The bastardy Second Book

Now that I am, phew, oh thank god, on the other side of the Bastardy Second Book trauma (only just), I would like to share my experience of the dreaded chasm between First Book and Second Book, and what I expect is not a unique form of psychosis.

It goes thus:

1. Publish first book. Be amazed by yourself. Amazed to find it is actually read by people. Desperately try not to believe compliments. Find that, secretly, you do, or would like to, since you keep getting them, and every time you brush them off you’re told you’re too modest. Feel good. Feel enthused about the next book now you’re off to a good start.

2. Start feeling freaked out by compliments and success of first book. It’s too good to be true. It’s building unreasonable expectations. You don’t know who you are any more, and you scarcely recognise your book in people’s descriptions.You really, really want life to quieten down so you can start the next book.

3. Start complaining about the dreadful pressures of having had a success. Watch as your friends roll their eyes, try to sympathise but really, start thinking of you as ‘that dickhead’.

4. The glow fades. Attention moves elsewhere. First book now a memory. You can’t remember how you had the nerve to write it.

5. You start a new book.

6. You try not to think of its future reviewers, or readers. You can only think of its future reviewers and readers. Everything about the first draft of your new book is shit. This only confirms what you secretly fear is true: You’re an imposter. And that first book will be the only one.

7. Slump into depression.

8. Be depressed.

9. Start another new book. It is also shit.

10. Remember, with grim disbelief, that in interviews you spoke confidently about the next book you were going to write. Remember the reviews of the first that said they couldn’t wait to see what you wrote next. Mentally vomit from nerves and bafflement.

11. Wait. Perhaps five years.

12. You have decided that you have nothing to lose. You can’t help what people expect, you can’t be arsed worrying about it, who are these people anyway and what do they want? The next book will be what it will be. Work. Work. Work at it.

13. Release! The new book is going okay!

14. Glorious day when you look at the new book and you like it.

15. Momentary smugness.

16. Doubt and terror.

17. Balance.

18. Launch day and you’ve come through the worst. They say that each book is just as hard as the previous. But you know, at least, that you never, ever have to worry about the Bastardy Second Book again. At least not until people start reading it.

19. Repeat.

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9 Responses to The bastardy Second Book

  1. Virginia says:

    Kate, I’m enjoying my first visit to your website. Congratulations on the publication of your second book. This post about its path to publication has helped me because I’ve experienced some of what you went through, and have second- and third-guessed myself out of knowing my own authorial intentions with my current project. Very recently I decided to strip away more than a year’s worth of words, and return to the original conception of this book. But it’s strange to even call it a book when it’s nothing more than disconnected pieces of writing and an odd hybrid sort of shape forming in my head, if not on paper.
    As for reception and review of your work, the most you can hope for is that your writing is noticed and that over time you build an audience for your writing. Critics have been around as long as there have been writers, and they’re not going away any time soon.

    • kate says:

      Thank you Virginia, and I’m glad to hear you’re making progess with your book. Writing memoir is such a strange business — and there is a definite process of moving from writing for yourself to preparing the text for others to read. I think in a way it often mirrors the journey you describe in the book itself. A maturing thing.

      Stripping away is always good, I think. Mostly with The Romantic editing consisted of nothing but deleting – words, lines, paragraphs, passages — to pull it down into bare and honest words as much as I could. Sometimes it’s not so much how many words you use to say something as how many things you say. Anyway, I wish you luck.

      And you’re very right about critics — i am one myself! — and I know, after all, that I’m so lucky to be read at all and get any reviews. I fear I may have turned into a princess!

  2. Author Author says:

    After two moving and beautifully written books, most certainly we’d like you to keep writing.

    And we can wait, for another equally moving theme to catch your sharp gaze, to slowly shape itself in your mind’s eye, until it simply has to be let loose.

    No hurry. It’ll come when it’s ready.

  3. Great writing! I want to see a follow up to this topic..

    Kind Regards

  4. simon says:

    Funniest thing I’ve read in ages; thanks for making me laugh. (I always feel pathetically grateful to people who write funny stuff).
    And though I’ve no doubt that you felt/feel all of these things, I have to say it’s hard to reconcile this picture against the avalanche of publicity currently in progress.
    Still, good luck ‘n’ that.

    • kate says:

      Simon, what made you think I was joking?

      Joking. Glad I made you laugh at least, made me laugh too because if you didn’t laugh you’d CRY. Evidently you’re a writer and can relate. Thanks for the good luck wishes.

  5. Author Author says:

    Mmm. That’s about it. Well and bravely put.

    A friend of mine had in him the one book that he was yearning for, but struggling to “finish off”. His aim was to put something together for family – and he’d jib at “posterity”, but that was really what it was for.

    His writing ebbed and flowed as health, family, and the tying or unravelling of loose threads dictated. Rightly or wrongly, once he’d recovered from a stroke I egged him on to find a neat way to an ending. A way to say that the loose ends, the puzzles all but solved but still wrapped in the mists of the past, could be still be a part of the whole fabric, their near but imperfect completeness noted as the poignant pointer to how far a country is The Past, even our own.

    The idea appealed to him, and he let me help a little in the final drawing together of ravelled threads, with snippets from here and there in the territory we had both come to know – he from living it, me from researching it.

    D was very pleased when he had his work fully formed at last, and that Mrs D was pleased and helpful to check edit for him.

    He was pleased too, and she over the moon, when Mrs D found him a bespoke publisher.

    And, as such things be, very chuffed indeed to hold copies in his hands at last, bound, neat, handsome. And a good piece of work it was too, of its kind.

    Then he noticed there were, after all, some typos. A bit dismayed, after all their toil. But we shared a chuckle again over them – we had met, after all, those several years before, only because he’d found typos in some writing of mine.

    I did him a review, it was a good read and from the horse’s mouth, and I said so. He liked the review, so I popped around the place, only to draw forth another leveller. A fellow writer went for the review hammer and tongs. I’d cheated, I’d copied someone else’s review, I knew the author and wasn’t being “neutral”. Meh. I put the review elsewhere, where it couldn’t be blog-blagged. I didn’t bother telling D.

    By then, D had found another round of balance himself – the publisher, not all that speedy to print, was less speedy still to distribution oddities. He found that a bit trying.

    But time has passed, and family, friends, and D’s war-time mates all think that he has pulled off a good thing, he’s told a hard story straight, in a handsome book, that will give pleasure and pause for thought to all who come across it down the future years. And all this D knows.

    And that, Ms H, is what you, too, have done, for your own time and place. For this we thank you, and ask, please, that you carry on as you may. It is not that we live without doubt, in complacent certainty. It is that we live as we can, with both warmth and sadness, with some confidence and sometimes with that quiet questioning, did I get that right?

    Or, at least, right enough…so right that others may understand. Thank you.

  6. Nic says:

    im expecting big things form this new book, Kate! lol

    will read it twice, as i did In My Skin, then get back to you 🙂
    i think it will be marvellous!

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