Now that I am, phew, oh thank god, on the other side of the Bastardy Second Book trauma (only just), I would like to share my experience of the dreaded chasm between First Book and Second Book, and what I expect is not a unique form of psychosis.
It goes thus:
1. Publish first book. Be amazed by yourself. Amazed to find it is actually read by people. Desperately try not to believe compliments. Find that, secretly, you do, or would like to, since you keep getting them, and every time you brush them off you’re told you’re too modest. Feel good. Feel enthused about the next book now you’re off to a good start.
2. Start feeling freaked out by compliments and success of first book. It’s too good to be true. It’s building unreasonable expectations. You don’t know who you are any more, and you scarcely recognise your book in people’s descriptions.You really, really want life to quieten down so you can start the next book.
3. Start complaining about the dreadful pressures of having had a success. Watch as your friends roll their eyes, try to sympathise but really, start thinking of you as ‘that dickhead’.
4. The glow fades. Attention moves elsewhere. First book now a memory. You can’t remember how you had the nerve to write it.
5. You start a new book.
6. You try not to think of its future reviewers, or readers. You can only think of its future reviewers and readers. Everything about the first draft of your new book is shit. This only confirms what you secretly fear is true: You’re an imposter. And that first book will be the only one.
7. Slump into depression.
8. Be depressed.
9. Start another new book. It is also shit.
10. Remember, with grim disbelief, that in interviews you spoke confidently about the next book you were going to write. Remember the reviews of the first that said they couldn’t wait to see what you wrote next. Mentally vomit from nerves and bafflement.
11. Wait. Perhaps five years.
12. You have decided that you have nothing to lose. You can’t help what people expect, you can’t be arsed worrying about it, who are these people anyway and what do they want? The next book will be what it will be. Work. Work. Work at it.
13. Release! The new book is going okay!
14. Glorious day when you look at the new book and you like it.
15. Momentary smugness.
16. Doubt and terror.
18. Launch day and you’ve come through the worst. They say that each book is just as hard as the previous. But you know, at least, that you never, ever have to worry about the Bastardy Second Book again. At least not until people start reading it.