My first novel, The Sleepless Nanny, took nine months to write. It wasn’t a long book, or particularly complex. I wrote it for one hour each night, most of the time with a toddler on my lap.
Second novel (Schooled)? Three months. Ditto with the third (Pwned). This, the fourth book, should be the quickest/easiest yet, shouldn’t it? Here’s why my fourth novel (and third in the Lexy Cooper series) should have been a breeze to write:
1. It’s the fourth book! At this point I’ve written hundreds of thousands of words! I should have this down!
2. I’ve known how this book would end when I wrote the very first bits of the first book in the series. It’s the conclusion of a three-book story arc and a set up to the next three books in what will be a six-book series.
3. I know these characters as well as I know my children. Better! Because they do what I tell them and share all their secrets.
Despite this, take a look at my writing record for the last seven months. This shows weekly word counts for May through November 2013.
Looking at this, a couple of reasons for my lack of progress on Lexy #3 jump out at you: I published Lexy #2 and also wrote and published a seasonal short story, I Saw Lexy Kissing Santa. That lull in mid-June? That was when I was working with my editor and proofreader to finish up Pwned. That little spike in word count in July? That’s when I discovered the Ommwriter app (which I wrote about here). The big lull in September? Started a new consulting gig. Giant uptick in gettin’ shit done in October? Gave up a year-long consulting gig, giving myself back two days a week to write. The fuck-all I got done last week? Um…holidays?
I’ve gotten to the point now in Lexy #3 where I’m running up against a deadline, which is December 30. I have about 15,000 words to go. I know what those words need to be. It’s all outlined out with snippets of description and scraps of dialog. The last three chapters are already done–I wrote those after returning from my Roswell research trip.
So what’s the problem? Why am I sketching out new projects and blogging and reading spy novels when I should be FINISHING THIS BOOK? It turns out that the book I thought would be a breeze to write is more difficult than I thought. Why?
1. Expectations. Originally this was going to be the final Lexy Cooper book before I had trilogy creep. If I get hit by a bus, I want this book to be a satisfying end.
2. Two storylines. Yes, there’s a dead body on page two (or three) and that is a mystery that must be solved. But there’s a second…um…criminal activity going on that also must be resolved. Figuring out how the plot points and revelations happen in each line of investigation so that the pacing is compelling and they both come to some kind of conclusion at almost the same time (the end, natch), is challenging. There’s so much going on with Lexy and Malick and…bad people…that some secondary characters are not getting as much play as they have in the first two books.
3. Sneaky shit. I’m introducing themes and characters that will be important in book 4 and book 5. So I’m having to make decisions that I didn’t think I’d have to make yet. It’s scary.
4. The death of a character. Yes, someone always dies in Lexy Cooper books (except for the Christmas short story), but this is different. This is a character that has been around since book one and this character is pretty important. It was heartbreaking to kill off this character. Many many tears were shed. When the book is done, I will never get to spend time with this fictional person again. In that way, I’m losing the character twice and…it’s harder than I thought it would be. Hard, but necessary.
5. Pressure. People have pre-ordered Lexy #3. People have paid lots of money to have characters named after them. With Lexy #1 and #2, if I dropped the ball and said “fuck it” — well I would have had some disappointed readers, but this time? It would be fraud or theft or something. I have to finish it. There’s no giving up.
And so, I press on.