So, the first novel is done, edited, and pretty much ready to be tossed out into the cold uncaring world, which means that it’s time for you to start the next novel.
The first step in writing any novel, as everyone knows, is selecting the music that you’re going to allow to drone on ceaselessly in the background for hours and hours and hours. You do this to create a writing micro-climate where words can be nurtured and outside influences can be blocked.
Sometimes, though, it will mean that you’ll be interrupted from your writing trance and you’ll look over at the interruptee, drool hanging from the corner of your mouth, and you’ll mutter “Joe Strummer?” in a bewildered undertone.
That’s okay. Joe would understand.
So, you locate the proper mood music, whether it is Bach or Led Zeppelin, Apocalyptica or Tom Jones. Or all four, which would make a novel that anyone would want to read. Srsly.
The next step is to write your outline.
Of course, at this point, all you have is a vague idea of the characters, one scene that woke you from a bad dream, and some scribbled ideas that don’t make any sense at all.
So, skip the outline. It will be completely irrelevant to the final novel, anyway.
Having skipped the outline, having no idea what you’re about to write about, and humming “Let it be Me,” your next step is to sit down and clean your desk off. All of the old notes, maps, outlines, candy wrappers, coffee-stained scraps of bills, and the credit card statement that you’ve been ignoring for six months all need to go. Toss them in a box and stick it in your closet. You will need that stuff later, when you’re famous . . . or at least when you totally forget which country was “north” in your novel and have to re-check those maps.
Now, you are ready to write.
No, wait, you need caffeine. Coffee, if you’re that type, soda pop if your habit of sitting at a desk for days on end hasn’t yet given you diabetes, and caffeinated gum for those poor suckers who are already counting carbs.
NOW, you’re ready to write.
Or, at least, to hit “shuffle” on your music player about fifteen times, to shuffle yourself around the room looking for inspiration, and to finally type out a scene that will not appear in any final version of any book, anywhere.
When all else fails, go re-read Stephen King’s book on writing, or read one of his novels, and then despair.
You will never be that famous. Ever. Sorry.
When you’re finished plowing through your existential angst, sit back down and work on another outline. Scrape something together that resembles a plot. Invent some characters that don’t totally suck.
And then you’re ready to write. Those first 2000-5000 words will come easy. It’s all crap, anyway, but enjoy it while it lasts. It’s what you do AFTER you begin the next novel that counts. The words you write after 6000, the plot threads that you start weaving together with some finesse, and the characters that suddenly start talking like real people . . . that’s what matters. All this other stuff is just girding up your loins for the suffering that’s to come.