Some comment in some post on somebody’s blog jinxed me. I don’t remember anything about it other than the commenter said many authors release only one book. He said they suffer from “second-book-itis.” I asked him to define it, but he never did.
He doesn’t have to. I’ve discovered for myself what it is. I’m struggling against it, fighting with everything in me to ward it off.
But it’s evil disease-spreading claws are just inches from my skin.
1. Panic, which often is caused by learning the craft. The more I learn about writing, the harder it is for me to write. I’ve become more discriminating in what I consider “good,” and am particularly vicious when critiquing my own efforts. I wonder when people are going to realize I’m a fraud. That’s when panic sets in. It’s only a matter of time before the entire reading and writing world shakes its accusing cyberfinger at me and shouts, “Fraud! Pretender!”
I have to remind myself daily that my WIP is ” just a first draft. It’s gonna be trash.” I struggle every day to “just get it written!” It doesn’t help when my suspicion that it’s trash is verified upon the re-read. I ripped out a chunk from the manuscript last week and spent a day in mourning over the loss of my writing abilities.
2. Fear, which can take on several forms at once. I described the first fear in #1. Folks are going to find out I’m a fraud. That’s the worst fear. Others are similar, and feed the fear that I’m a fraud: (a) Fear that I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to finish my WIP, or give up on it entirely (you don’t know how close I’ve come), (b) fear that I won’t come up with another valid idea for a good novel, (c) fear that I’ve locked myself into a genre so specific that I’ll lose readers if I shift to another.
3. Loathing, which can be directed at a variety of people and things. Currently, I’m ticked at the guy who introduced me to the term “second-book-itis” because, as I said, he jinxed me. More often than not, I hate whatever I’m working on (going back to #1). Then, there’s self-loathing (aka “self-hatred”). This is a biggie so common Harlan Coben mentioned it in the January 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest. This is a natural reaction that goes hand in hand with the panic and fear. According to Harlan, the best thing to do with it is to use it, which sounds great. It does provide some pretty strong emotions, the bulk of which can turn my romantic comedies into dark tragedies in a heartbeat.
Loathing can be directed at activities, too. Right now, at the top of my list, are cyber marketing and promotion. I can’t get the hang of them. I can’t tell that anything I’m doing is affecting sales. I’m inundated with a variety of how-to books and blogs and entrepreneurs offering to do it for me at a price I’m getting more tempted to pay.
Right about now, my writing partner is pointing a finger at me, saying, “Aha! See? I told you!” (We’re working on a thriller together, which I’ll have to publish under a pseudonym because I’ve locked myself into a genre so specific I’ll lose readers if I shift to another). He’s pretty well convinced that cybermarketing doesn’t do diddly, and I’m pretty well convinced I wouldn’t have had sales in California and Washington State without it. But I stink at it.
Back to the second-book-itis, the fact that I stink at marketing makes me wonder whether having a second book out will make it easier or harder. I knew when I started that Give the Lady a Ride was my intro into the world. Knew not to expect miracles of Shack proportions. I have to keep reminding myself that this is the road most of us take over a landscape of bipolar peaks and valleys.
There are two cures for second-book-itis: One is to give in to it and give up on writing and everything associated with it. This cure is the easiest, because it takes the pressure off. Write only what you want, when you want, and don’t worry if it’s crap. Don’t fret over getting it “out there.”
The other is to keep plugging. Write only what you want, when you want, and don’t worry if it’s crap. Don’t fret over getting it “out there.” Get it written and worry about the rest when you arrive at that bend in the road.
Many authors go through this, whether it’s their second book or their seventy-second. Maybe all authors suffer from it periodically and just don’t admit it.
As for me, I spend every morning giving myself a pep talk as I do my cybermarketing, every afternoon writing my piece of trash WIP, and every evening threatening to yank myself out of cyberspace. Sometimes I have really good days, and the cycle is broken.
Maybe you can tell, I haven’t had one of those days recently.