Third Book Syndrome

There seems to be something about writing that third book for publication that grabs you by the back of the underpants and yanks violently upwards. Or at least that’s the way it feels.

BOOK ONE was fun – no expectations, writing because I enjoyed it, trying something new. And lo and behold it sold. Hurrah!

BOOK TWO – not so much fun. Now there are expectations. BOOK ONE’s not out for another year yet, but everyone in-house at HarperCollins loves it, so BOOK TWO has to be at least as good. No, it has to be better! But what if I’m a complete and utter fraud and BOOK ONE was a fluke? AAAAAAAAArgh! Trying to do something different so it doesn’t get labelled a carbon copy of the first book, which is a challenge with series books: describing the same places and people without it looking like a cut and past exercise from BOOK ONE. Suddenly I’m not just writing for fun any more, I’m writing for my Agent, Editor, Publisher(s), Marketing and Publicity people... worrying that they’ll take one look at BOOK TWO, pronounce it an ugly baby and demand their money back.

BOOK THREE – NIGHTMARE. No one knows if people are going to like BOOK TWO yet as it’s not going to be published for another year. BOOK ONE is just out, so all the reviews are scoured for constructive criticism (rather than just bitter toss pots having a bit of a general moan) – what mistakes did I make, how can I avoid making them again. More expectations to meet, and this time it goes beyond the cosy world of the publishing house, this time there are real people who’ve read and, more frighteningly, liked BOOK ONE. And you know I don’t want to disappoint them. So BOOK THREE has to be the best book yet! WORK MONKEY BOY!!!

And I don’t seem to be alone in this mindset either. I know the lovely Tambo had a horrible time with her third Dubric book* – even though everyone who’s read it thinks it’s brilliant – and I started reading the not so lovely John Theodore Rickards’s blog because Sarah Weinman posted about what a shitty time he was having on the third book. Then I went and asked Mr Billingham if he’d had the same experience, and yup – according to him it gets harder with every book you write. And not in a smutty, ‘Oo-er, Missus!’ kind of way either. So BOOK FOUR will be even worse... groan...

It seems to be something to do with publication. COLD GRANITE wasn’t the first book I’d written, it was the fifth. So I should have crossed that third book Rubicon already. But it all got re-baselined as soon as HarperCollins picked up CG. (and yes, lucky to just get published, blah, blah, blah... Look, I feel like a whinge today, OK?) Writing wasn't like this before I got published.

Lots of people, when they hear I’m a full-time write-ist at the moment, tell me how lucky I am and how great is must be. You know what: yes, it is great, and yes I am lucky. But this is the hardest job I’ve ever had. And I’ve had some real stinkers. Like cleaning up offshore after some bastard got himself fired and decided to shit in the shower and wipe his arse on the towels in revenge. That's some job satisfaction right there.

So, on this day of love, flowers, chocolate, and champagne, would anyone else like a whinge about their writing? I’ve had my go: the floor is open...

* Can't give you a direct link yet as bloody IBLOG hasn't archived the post yet.