When I started writing, I was under the impression that every consecutive book would be easier to write. It was a logical assumption. I mean, the more you write, the better you get. And the better you get, the easier it should be, right?
Or...not. Getting better does not necessarily correlate with having an easier time writing. Well, not entirely, at least. There are some things that do get easier, but there are some that continue to remain wild cards.
Writing is weird that way! Because no matter how much you learned from this book, it's not The Next Book. And The Next Book will come with its own problems, ones you never had in the last book. It will likely confound you just as much as your last book, to the point that you'll wonder if you learned anything at all about writing in that last year or however long.
But never fear. I think most writers experience this. Some books just come easier than others, and you never know when a tough cookie will hit, or why.
Today I want to point out the things that do translate from book to book, and those that will likely continue to give you trouble for the rest of your writing career. SO exciting, I'm sure.
What You Can Bring To The Next Book
• Prose Craft: The more you write, the easier it is to pump out "clean" prose. You know not to go crazy with the adverbs. You know how to avoid passive constructions. You can catch your overuse of gerunds before it takes over the manuscript. At least, you better be able to. If not, work on that craft. It's important!
• Story Craft: The more you write, the easier it is to see where your story might be going off course. You notice the infodump mid-dump (ha, awkward). You spot that cliché. You avoid that trope or twist it up. You can sense when your plot might be derailing, even if you can't figure out how to get it right yet.
• Planning: Your planning/outlining becomes more clear. You know how to brainstorm. You know what to look for in a good plot. You know what makes a compelling character. With all your practice, you can easily line up core conflicts and motivations—the things that drive your plot forward.
What You're Stuck Dealing With On Every. Single. New. Idea.
• That Thing Called Writing: Yes, you still have to write the dang words in your novel. Sometimes they won't want to come out, even if you know the story and you know you can do it. You'll still have days where it seems impossible to write even a sentence. But you will still have to write. At least until they create a machine that can directly download our thoughts, rearrange them perfectly, and send them out to others. (Forget flying cars, I want that machine.)
• Doubt: So what if you've finished 12 novels? There will still be a point where you'll wonder if this will be the one that fails. Maybe this book is the one you should give up on because it really does suck—you have to be out of good ideas by now, right? You'll still have to battle this monster, sorry.
• Imperfect Execution: No matter how much you've improved, you still have to write a first draft. And a first draft will always be flawed because it is full of assumptions. This is your first go at the story, and it might not be exactly what you thought it would be. The characters might not be who you thought they were. This is inevitable. In some ways you can't know what your story is supposed to be until after that first draft.
• Ticks: You know for a fact that you overuse "just," so you avoid it like the plague in this book. But instead of using "just" you notice that you've apparently fallen in love with "even" this time, and it appears in the text a whopping 697 times! New ticks always crop up—whether it's a word, an action (like smiling or lip pursing or heart pounding), or the overuse of metaphor. You have to watch out even if you've quelled your old habits.
• Edits: No matter how good your book is, it can always get better. Sure, I always hope my betas readers will have nothing bad to say about that new project, but I'm always wrong. Because every story can be better. There will always be something you miss. But hey, we're human! And books are big and long, so it's okay to miss a few (or many) things.
So there you have it. Writing is always an adventure. Sometimes that really stresses me out, but I think, in the end, that's what makes it so interesting and rewarding.