- Try to remember why you’re doing this in the first place. Your first book was most likely a passion project to begin with, a personal challenge which, while hard work, may not have had the same weight of expectation (your own and others’) that you feel in your current project. You may want the next book to be bigger, more successful, to reach more people, to win prizes and so on. While these are somewhat natural long-term goals, try to steer away from all that now and then. Fear can be paralysing, and one way to help you relax is to remember that it’s hard to create something meaningful if you’re always attempting to accommodate career goals to creative pursuits. If the pleasure of creating original work was to break away from the structure of a more formal path in life, then formalising the creative process will end up feeling like dishonesty.
- You have to strike a balance between remembering some of what you learnt and forgetting other parts. Whether it’s related to sentence-level technicalities, the flow from chapter to chapter, dos and don’ts of characterisation, or the general thematic structure you’re working on, you have to try and Internalise the lessons of your past project (I don’t think it’s possible not to, after all), but with the understanding that these differ in each story and may not be applicable in the same manner. Connected to this is also the fact that the best novels are always attempting to work something out, and if you start a book with the answers in front of you, you’ll find yourself bogged down by the lack of moments of discovery.
- Work from the assumption that while you are now more familiar with the path ahead, the creative process itself may be just as taxing as it was the first time. In other words, try not to set your expectations of yourself disproportionately high, or any moment of difficulty – a character that doesn’t quite work, or a scene you’re not sure should even exist – will weigh on you like failure.
- Just like with your first book, you won’t be able to say or do absolutely everything you ever wanted with the next one. That means re-adjusting the sense of finality that a first book can give you: the whole ‘I made it’ or ‘I’m finally published’ or all those initial stepping stones. Make sure you understand that this is just part of your life and career as a writer, a longer process, and not the end goal. Your objective is no longer to be out there, but to keep doing it.
- Don’t attempt to completely define the audience of your first project and then write to please them. I don’t think anyone would openly say that this is what they’re doing, and some may try to avoid the awareness that this is what, deep down, they may be thinking of doing. Of course, you’ll have a notion of your readership, but to create a version of a public that is unified in tastes, expectations and responses is impossible and, well, false. Positive reviews, reading events, commissioned pieces, all of them feel great, but they’re largely outside of your control. Instead, use your energy to focus on the story, to write something honest that you truly care about. Ironically, that’s what your readers most likely responded to in your first book.
Gonzalo C. Garcia is a writer and Senior Teaching Fellow in Creative Writing in the Warwick Writing Programme. His recent novel, We Are The End is heavily influenced by his marked interest in Santiago de Chile, video games, digital culture and everyday constructions of narrative. It was nominated for the Edinburgh Festival First Novel Award 2017 and launched in October with Galley Beggar Press.
Directed by Maureen Freely and David Morley, the Warwick Writing Programme at University of Warwick prides itself in having writing staff who not only teach but are also published authors involved in the writing industry and literary scenes. It has just opened an exciting PhD programme in Creative Writing (https://goo.gl/3pdiB9) alongside its internationally recognised flagship BA and MA programmes.
For more on the Warwick Writing Programme: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/english/writingprog/