MINE, ALL MINE
‘Second Novelitis’ is hard.
First, because you’ve left Novel One in edit mode and it takes time to make the transition back to creative mode. Second, because you’ve (probably) faced a whole heap of rejection and lost much of your starry-eyed innocence and hope. Third, because Novel One’s been a steep learning curve in terms of the craft of writing and suddenly you're self-conscious about every idea, every word, every turn of the plot. Is it ‘good’ enough? Is it ‘right?’ It’s hard to focus in on the emerging energy of a new story and new characters when your anxious writerly antennae are swivelling to pick up imaginary critiques from the outside world. I’ve been stuck in this rut for about a year after First Novel. True, life threw in some blows too, which didn’t help. But now, please raise a glass (not an eyebrow) because – taa-daaah!!! I’m writing again.
Two events have brought this into being. The first is NaNoWriMo. In a moment of sanity, I suggested to a friend that we do a private NaNo. She had 40,000 words to edit, I had that much – and much more – to write. We agreed to set daily targets, to call each other each night and to meet once a week. Thanks to this, I’ve got back into the daily habit of writing.
The second is something invaluable that the above friend said, bless her:
The first draft is for you.
The second draft is for your reader.
What a liberating thing. I’d been approaching my second novel as if it were not mine, if you see what I mean. I was continually squinting at it, trying to imagine how it might look to the outside world of agents, critiquers, publishers. It didn’t belong to me.
I realised that I needed to take ownership of my writing again. To write the story that pleases my soul, warms my heart. To just go for it and let it be what it wants to become. To be private with it, to hold it close, and allow it to come into being.
Next year, hopefully, I will be moving into the second half of the quote. I will look at my work objectively, editorially, critically. I will think about what the reader wants and I will work on my draft until it satisfies this criterion. But until then, I give myself free rein to write the way I want to.
Remember that Fawlty Towers episode where Basil manages, against all the odds, to win money on a horse? Even though he had to pay a recalcitrant guest for breaking her newly-bought pot? He handed her the money for it, and was left with a large wodge of notes. ‘What’s that?’ she asked. Basil’s face assumed a rare, satisfied smile. ‘This?’ he said, drawing the notes to his lips. ‘This is mine.’
I know how he feels.