The Difference Between Your First Novel and Your Second
I’ve heard other authors say that their second novel was much easier to write than their first novel. When the second novel comes along is usually when an author has figured out what their writing style is, what their daily writing routine is and whether or not they are a pantser or a plotter. My experience writing my second novel was completely opposite. I struggled heavily while writing my second novel and there were many times that I threw it to the side and thought about scrapping the idea altogether.
My first novel Goddess of Legend was written between February 2012 and December 2012. My inspiration for my novel was Aimee Carter’s Goddess Test series and the Greek myth of Hades and Persephone. Writing GOL was fairly easy for me. I fell in love with both Hades and Cameryn.When I finished writing GOL I was proud of myself because not only had I completed a story that I believed was beautiful, unique and moving, but after years of talking about completing a novel I had finally done it.
For a few days I basked in my accomplishment but I knew that I couldn’t just be idle. The voice inside my head was telling me to write again. I had no choice but to listen. My second novel Siren’s Choice is actually a very old idea. My heroine, Princess AaRiyaa was born as a character in my 10th grade English Honors II class during journal entry time. That was almost 10 years ago. During that time AaRiyaa made the typical journey associated with mermaids. She visited land and fell in love with a human choosing to stay with him on land. I liked my little short story but the only thing that differentiated AaRiyaa from other mermaids was that she was black. My story was too Disney-esque. In fact it was so Disney-esque that AaRiyaa and Ariel were best friends.
Needless to say Siren’s Choice was soon shelved as I did what most people do, graduate from high school and head off to college. It was probably around the time I graduated with my Bachelor’s in 2009 that I decided to pick up Siren’s Choice again. I wrote ten chapters and absolutely hated it. I liked AaRiyaa, truly I did, but I just wasn’t feeling the story being told thus far. So once again, AaRiyaa and her story went away.
In late 2011 I decided once and for all that I was going to fix Siren’s Choice. After all I loved mermaids too much not to have AaRiyaa’s story to share with the world. So I painstakingly re-wrote the first 10 chapters of the book and I started to think okay, maybe I can do this. Maybe I can write a believable adult mermaid/human romance with minority characters. Around this time however, the idea for Goddess of Legend was born and once again I put Siren’s Choice away.
With GOL finally complete I returned to Siren’s Choice with problems I didn’t expect. For starters, it was hard to dive back into the story after being so engrossed with my first novel for so long. Once I finally started going again, I ran into a problem I had never experienced while writing GOL, I didn’t love AaRiyaa and my hero Jason. In fact I didn’t particularly like them. I constantly compared them to my hero and heroine from Goddess of Legend and found them lacking.
But I struggled on writing. With GOL I did virtually no plotting. I just sat down and wrote. With SC I had to plot everything and constantly struggle to find innovative ways to make my novel different from other mermaid novels out there. As time went on I started to like SC less and less. Once Siren's Choice was finished, I stepped away from it. I was too emotionally attached to my book to look at it objectively and decide whether I should trash it or start again. So I did the next best thing. I got myself a beta reader.
My Beta reader Monica has been the first person to read either of my novels and she always gives fantastic advice. I told Monica up front that I did not love Siren’s Choice like I did Goddess of Legend. As Monica continued to read chapter after chapter she kept asking me, “What’s wrong with it? I like it.” I just couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I just kept saying, “Something’s missing. I’m afraid of it being cheesy. I don’t like it.” Monica read on and soon she was completely done. Monica gave me some words of wisdom I won’t forget.
She said to me, “Erin, this is a completely different story from Goddess of Legend. These are completely different characters. You have to give them a chance.” I thought long and hard about what she’d said to me. Monica was absolutely right. I was still so hung up on the romance I’d created between Hades and Cameryn that I wasn’t giving Jason and AaRiyaa a chance to have a romance of their own. I’d gotten comfortable writing characters with traits so similar to me that writing something new was scaring the bejesus out of me. But Monica’s words also made me realize something else, as a writer you cannot be stagnant. You must evolve. You must be willing to explore things that are outside of your norm.
Writing is all about creating worlds and emotions. You have to be willing to be open to creating new things. After taking in Monica's feedback and re-reading my story I started my second draft Siren’s Choice. Yesterday I finished the second and final draft and although it was not easy writing, Siren’s Choice is not the terrible novel I once thought it was. In fact I'm starting to look forward to have a chance to share it with the world because I believe I have created a pretty unique story.
Though writing my second story was much harder than writing my first, I have learned quite a few valuable lessons. For starters, it is okay to step out of your comfort zone and try something different. It's okay to not love your novel at first. It takes more than one draft for your story to start to shine. I also learned that no matter what you have to bulldoze your way through. You came up with an idea for a story. Not everyone can do that, so you must see your story to through the end. Don't give up on the vision in your head. But most importantly, remember all that matters at the end of the day is that you take a step towards change and see it through.