I’m working on rewrites now. It’s the second time I’ve tried to fix my romance so that my agent likes it. I thought I had. I was happy with the changes I made. My agent wasn’t. One subplot still bothered her, so I ripped it out. I trust Lauren’s judgement, and if she says it still doesn’t work, it doesn’t. She said “Kill your baby,” so I did. Baby’s dead and buried. I told my brain to think of something different/better, and it did. I hope. Thank you, brain. So by the end of this coming week, I should have the rewrites finished and ready to send out again. This time, I hope Lauren likes them. And now, I have a better feeling about what works and what doesn’t. So while I wait to find out, I’m planning on starting a second romance. And therein lies the big, lurking pressure.
The problem with second books, for me, is that if people liked the first book, the second one has to be even better. There are things to keep in mind. People who liked the first book probably liked its VOICE. Yeah, voice makes a big difference. When I pick up an Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels book, I want the smart-ass attitude, the “I want to kill something” mentality, the heart, the action, the humor–the entire package. And all of that sets a certain tone. If all of a sudden, that tone shifted to something lighter or darker, to more serious or philosophical, I’d be bummed. I don’t buy a Janet Evanovich for beautiful language. I buy it for snark and humor. If I want beautiful, lyrical language, I buy Sarah Addison Allen. If I want to force my poor, little gray cells to consider deep questions, I look for Neil Gaiman, and if I want to ponder mysteries, I reread Agatha Christie. Even then, a Hercule Poirot has a different tone than a Miss Marple. So a second book, in my opinion, has to stay true to the voice and tone of the first book. But it has to up the ante.
Series are popular now, so I decided to make my romance novels into Mill Pond romances. The setting will be the cohesive that holds the series together. And of course, characters of one novel will pop up in a new one, but as background characters, not MC’s. The trick, then, is to deliver the flavor of the first novel, but delve deeper into the stories, to make the setting almost a character that draws readers in and to let early characters grow and develop their own story lines. My friend, Julia Donner–whose writing I love–writes Regency romances. She developed a series around the friendship of a group of men called “The Eligibles,” because every mother wanted her daughter to snag one and marry a rich, gorgeous, powerful man. Once Rave met his Cat, he became a background character in the rest of the series. Once my favorite–and yes, I’m prejudiced–Perry met his Elizabeth, he was relegated to the background, too. (http://www.amazon.com/Heiress-Spy-Friendship-Book-ebook/dp/B00HGQCAYU/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1426356471&sr=1-4&keywords=julia+donner)–(just in case you want to meet him). Perry’s brother, the incorrigible Harry, gets to shine in The Rake and The Bishop’s Daughter before being relegated to minor character status. The thing is, it’s fun to see your favorites in the new novels, while a new hero and heroine get to shine. BUT, the stories have to be as good or better than the ones that came before them. Not so easy to do.
That’s why I want to start my second romance now, before Lauren has a chance to send out Cooking Up Trouble or to tell me to make it into an e-book. I’d like to have Opposites Distract finished and polished before I hear back from anyone. That will be less pressure. I won’t have a deadline. I can fiddle around with it all I want. I’ve seen so many authors who spent FOREVER writing their first book that sells write a second book with a tight deadline, and the second book isn’t as good. They’ve been too rushed. I don’t want that. In theory, by the time you write your third book, you’ve found your groove. Right? The third should be a breeze:)
Of course, I might find out that my brilliant strategies are a bunch of St. Patrick’s Day malarkey. Maybe more time won’t make any difference, and the pressure of writing a second book can buckle a writer because we think about it too much. Who knows? I’m about to find out. So wish me luck.
Happy writing, and may the luck of the Irish shine on you on St. Patrick’s Day!
(P.S. I put all five parts of Freya’s story on my webpage, so it’s finished, ahead of time. What can I say? No patience. But now I can concentrate on romances:)