Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Writing the Second Novel: Three Things to Consider

I "started" novel number two this month, although I'm realizing that the verb "to start" is a slippery one. But I'm finding it useful to change up my process this time.

Here's what I'm doing differently:

1) I've got myself a new Scrivener program, which is going to make my research organize itself. Well, I hope so, anyway. Because novel number two is historical (Vietnam War), I'm going to have copious notes to keep track of. So far, I love Scrivener, which has all kinds of nifty gadgets for organizing characters, scenes, and locations, and umpteen methods of outlining. Anybody else out there in blog-land using it?

2) I'm starting out with an intensive "Next Level Plotting Workshop" run by Joyce Sweeney and Jamie Morris. The workshop runs this weekend, from Friday through Sunday in Mount Dora, Florida, and Joyce says we're barely going to budge from our computers for the whole 48+ hours, so I expect to come back with not only a good chunk of writing, but an outline or plan that I'm proud of. I'm not sayin' I'll stick with it (novel number one was written seat-of-the-pants.) But I have very good intentions.

3) In spite of the fact that marriages between journals and humans are not yet legal in the State of Florida, I'm unofficially joined at the hip with my (paper) notebook. I plan to take it everywhere, so whenever I have a brilliant idea, Lo, I also have a place to immortalize it. So many of those Eureka! moments got lost during the writing of my last novel -- they got scrawled down on cocktail napkins or matchbook covers (then promptly misplaced) or not written down at all. This time, no matter how dumb or misguided the notion seems at the moment, it's going into the notebook (a very pretty leather one with its own little strap). I can sort the wheat from the chaff later, when I'm recollecting my emotion in tranquility.

So, anybody else changing things up for their second (or third, or fourth, or fifth) shot at literary greatness? Tell me your tricks.


  1. Hi Gail,

    How's the Scrivener working out? I just gave it a quick look. I joke that my debut novel "The Final Salute" was puzzled together using yellow sticky notes. :) Good luck on your second novel. I'm working on #2 although I don't count two MS in a bottom file cabinet. :)

    Take care,


  2. I'm a total Scrivener lover! I'm obsessed.

    I'm actually a pantser, and vowed to outline for the second novel (2/3 of the way through now. Guess what didn't happen.) But Scrivener helps me quasi-outline by making "notecards" of my scenes and move them around in chapters. Brilliance.

    I'm also already seeing, as I draft, what will need to be edited, so I'll have a better head going into editing. That first book sure was training wheels!

    Good luck!

  3. You know what else I intend to love about Scrivener, Leigh Ann? That you can compile a synopsis while you're drafting! Instead of having to do it at the end! *Le sigh*
    @Kathleen: I agree with Leigh Ann that this program is addictive, and very helpful. Sort of the difference between washing your laundry on a wooden washboard and having a supersonic Kenmore.

  4. So I guess I need to check out Scrivener. I love your plans.. How long has #2 been in the brewing?

  5. I'm going to have to look into Scrivener, too. My change-up for my next novel is...to write a sequel. Or at least outline it. All of my manuscripts have been stand-alones so far, but a sequel seems to fit for this one. Now if I could just figure out how to write one...

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  6. @Joanna: a few months. Joyce and Jamie run these Next Level workshops down here in Florida three or four times a year (I think), and this one just happened to coincide with the beginning of novel #2. And yes, Becca and Joanna, definitely check out Scrivener. You can test it for free for 30 days (that's 30 days of actual use), and it's not that expensive ($150 or so). I know I sound like I'm working for them (actually, that wouldn't be a bad gig). I do think it's more valuable to use it with a new project rather than try to translate a WIP into it, though.

  7. I LOVE SCRIVENER! :) I'm using Scrivener for Windows, but seriously, I don't know how I wrote anything (with any complexity) before. It's just that essential for me as an organizing tool. Not so much the writing, though. Still do that in Word.

    And DARN I thought you mean second novel as in second-in-the-series. I just started one of those (well, still outlining). Good luck on novel #2 - you're already ahead! I didn't start using Scrivener until 3 or 4. :)

  8. @Susan -- Weeeelllll, actually, now that you mention it: I have a second-in-series putting itself together in the far back of my brain, too. But I gotta sell the first-in-series before I throw myself fully into it.