I thought I’d escaped second novel syndrome. By the time my first novel was out, I already had the first words of the second novel queuing up in my head, clamouring to be written down.
Speak Its Name didn’t make much of a splash, and that was something of a blessing. I was able to keep plugging away at A Spoke in the Wheel, here a word, there a paragraph, and by about April I had something that resembled a first draft.
Then I won a Betty Trask Award. And that was amazing and brilliant, and I am at this moment planning to spend my prize money on an epic Interrail trip around Europe, but it hasn’t half given the monsters a lot to talk about.
Here is a sample of some monster views on A Spoke in the Wheel:
- this one’s not going to win you any awards, you know
- it’s not as good as Speak Its Name
- it is NEVER going to be as good as Speak Its Name
- and everyone who reads both will know that and you will DISAPPOINT THEM
- you’re a one-hit wonder
- everyone who was impressed by the award? NOT IMPRESSED ANY MORE!
- you have to create a COHERENT BRAND!!!
- write what you know!!! why are you not WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW???
But that’s monsters for you. They don’t want you putting a substandard product out there, because then PEOPLE WILL LAUGH AT YOU.
And you know, it’s a reasonable point, if only they could make it without all the screaming. Nobody wants me to put a substandard product out there.
What I’d forgotten – what I always forget, every time – was that I’d been here before. I’d already run into moments of self-doubt, several times over the course of writing that first draft. I’d always been able to talk myself out of them. I thought this time was different, that this time it really was going to turn out to be unsalvageable.
That always happens, too. I always think it’s going to be unsalvageable, and it never is.
Second Novel Syndrome was only a recurrence of what had happened during the writing of the first. It’s always the same. I get a horrible sense of its not being good enough.
Then I see what’s wrong with it.
Then I see how to fix it.
And then I remember that all that the yelling really means is this:
It isn’t finished yet.