Writing a book was one of the hardest things I've ever done. It takes discipline, time, bravery and serious commitment. When I finally submitted my quirky science fiction book, "Journey to Ohmani," I felt like I had just busted through the finish line ribbon at a marathon. Then, I remembered, there's a second one and I felt this heaviness come over me. This blog is about my experience and thoughts on writing a sequel. It really came with an entirely different dose of challenges, but I busted through the ribbon again.
This book was much harder to push through. I had writer's block that would last weeks! One time I even took a three month hiatus. I would sit down to write and go on social media. I would set-up somewhere without internet and start mixing wedding music. It was BAD.
"Journey to Ohmani" has done pretty well. My goal was never to make money, just for the story to be well-received. In general, I just felt more pressure with book 2. It had to be just as good because no one likes a crappy sequel. Most of the pressure came from my own fear that I couldn't produce another great story. Would I be a one-book-wonder? I don't know who to give credit to for this quote, but I love it...bad writers say "I suck, I suck, I suck," and stop writing. Good writers say "I suck, I suck, I suck," and keep writing. I've learned that pressure and fear of failure are so natural and even important in the writing process. You just have to make one with it and embrace the fact that you will be second-guessing yourself a lot.
I knew from the beginning that "Across the Infinite Void" was going to be a series, but writing book one was definitely a fluid process where I let the story take me along with it. The experience was fun and I was very open to the twists and turns that came along. A weird analogy I can think of is book 1 was almost like a "fling" where I wasn't committed to an overall storyline or ending. One of the hardest parts about writing a sequel in a three-part series is that the story has to tie in to the first and the third books. I know...duh, right? But I found myself really pressured. I needed to write a book that made the series cohesive, yet was able to stand on its own as a great read.
One of the reasons it took a year and a half to get the second one out was that I actually had to completely re-write the first quarter of the book. I wasn't happy with it. I was writing another adventure, this time with Talon, and I felt like I was wasting time taking the reader on a frolicking story of chaos (which, in this case, is a good thing as a space adventure). I decided to put the computer away and take some time. I thought for hours walking the beach with my dog or just minutes sitting at a traffic light. This book had to be just as entertaining, but I didn't have so much freedom. I feel like not jumping back into the writing, not letting the pressure get to me, was what I needed to relax, regroup, and tighten up the storyline. It was an important lesson for me that some of the most critical times as a writer are those that are spent not writing.
Another challenge was character development. A lot of the reviews from readers praise how much they love the characters...especially Bockie ;) On one hand, writing a sequel means you get to stick with the same characters. I feel like I know them. I know what each of them would do and say in certain situations, which makes it easier to write scenes. On the other hand, this book takes place five years later, and so your characters are not the same...at least I hope they are not static. They have grown and matured and experienced things that have influenced them. What has it been and why? It was a challenge and a joy to write my characters anew. Now to the biggest challenge...
As an author, you hold people's hearts in your hands sometimes. They trust you. I have a confession to make. Everyone has loved the second book more than the first, but not everyone has liked the ending. It's not a cliffhanger, it's just not entirely cheery. It's hard to hear, but I challenged people's expectations and I believe in the art I am creating. People were hoping for the same tone and happy ending as "Journey to Ohmani," but from the beginning I wanted to make this book and the next more mature. The characters have grown, after all. Levi and Talon are now working adults who have been dating for five years and there is a very serious terror threat looming in their world. Bockie will be there to make you laugh, but I will warn you, it's going to get darker before anyone gets a happy ending. I'm 100% happy with my vision, and another lesson I have learned is to trust myself. As much as you want to please everybody, you need to stand by your vision and see it through. In the meantime, I am just taking it as a compliment that people are that invested in the characters to be upset by an ending.
I'm sure my third book will come with its own set of challenges, which I look forward to. I plan on taking a few months break to mull and process and brainstorm. I want to finish my series with a worthy ending. Please buy my book when it comes out on JULY 20th! You can buy it early at Ancient City Con. Jacksonville friends, you can also get the second book for $5 if you review the first one!!!!! Thanks for sticking with it and supporting me. I do it because I believe in the stories and it's so amazing to know that there are so many of you that believe in them too!