Back in the day, when albums were only 40 minutes long and came on vinyl in fold-out cardboard sleeves (cue brief pause for nostalgic reminiscence among the over-40s), people used to talk about That Difficult Third Album. That was the one a band had to make when it had run out of all its original material, was burned out from being on the road and had to deliver No.3 to satisfy the record company, usually within about 18 months of their debut. Then CDs came along and albums were about 70 minutes long and record companies worked the same album for a couple of years and now bands started talking about That Difficult Second Album. Well, I've got That Difficult Second Novel syndrome. My first was about 125,000 words long, exactly twice as much as Fleming wrote in Casino Royale and probably has two or three times as many big set-piece scenes as a thriller from the 60s or 70s ... which would apply to all of us, of course. That's what the audience expects these days. Okay so now - as in, starting Monday morning - I've got to begin writing No.2 and I've got a fair number of ideas, but what I don't have is the energy and desperation and hunger that powered me through the Accident Man. So, to all those folks out there who can manage a book a year (or six books in at least one case I can think of!) .. how do you guys do it? If you're working with the same characters, how do you get back into them and recapture your affection for them, when you've been away from them for months? Tomorrow I get on a plane to France, where a friend is lending me a villa, for free, on the Cote d'Azur - yeah, I know, it's a tough billet, but someone's got to stay there. But then ... Monday at 9.00 sharp, I sit down at the word-processor. He-e-e-e-l-l-l-p-p-p!!!

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Comment by Tom Cain on June 10, 2007 at 3:18am
Don't be envious of the villa - I came home early! Turned out the reason my friend had let me stay in it for free was that he still had the builders in and couldn't rent it anyway - not the most conducive atmosphere for writing! So I'm back home, hoping inspiration will strike when I sit down at 9.00 am Monday. And I do have a fully worked-out idea for a book (see my reply to your post on my forum thread: that was my idea) ... but unfortunately it's not the book my publishers want me to write. And even more unfortunately, I'm obliged, by my contract, to give them what THEY want ...
Comment by I. J. Parker on June 10, 2007 at 12:53am
I'm horribly envious of that villa.
As for the next book: that never was a problem. When I finish a book, I generally have the idea for the second (maybe even a third) and am very impatient to get on with it. Short stories are a different matter. I make myself plot one of those when enough time (a year?) has passed. My protagonist is a close friend. I'm not at all tired of him, even though there are 7 novels and 11 stories about him already.
Comment by Mirmont on June 8, 2007 at 5:37am
Just enjoy your villa a few days - until you get bored at doing nothing - and then you will be happy to get back to your second novel and write down all the ideas which - I am sure - must flow in your head.
Comment by Robin Burcell on June 4, 2007 at 1:22am
I once heard a talk by an established author, who said she didn't realize how much she did not know about writing until she'd started her second book. And worse yet, this feeling doesn't go away. I think it goes along with that thought that each book you write is crap, and whatever made you think you could write in the first place?
Comment by Tom Cain on June 2, 2007 at 6:51pm
I think you're so right - it's impossible to replicate the feeling of the first book. It's just a question of trying to find the energy or approach that's going to work for the second ... let's swap notes on that as we go along. What's yours about, by the way?
Comment by Laura Benedict on June 2, 2007 at 11:54am
Oh, my heart is really breaking for you over that whole villa thing, Tom. Really.

But I know whereof you speak. I probably won't be helpful because I'm in the same place. Actually, I'm in about 100 pages--It's not linear, and I don't know how I'm going to get to the end yet. But it's moving.

Where I stumbled getting started was trying to use that same energy, that same method that I used in the first one. It worked then, right? The second novel is, I've learned, a totally different animal. It has its own rules and its own personality. All I would advise is to just write like hell for a little while, stuffing a chocolate croissant into the mouth of the critic in your head. Remember to have fun with it!

I'll be interested to see when we both finish up. Keep us posted!

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