Second book–mistakes I have made

by Diana

Well, Blood of the Demon, the second book in the Demonic Lords series, has been accepted and is now on the way to the copyeditor. I have a publication date (Feb 23, 2010!) I have cover art!

However, the second book ended up being a lot harder to write than the first. And by “a lot” I mean “holy crap is this thing every going to come together and not suck?” It didn’t help that I made a number of errors in judgment that almost caused me to miss my deadline.

I wrote the first book, Mark of the Demon, without a deadline, at my own pace, and with plenty of input from critique partners. From start (embarking on the first draft) to finish (the “final” version that was shopped to publishers by my agent,) it took less than nine months to write.

I started the second book as soon as the first book went on submission. (Sept ’07)  The first draft didn’t flow out quite as easily as the first book, and I ended up changing my concept several times before I finally settled on something that I thought would work. Also, my work situation had changed quite a bit since writing the first book, and I no longer had stretches of available time during the day to write. My writing routine had become: get up at 0430 to write for an hour before getting ready for work and getting the Kid up. Write for half an hour on my lunch break. Write for about an hour after work before picking the Kid up from daycare. Write for about an hour after putting Kid to bed. I was exhausted all the time, and at the same time my work situation had degenerated into Pure Suck, which meant that my creative energies weren’t exactly at their highest.   

By mid-February, I estimated that I was about ¾ of the way through the draft–and it had been a long painful slog to get even that much done. However, I was also looking at the calendar, taking note of how long Mark of the Demon had been on submission, and I was beginning to lose my nerve about spending so much time working on the sequel to a book that might not sell. After a lengthy conversation with my agent, I decided to put Blood of the Demon on hiatus while I switched to another project.

Well, a few weeks later, my agent called to tell me the terrific news about Bantam’s offer for Mark of the Demon and a sequel. That’s when everything changed. After deep discussion with my husband, we decided that the first and best move was for me to quit my job. Instantly, ten thousand layers of stress fell away from me. But I suddenly had another problem that I had not anticipated: For the first time in close to 20 years, I didn’t have a set work schedule. I had nothing to structure my writing time around. Once I’d dropped the Kid off at daycare, I had my day pretty much to myself. I had ALL day to write, and a book that wasn’t due until April ’09.

You can see where this is going, right? Yep, for most of the summer of ’08, I didn’t do much writing. I did a lot of other things–reading, relaxing, bicycling…  and then when I started to feel guilty about doing all of that, I’d open up the file for Blood and try to poke at it.  However, since I’d been away from it so long, I was painfully aware of how many serious issues the book had, which made it hard for me to figure out just where to attack it. It also didn’t help that, for a perfect storm of reasons, I didn’t have much in the way of feedback from critique partners. (As in almost none.)

When Fall rolled around, I was finally able to force myself into a routine that was fairly productive. I got back to serious work on Blood after chucking out nearly half of what I’d written. After about two months I had a completed first draft, with nearly five months to go until my deadline.

Here’s where I made my biggest mistake. Since my editor was out on maternity leave, I figured that there was little need to push to turn Blood in early. I also knew I wanted to take a couple of weeks and focus on something other then Blood so that when I started revisions I would have a somewhat fresh eye. Therefore, I (very foolishly) decided to go back and work on the project that I’d been working on when my book deal came in. I spent a couple of months working on that, then switched back to Blood, finished up revisions, and sent it to my agent with a month to spare before my deadline (which was also about the time that my editor was due to return from her leave.)

This is where my lack of feedback and my poor time management bit me in the ass. My agent read the book, then–in the nicest possible way–told me that it wasn’t good, and in fact had some serious problems. After the requisite crying jag, I read through his comments again, reluctantly accepted that he knew what the fuck he was talking about, and realized that I had to rewrite about half of the book in order to address the (quite legitimate) issues that he’d pointed out.

Remember where I said that this was a month before my deadline?

Yes, I ended up rewriting about half of the book in about three and a half weeks. I finally sent the new ‘n improved version to my agent, he expressed deep pleasure at the changes I’d made and asked for a few minor tweaks, and I sent Blood of the Demon to my editor on March 31st.  A year and a half after I began it. A day before my deadline. 

So, to sum up the mistakes/errors in judgment that I made:

Failed to have a solid writing routine.

Failed to get sufficient feedback.

Began work on a different project before actually turning the contracted work in.

Needless to say, I don’t EVER want to go through that again. Therefore, work on Promise of the Demon has begun, I have a schedule and a routine, I have critique partners, and I absolutely will NOT work on anything else until PotD has been turned in.

I’ll let y’all know what new mistakes I make during this process.

2 Responses to “Second book–mistakes I have made”

  1. July 20, 2009 at 7:09 am

    It’s good to have a plan.

    I plan to stop procrastinating. Sometime…

  2. 2 Sue
    July 20, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    It takes tremendous discipline to be self-employed.

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