The novel is out. People are buying it. People are reading it. You feel on top of the world.
Write the second one, of course.
There is never going to be that feeling of releasing your debut novel again. Now you’re an indie author, and your job from this point forward is to keep releasing books, to grow your audience and keep your readers happy.
It can be tough to keep the motivation going after the debut novel comes out, but from being in a position where I’m currently writing number three – and following a huge bout of self-doubt and binge eating whilst listening to The Smiths – I feel I can give you some tips on how to re-energise yourself and focus on getting back into the saddle. Here goes:
#1 – Outline your projects
Not every writer likes to outline their novels, and that’s fine, but it can be a superb way to get back into the storytelling frame of mind. Start by writing the blurb for the back of the book, then follow it by jotting down some ideas for scenes, characters and dialogue. From here, you should be able to start forming some kind of outline for your novel. Even if you don’t stick rigidly to it, at least you have something to work from, and you will start thinking about writing it. Hopefully this will be the kick-start you need.
From a personal standpoint, I outlined and wrote the book blurbs for my next five novels after the euphoria from releasing WALKING UP A SLIDE turned into a painful lull and a series of long walks listening to acoustic ballads, and it definitely helped. The outline for the next novel was a roadmap more than anything else, but it kept me motivated and plugged into the story, with an eye on what was coming next in the story.
#2 – Write something completely different
Not everybody wants to write novels continuously, and for a while, I considered WALKING UP A SLIDE to be a one-off project rather than a whole new side to my writing career that I wanted to explore with further releases.
If you don’t feel like you have another project to jump into, don’t force it. Write something else and that could spark something in the future. At the very least, it will prevent you from not writing at all. Putting pressure on yourself to have an idea can be paralysing to a writer. Try writing a screenplay, a series of blog posts or anything that keeps you tapping away at your writing desk.
#3 – Do some reading
I have met so many writers who don’t read, and it’s the writing equivalent of going into battle with boxer shorts and a wet sponge instead of a suit of armour and a sword. Read every day, whether it’s the newspaper, blogs, short stories, a chapter of a novel or a kid’s picture book to your little ones. It is likely to spark your next project into life, or remind you of why you wanted to write in the first place.
After releasing your debut novel, there is going to be a period of relief, and this is where procrastination and obsession of book stats can set in and turn you into a mess of a human being. Stay in the world of writing by reading something every day, and eventually something will grab you and throw you towards your next project.
#4 – Revisit Your Old Work
You should be proud of yourself for finishing the first draft of your novel, let alone for editing it, taking feedback the right way, rewriting a million times and then publishing it. Take a bow and give yourself a round of applause. Not too much though, you arrogant bugger.
If you’re struggling for ideas and want to read something that will get your re-energised, try reading over all of those projects you failed to get off the ground, or which you abandoned before completing a single draft. It could become your next project, or it could simply be a trigger that sets you off on another project altogether. Whatever gets you writing again can’t be wrong.
I recently revisited a play that I wrote six years ago, that was never produced. I started to turn the first scene into prose to see if it would work as a novel, and I’m now on chapter five, with 17,000 words written so far. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ll definitely be doing it again.
#5 – Release those endorphins
My love of walking is what has kept me sane during this writing lark, and exercise in general is a great way to stay focused and motivated. It keeps your blood flowing, your mind active, and your confidence and self-esteem levels sky-high. If you’re unhappy about the way you look and you feel like crap, how on earth are you going to write that inspirational children’s book or romantic comedy?
There are going to be writers who turn their nose up at this, but I can only say that walking and keeping fit has always helped me stay in tune to my writing and gives me time away from the blinking cursor to let ideas percolate and get the blood pumping through my veins. It definitely helped me get through the post-release blues that came between publishing the debut novel and starting the second.
#6 – Write and talk about the Process
What is this blog post but a way of writing about the process of finishing the debut novel and moving on to the second one without jumping through a window? Writing about my experiences and discussing them with other writers on LinkedIn groups, Twitter and – shock horror – real life has helped me move on from the debut novel and focus on the second, third and fourth novels, and every other project I’m working on.
Not all writers like to analyse the process, and I never used to. But it definitely helps, and the more advice and experiences there are on the web for writers and debuting authors to find and read, the better.