On Finishing a Draft of My Second Novel

Yes, it is true: I am finished with my second novel!!!

Well, finished with a draft.

Because “finished” isn’t truly apt until I turn in the final manuscript to my editor, after who knows how many rounds of edits it will need. But the hardest part, I think, is done. And I feel like a free man.

I started trying to write this second novel about three years ago, soon after I turned in the final edits of my first novel. My contract stipulated that I had to submit three chapters of a proposed novel idea to my editor, which she then had to approve before I went forward. I went through three rounds of this, and each time the novel idea was rejected. This process consumed an entire year, if I remember correctly. But my editor was right–those ideas were not that great. So as deflated as I felt each time an idea was rejected, I knew this was the right decision.

You may think it’s easy to come up with new idea after new idea, but it isn’t. Especially a few years ago, when I had very few ideas in my “idea pipeline.” (That pipeline, currently, has a healthy population, at the moment–almost too many ideas to narrow down.) Before I begin a novel, I have to live with my characters for a while, I have to think about them, figure them out. Sure, the more you write, the more you get to know them. But to even begin writing, I have to have a decent idea of who they are and what makes them tick. That takes time and can’t be rushed.

The fourth idea was the charm, but even then I had to restart the novel that I had started. That is, I had to chunk about 50 pages and start over. But finally, finally, when I rewrote those pages, I was on my way. From that point, I think it took me about a year and a half. That is not a speedy pace, but it’s not glacial either. Unlike some writers, I have a day job, so my writing time usually takes place on the weekends, or stray mornings here and there. I even managed to write a few hours after work sometimes. But it never feels like enough time. And the time when I wasn’t writing–well, I often felt guilty then, like I was being a lazy, no-good bum.

But you know what? I’m not going to complain anymore. I’m not going to talk about how exhausting the process was. Because the truth is I am getting paid to do this. Not huge sums, mind you. But still. I get to do what I love, and my books, eventually, find their way into the world. And for that I feel very lucky and fortunate.

So for now I will take a few weeks off to be lazy, to bask in the glow of having reached a milestone. And soon the edits will pour in, and then I will go back to work. But I’m also going to start attacking the other ideas I have in the aforementioned idea pipeline. Because even though it’s exhausting, and hard work, and sometimes thankless, writing is what I love.

Novel Number Three, here I come! (Well, after I rest my brain a bit.)


5 Responses to “On Finishing a Draft of My Second Novel”

  1. Helen Ellis Says:

    Hurray! What a relief. I am so very, very proud of you and I love the sneak peek I read of your new novel. Can’t wait to see it bound and sitting next to What They Always Tell Us.

  2. deborah Says:

    What great news! Congratulations on finishing the novel. Yes, do enjoy this time. We writers make ourselves feel guilty too often.

  3. Trae Says:

    Congratulations, Martin!! We Alabamians have a unique and proud literary tradition; I’m glad to see you’re carrying it forward. I truly adore What They Always Tell Us, and I can’t wait for your next novel.

  4. Mike Says:

    I am so excited. I have been waiting anxiously since devouring What They Always Tell Us. You truly have a gift.

  5. Luis Gutierrez Says:

    It’s 2013, and it’s not out yet! I’m still excited though.

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