Someone asked how writing book #2 (as yet untitled but henceforth referred to as Yes Novel) is different from writing Truest. It’s a great question. I also want to pause and just say that several people (including friend and mentor Judy Hougen as well as author Ally Carter) have said to let the writing of each novel be its own thing and to not compare them. Ally said at the YA conference I was at, “Learn how to write the novel you’re writing NOW.”
Easier said than done, in some ways. In others, it’s already sort of hard for me to remember writing the initial drafts of Truest. It was nearly four years ago now!
That said, I can offer a few insights.
My first book (or anyone’s first book, for that matter) is typically not written under contract, so there’s generally no pressure, no deadline. It’s fine if it takes you two years or four or ten. You just have to get it as perfect as you can before you query. Then, when it sells, your editor sees the manuscript at a fairly well-done stage. By the time Jill saw my manuscript for Truest, I had worked on it for over a year and a half, including self-edits, multiple rounds of edits with Ben Barnhart, revision suggestions from the Big Sur Writing Workshop, and a round of revisions from my agent.
On the other hand, Jill saw a first draft of Yes Novel. That was scary but liberating to show her the messiest work of mine she’d ever seen at that point. Yes Novel is also under contract. I am working toward a deadline. There is added pressure due to both of those things.
With both Truest and Yes Novel, I didn’t know the ending when I started. I didn’t land on Truest’s ending until many, many drafts into it. I am veering toward an ending for Yes Novel now in draft two, but it still feels sort of unsatisfactory. I try to remind myself that Truest, at this stage, still lacked an ending. So, in that sense, I’m ahead of the game. Maybe.
Truest is written in first person (that is, “I thought”) from West’s point of view. Yes Novel is (currently) written in dual third (that is, some chapters are “Asa thought” and some are “Rowen thought”). I keep battling with myself if I should write it in dual first, but I just don’t think that the two voices are distinct enough to weather it. Yes Novel seems to be narrated by ME, not by Asa or Rowen. Can’t decide what I think of that yet … except that maybe I’m finally finding MY authorial voice, and there’s something exciting about that.
I can tell that I understand more about novel writing and the narrative arc as I write Yes Novel. I can tell that I’ve grown as a writer. So that’s a good thing.
Another thing is that, while Truest has some subtle religious themes, the characters in Yes Novel are not religious, so the content is different. (I mean, of course the content is different, but … you know what I mean, right?). Sometimes I worry about this a little bit … wondering if people who liked Truest will not like Yes Novel because they are so different, but then I remind myself:
- I’m writing a new story, not re-writing Truest.
- I’ve started with characters once again. People who liked Silas and West and Laurel will probably like Asa and Rowen too.
- I’m still writing about themes that are tremendously important to me (mental illness, uncertainty, freedom, family, friendship, art, mythology, thought experiments, love and romance).
In some ways, I seem to remember Truest just unrolling before me like a carpet. But that’s probably a tainted memory. I’ve been working on Yes Novel now for nearly one year, and it’s further along than where Truest was at that time. It felt like there was better flow to Truest and I *think* I wrote it in chronological order, though, to be honest, I really can’t recall. Yes Novel was written all out of order and thus still has a very episodic feel to the chapters, which I’m trying to erase through revisions and better transitions and more foreshadowing.
Yes Novel still is essentially a series of conversations that could be taking place almost anywhere. But I do remember that Truest was much the same until later drafts when I made special effort to correct it. I’m still not naturally good at description … but I am getting better. That feels obvious to me.
So. There you have it. Not sure if this is helpful or interesting or not. It was a great question (thank you!), and I’m so excited to share Yes Novel with you a year and a half from now (gosh, that feels so far away … until I look at my draft and realize that I need that time). Asa and Rowen have completely captured my heart, and I hope they’ll capture yours too.