn’t take it very seriously until it was almost finished. In truth I never really believed it would be finished until it got there.

Book 2 was very different. I had a lot of people around me offering support and advice – my publisher, my editor, my agent. On the plus side this was great because when I got stuck I had people to bounce ideas off, people to suggest different themes that I could explore, people to help me develop characters. On the negative side…I had a lot of people around me offering support and advice!! Ever heard the phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth,’?

If you don’t trust your gut with your second novel there’s a chance this might happen. I got to a point where my agent, myself and my editor all had a different set of ideas about where the book should go. In the end I had to back away, spend some time alone with my characters – and this is what led to the first major rewrite.

Your editor and agent want your book to do well, they want to help you produce the best work you possibly can. But at the end of the day you know your characters, you know how they would behave – take all the advice you’ve been given but ultimately trust your characters and yourself.

2. Plan, plan, plan

Confession. I didn’t plan my first book at all. I just sat down and wrote and waited to see what would happen. This is part of the reason it took three years.

Now I know planning doesn’t work for everyone, but I realised that if I had to write a book in a year I needed to know exactly where I was going. I split the book into three acts and I worked out exactly what would happen in each act – beginning, middle and end. This helped me write a specific number of words per week that I would need to reach my goal. I can’t plan chapter by chapter like some people do, but I really found this method helped me have a clearer path to my end goal.

3. Get a betareader

Betareaders are kind people who will read and comment honestly on your work. There will come a point in your drafting and editing when you, your agent and your editor will all be a little bit too close to the book to get perspective. This is where a betareader is invaluable. I was lucky enough to have three wonderful readers who all read different drafts and all helped immeasurably (you guys know who you are!).

I know it’s a scary prospect letting other people read your book but remember, by this point you’ve got a book out in the world and lots of people are reading it. Take a deep breath and give it a go – I have never regretted asking a betareader to help out.

4. Read, read, read

This one is self-explanatory. Keep reading – read in your genre, around your genre, outside of your genre. Read fiction and non-fiction, read the news, read everything. You never know where inspiration might come from. I tend to read in my own genre while I’m sitting on an idea and during the first draft and then when it comes to second drafts and subsequent edits I read outside of my genre (mostly in case I accidentally plagiarise, but also for a break).

5. Keep being you!

You are completely unique, your narrative voice, your characters, the way you choose to tell a story.

Write the story you want to tell. Your agent and editor will help you tell that story in the best possible way so that it can (hopefully!) be commercially successful – but ultimately this is all you.

While working with my editor on the last edit of my second book we came across an idea we didn’t agree on. Eventually (after a sleepless night) I broached the subject of not being happy with this edit. When I explained why to my editor she was on my side and helped me work the book in a different way.

So before you start work on an edit you are not 100% comfortable with remember: it’s your name on the cover.

Thank you Rachel. 

If you are about to start writing your second, I wish you well, my friend.

Have a great day.

5 Things I Wish I Had Known Whilst Writing My First Novel #Writing @bookish_yogi 

Today’s post is a little bit special.

Rachel Burton, author of The Many Colours of Us’, has written an amazing guest post for me. ‘The Many Colours of Us’ is her fabulous debut novel and it is attracting some great reviews.

Rachel is definitely one to watch and I just hope she remembers taking over my little blonde blog for the day when she’s uber famous. Sigh.

So here she is – Rachel Burton with her guest post ‘5 Things I Wish I had Known Whilst Writing My First Novel’. 

Rachel B pic

Writing your first novel can be a frustrating business. You lurch between the highs of your writing actually coming together for, perhaps, the first time in your life to the lows of rejection and wondering if it will ever happen for you; if you’ll ever get an agent or a book deal.

Hindsight is always a wonderful thing, but when I look back on writing my first novel I realise what an amazing time it was and it’s something that I’ll never experience again. Yes there were some terrible lows, but I wish I’d celebrated the highs a little bit more instead of constantly stressing about getting on to the “next” thing or being able to put the word “writer” in my twitter bio without feeling like fraud.

So, if you’re writing your first novel, try to enjoy it and here are a few things I wish I’d known then.

1. Take your time.

I was in a rush to get finished so that I could send my book out to agents and begin the exciting process of getting published. Firstly, that process isn’t as exciting as you might think. Rejection aside it takes forever and is the biggest test in patience I have ever known. Secondly, if this book you’re writing does get published you may never get this kind of time and freedom to write again.

I wrote my first novel to my own time frame, my own agenda and my own plot twists. I had no idea about market trends or submission dates or any of that. I just wrote. I tried to hurry it and I wish I hadn’t because writing my second novel under a deadline is stressful. Don’t get me wrong, I love it and I am so delighted to have the chance to write a second novel, but nothing beats the slow languorous pace of your first time!

2. Write what you like

Like I said, I had no idea about market trends when I was writing my first novel, but I did have an idea about my genre – after all aside from historical, contemporary romance is my favourite! I made the mistake in the beginning of trying to be like other people, of trying to write for a market I thought was out there. With your first book you get to write what you like and what you love. And if you don’t you will never find your voice. I never really found out who Julia (my heroine in THE MANY COLOURS OF US) was until I stopped caring about what anyone else was doing.

3. Share

All new writers are scared of showing their work to other people, but it really wasn’t until I started to share my work with other writers that my writing really kicked up a gear. If you want your writing to be of the high-caliber literary agents are looking for, you must be brave enough to share. I have been incredibly lucky to meet amazing writers who have helped me so much along the way, giving constructive criticism and support.

I highly recommend the WoMentoring project – this project offers free mentoring by professional literary women to talented up and coming female writers.

I’m a mentor on the project and am currently accepting mentees – you can apply to be my mentee and I can help get whip your WIP into shape (apply here https://womentoringproject.co.uk/fiction-writers/rachel-burton/).

4. Be Persistent

When it comes to sending your novel out to agents, don’t give up. Remember that just because one agent rejects you, doesn’t mean the next one won’t fall in love with your book. I can’t remember how many times I’ve been rejected over the years and I know for a fact I was rejected twice by the agency that signed me in the end! Be persistent, keep sending your work out and do take on board any criticism or advice an agent might give you. And keep polishing your work all the time, keep honing your craft, keep getting better. Just keep writing.

5. Be Unequivocally You

This is probably the most important one of them all really. No matter what, no matter how hard it gets or how many rejections you might end up with always be true to yourself. You have a unique voice, don’t let it get silenced by comparison, or self-doubt. Use it to write what you love, to say the things that are important to you and to wear your heart on your sleeve. Because when you do get published those are the things your readers will love about you the most.

 

RACHEL BURTON

Rachel Burton has been making up stories since she first learned to talk. After many false starts she finally made one up that was worth writing down.

She has a BA in Classics and an MA in English and has never really known what to do when she grew up. She has worked as a waitress, a legal secretary and a yoga teacher.

She has spent most of her life between Cambridge and London but is currently on a sabbatical in the North with her boyfriend and three cats. The main loves of her life are The Beatles and very tall romantic heroes.

C2RgYdhR

What if your life was built on lies?

Julia Simmonds had never been bothered about not knowing who her father was. Having temperamental supermodel, Philadelphia Simmonds, as a mother was more than enough. Until she discovers she’s the secret love-child of the late, great artist Bruce Baldwin, and her life changes forever.

Uncovering the secrets of a man she never knew, Julia discovers that Bruce had written her one letter, every year until her eighteenth birthday, urging his daughter to learn from his mistakes.

Julia begins to dig deeper into the mysterious past of her parents, opening up a history she’d never have imagined, but as she discovers the truth she needs to decide if she is willing to forgive and forget…

A huge thank you to Rachel for this wonderful guest post! 

If you want to learn more about Rachel and her work click here.

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