Welcome to the SNOB (Second Novel Ominipresent Blues). Whether you’re under contract or trying to snag another deal, you’re a professional now, with the pressures of a published novelist compounded with the still-present nagging self-doubt of the noobie. How to deal?
My guest for today's SNOB is Rachel Lynn Solomon, who writes, tap dances, and collects red lipstick in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of two young adult novels, You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone (out now from Simon Pulse) and Our Year of Maybe (out January 15, 2019). Once she helped set a Guinness World Record for the most natural redheads in one place. You can find her online and on Twitter.
Is it hard to leave behind the first novel and focus on the second?
Definitely, and for me the hardest part was accepting that my first book was “done”—no more middle-of-the-night epiphanies, no more last-minute tweaks. I had all these other versions of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone in my head, but readers would only know one of them.
My first book was also a bit of a journey. I started working on it in 2013 while on submission with another YA (and then another) that didn’t end up selling. My former agent put it on submission for a short time, and after we amicably parted ways, I queried it for six months before signing with a new agent. Then we went on submission with it again. By the time the book was published in early 2018, it had been in my life for nearly five years.
In comparison, I started working on my book 2 in early 2016, though after You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone sold in a two-book deal in mid-2016, I set aside that book 2 for about a year while working on YMMWIG edits. I estimate that I worked consistently on book 2, Our Year of Maybe, for about a year, maybe less. So the amount of time I spent on each book was was wildly different.
I also felt torn between wanting to write the same book and trying to distinguish it from my debut as much as possible. Every time I read a positive review of YMMWIG that praised something I didn’t do in OYOM, I wondered if I should add it in, even if it didn’t fit the story. Ultimately, though, I found a balance, and I think OYOM has a lot in common with YMMWIG while exploring some themes (codependent friendship, obsession, self-discovery) my debut didn’t.
At what point do you start diverting your energies from promoting your debut and writing / polishing / editing your second?
In my case, these things overlapped quite a bit! YMMWIG came out early January 2018, and OYOM was sent to copy edits in late February. So the end of 2017 was spent promoting YMMWIG and revising OYOM, on top of working full-time.
I tried to focus on the aspects of promo that 1) I enjoyed and 2) increased visibility for the book. I wrote a blog post breaking down everything I did and how much money I spent.
Your first book landed an agent and an editor, and hopefully some fans. Who are you writing the second one for? Them, or yourself?
Most of the time, I find that I’m writing for my teen self: the books I would have loved, but more importantly, the books I needed. Of course, plenty has changed since I was a teen—I remember thinking texting would never catch on and resisted it until I was a senior in high school—so I keep the modern teen audience in mind, too.
I’m also often writing to counteract negative portrayals of girls in YA (particularly the ones I read as a teen), mainly when it comes to sexuality, desire, and ambition. I don’t think it’s selfish to write for ourselves first. We should enjoy and take pride in the work we’re creating—how can I expect someone else to love something I’ve written if I don’t love it first?
Is there a new balance of time management to address once you’re a professional author?
After a lot of planning, I took a leap into FT writing in the fall of 2018. I’d been working FT from home prior to that, which unfortunately meant it felt like I was always working. When I had time to write, I’d stress myself out so much because I didn’t know when I’d have that writing time again. I sold two more books to Simon Pulse in mid-2018, and I was hungry for time not just to write them—but to truly enjoy writing them.
One thing I didn’t realize, though, was that a decent chunk of time spent author-ing isn’t actually spent writing. You’re also responding to emails, promoting your books, interacting with other authors, reading their work, standing in line at the post office, etc.
I try to plan out my weeks so I’m writing every morning for about four hours. Afternoons are for promo, freelance editing, errands, or whatever else needs to get done. It’s still a work in progress, but I think I’m getting better at the time management element.
What did you do differently the second time around, with the perspective of a published author?
I’m a lot calmer now than I was the first time around. All of this still feels new and exciting, but the first half of my debut year, I had a hard time not constantly comparing myself to others. You see something great happen for someone, and you’re thrilled for them, but you still wonder: “Why not me? Why not my book?” It’s impossible to avoid—even if you’re getting a couple of those great somethings. And I truly am happy with my debut experience.
Then, halfway through the year, I felt a shift and gained some much-needed perspective. Part of it was sparked by this excellent blog post from Susan Dennard. It hit me that the only way I’d have a chance at achieving any of my author bucket list goals was by writing the next book. And then writing the one after that, and so forth. That’s really the only thing we can control in this industry. So I’ve made a concerted effort to channel that into my writing, and to put out both positivity and honesty on my social media whenever I can. Because at the end of the day, I feel so incredibly lucky that I get to do this again.