How I’m Avoiding Book 2 Hell

Motivation & Inspiration, Writing Process


Book 2 Hell is where writers typically flail about, trying to write something new with the added pressure of reader expectations. It’s a place where imposter syndrome has you in a death grip and getting words on the page feels like pulling teeth. And every day you don’t hit your writing goals makes you question your very existence.

So I’ve heard.

I’ve listened to enough podcasts and read enough blog posts to know that Book 2 Hell is not a pleasant place and therefore one I would like to stay as far away from as possible. Which is why, even though I haven’t sold my first book yet, I’m already thinking about how to avoid it.

In publishing, there is a seemingly endless amount of waiting. You wait for agent responses when you’re querying. You wait for editor responses when you’re on submission.

And again, because enough authors have been generously transparent online and therefore I have some kind of an idea of what I’m getting myself into, I can look at the time between each publishing milestone as a curse or a blessing. In other words, I can let the hours that tick by drive me mad or I can use them to actually make this journey a little easier.

Right now, no one is waiting for my next book. No one is asking me what it’s about or how far along the manuscript is or if they can read a few pages. No one cares and that’s actually a good thing. It means that I can toil away on it with zero outside influence. I can make a mess. I can clean it up. I can write with no one’s voice inside my head except my own.

Is writing still difficult? Of course it is. But probably not as difficult as it would be if hundreds or even thousands of people were waiting for me to deliver a product perfect enough to satisfy them all. Which is why my greatest motivation for finishing my next book is to finish it BEFORE a significant number of people know I exist.

If I stay focused and use my summer wisely (in between summer school and an externship with the ADL) I might just be able to have a strong draft of this thing by the end of August. I might also be able to have a semi-decent draft of my new middle grade MS. Which means I might just be able to completely side-step Book 2 Hell and just head straight for the promised land.

Or it might mean that Book 2 Hell actually becomes Book 4 or 5 Hell.

Either way, finishing something (or maybe even two things) at least by year’s end means that I’ll have another project queued up and ready to go if and when my first book sells or doesn’t.

In addition to soaking up all the info I could about being on submission and writing the dreaded book 2, I’ve also been listening really closely to author’s advice on finances. It seems like most of the writers who’ve been able to transition to being full-time authors staggered their projects in a way that made their income a little bit more predictable.

If author X knows she can finish a book in 8 months or knows that she has Y number of drafts in her queue, she can better anticipate when/what she might be able to sell and when those payouts might happen. If they’re staggered evenly enough, she can see months in advance by when she’ll need to finish the next project and by when she’ll need to sell it. The math probably isn’t ever exact–there’s a lot of unpredictability in this profession–but there is a way to make it work.

So finishing the next book isn’t just about avoiding Book 2 Hell, it’s also about setting up my entire career. It’s about planning for the future I want and taking the necessary steps to getting there, no matter how dark and obscure the path may seem. I just need to trust that it’s beneath my feet, carrying me closer to the place I’m meant to be. As long as it’s not hell. Please don’t make me go there.


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