See that book I’m holding in the photo (don’t look at my hair, please). That’s my novel DARK GREEN, the first in the Mangas County Mysteries series. When I published it last fall I didn’t know it was going to need a subtitle. I mean, I knew that it was the first in a series but I guess I thought it would be the Dark Green series. Maybe it should be. I don’t know, I’ve never done a series before. Maybe it doesn’t need a title for the series on top of one for the books. Duh!
You’d think that after writing the first book, the second should be easy. But hahahaha, no.
You write a book, you gotta promote the book. So I’ve been trying to be a good girl and promote DARK GREEN even though it’s time consuming, not much fun, and frustrating because every moment I spend doing PR I’m not writing or editing the sequel. It took months to get the rough draft of the sequel done. I took a break and am supposed to be cleaning it up so I can get the plot with the MS to the editor for a developmental edit. This is where the editor looks at the big picture, evaluates the story and the scenes that go into the story.
Kind of like seeing the forest rather than the trees.
This is where genre matters. Plot requirements for each genre exist because that’s what readers expect from a book. A romance has different requirements than a mystery, a thriller, horror, fantasy, or science fiction book, to name a few, though genres can be mixed and matched, too. A mystery needs a crime, someone to solve it, obstacles, clues/red herrings, victims, and a bad guy or two or three with motive and opportunity. The actual nature of the mystery has to remain mysterious till towards the end. Nobody likes to read a mystery that tells you everything in the first chapter and then you’ve got 300 more pages to read. But on the other hand, there needs to be clues. There has to be at least some chance that the reader could solve the crime before the detective or cop or amateur sleuth does.
Simple, huh? When I started writing DARK GREEN I knew who got bumped off and who was going to catch the bad guy, but all the rest was a mystery to me (haha). Note that this was in spite of having written the whole thing already but with a different crime solver, a different POV narrator, and a different killer (different title, too). I had to basically rewrite the book because that first attempt was awful. I had to accept it as a learning experience and move on. It had taken literally years of my time to get to the point where I had to throw up my hands and start over, but start over I did.
The second attempt, renamed DARK GREEN, took forever to iron out, “forever” being three rounds with the editor, maybe half a year. Believe me, it felt like forever. It was hard work, too. Yeah, sure, maybe Stephen King advises knocking out the first draft in three months, and estimates it should take no longer than a year to get a book to the publisher, but while I’d like that to be the case for me it’s still just a goal I’m aiming for, not a description of where I’m at now.
I don’t know about other writers, but writing the second book started out feeling easier than the first one but somewhere in the middle it shed its baby teeth and the fangs grew in. The claws came out. It fought me. I had these great ideas and the draft said, so what, they don’t add up to a proper mystery. I moved scenes around. It felt like the right thing to do, but then I had to go back and make sure everything worked with the new scene placements, and the new scenes all had to be rewritten to be in sync with what now came before it instead of after. For example, the third chapter was moved to the end, and that meant that some of the information revealed when that chapter was early in the book had to be woven into the story elsewhere and deleted from the end location, where it was too late to be learning that information.
Plus somewhere along the line I realized that there were sub-plots in DARK GREEN that had to either be continued or wrapped up in the sequel. That meant I had to know when/where/how each of those sub-plots were left in DARK GREEN and make sure I dealt with them in DG2 (yes the sequel has a name but I’m not telling yet). You’d think this would be a no-brainer, but in fact I could barely remember what went on in the first book. I mean, I wrote it a couple years ago and I’ve slept a whole bunch since then. Thank goodness I’ve got the digital manuscript so I could do searches. I had to make sure people’s names were the same, that the timing of events worked for both books, that the physical locations I used were the same, and on and on.
All while being “creative”.
My deadline for getting that first draft to the editor was five weeks ago. I blew it. I mean, the draft was done, but the rough part of “rough draft” was really truly rough. As in awful. I think. Because here’s the biggest obstacle for me. I can’t remember the whole story of DG2. It’s changed enough times that I’m not sure what’s what and where it is. Plot? What’s that you say? Is there a plot? I don’t know. I can’t remember! Yes, I’m sure that sounds weird to some people, but surely I can’t be the only author who can’t shuffle around 98,000 words and then remember the new order.
I’m going to email my editor and ask if I can just lay the whole thing on him. Is that cheating? I don’t know. He can always send it back and tell me to work it over some more, but he was the one to say I should end my draft to him soon as it was done. I just don’t know if he realizes that my draft is… well, rough.
I guess we both will find out.
By the way, if you’ve got a book you want to sell online, here’s a link to the video: https://youtu.be/ZDXlPNI7Vw8