Hi. Barb here. Reporting in from a glorious month in Key West. It’s the second year I’ve blogged from Key West. (Funny how blogging regularly can make you aware of your life’s rhythms.) Bill and I are here with my mom again, and our daughter who’s in graduate school has joined us for a week of spring break.
It’s been a lovely time.
Last year, when I wrote from Key West, I was on tenterhooks waiting for the contract for my Maine Clambake Mystery series to arrive. I wanted to shout about it from the rooftops, though I also appreciated the quiet time before I had an official deadline. I was noodling about the characters and setting for the first book.
This year, the first book, Clammed Up, is turned in. It has a cover and page proofs have been approved. The deadline for Book 2 is September 1.
And I’m in the weeds.
In The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor, John Barth writes that the second voyage is the most dangerous, because it’s the one where you think you know what you’re doing. I used to quote that all the time in business, and it’s true of writing as well.
This is my first second book. I’ve written three books, each the first in a series. I’ve tried my hand at a couple of second books, but I never could contemplate the investment of time for a series nobody wanted. (My first book was published by Cengage/Gale/Five Star and they only buy completed manuscripts. Or maybe that’s just what they told me!)
This second book thing turns out to be tricky. How much should I reference of what’s already happened to these characters? Will it provide a lovely continuity for readers who’ve read the first book or an annoying level of detail for those who haven’t? And I can’t really have the characters who were red herrings in the first book wandering around my little town since that will certainly constitute spoilers for those reading out of order. But how to explain their absence? Isn’t it kind of weird?
What if a character walks by a place that was the setting for an emotionally-charged scene in the first book? Should she reflect on it? You would, but if you were walking with someone who didn’t know you back then, you might not mention it. What if my character is walking with a reader who doesn’t know the back story?
To help me sort this out, I’ve been reading second-in-a-series books to see how other authors handle this. I’ve got Lucy Burdette’s second book, Death in Four Courses (set in Key West!) and Cleo Coyle’s Through the Grinder. Of course, both authors handle these issues so seamlessly, it’s hard to appreciate what they’re doing.
But enough with the kvetching. The truth is, I’m enjoying every torturous minute. That’s what I love most (the most?) about writing–the opportunity for constant learning and renewal.