Manuscripts

Abandon Book 2?

Slight recap: I plugged away tirelessly at my first book for years and finally released it to critical acclaim (well, my Mom liked it). I toured the world (posted one pic on the Gram). All while trying to balance my growing bank account (Citibank though the $60 deposit from Amazon was ‘suspicious activity’). So, to be completely clear…things are going WELL. #blackwealth

I had an idea for a second book that really motivated me and I got to work right away. Right now, I have fifteen chapters written. This should be good news right? Only…I’ve lost complete interest in the story, the characters, and the message.

Where they do that at? I fear that the literary Gods have turned their backs on me.

Before you say it, YES, I have heard that the second novel is the hardest. I was anticipating this. I knew it was not going to be easy but I did not think it would be damn near impossible. When writers speak about the notorious second book block it’s usually because they want to exceed expectations, wow readers the same way they did with the first one or surprise readers with something new and unexpected. Sitting down to write this second novel I wasn’t worried about any of those things. I believe people will like good things. I wasn’t necessarily riding on the thought that I needed to top “Say When”. Nope. Not at all.

However…this left me unprepared for the block that did rear its ugly head. I was left completely open to another attack. A whole different attack that I didn’t see coming. The problem with this second one is that…I’m a better writer.

Stop dragging me, ok? I’m not saying I’m a great writer. What I am saying is that I am better than my last attempt. It’s what all writers should hope for. That we grow and become better storytellers. I’ve read and studied so much since I finished writing my last book and because my skill is sharper I am way harder on myself. I know what I want the story to be. I know what techniques I could be using. Better adjectives. More powerful descriptions. More complex plots and themes. Meatier characters. When I’m writing that first draft I’m much harder on myself than before. I want my writing to be elevated and my readers to be moved. But ain’t nobody going to be moved if I don’t write something!

So, I’ve stepped away from the second novel I was writing and I’m trying to get some inspiration but making writing fun again. I tried my hand at some flash fiction (which I really enjoyed and you can read below) and I’m starting a different story as well. Maybe that will help me ease up on my first draft. As the age-old saying goes “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story”. Here’s to hoping that I can remember the joy in telling it.

P.S. We are in truly unprecedented times. COVID-19 has brought our world to a standstill. I work in the healthcare industry and what we have seen is nothing short of devastating on a massive scale. I know that the stress of our reality may limit our collective ability to play in make believe worlds. It may seem frivolous. Useless even. But the number of people that find solace in escaping their hardships in our words, find strength in our words, and are moved beyond the present moment with our words…they need us. If they need us then we need this. Keep safe, keep creative, and keep hoping.

Thank you to our #HealthcareHeroes. See you all on the other side of this!

Here’s my first flash fiction:

Epi

by Athena Hernandez

“Any allergies?”

The doctors are moving so fast I feel like someone has pushed fast forward on the movie unfolding in front of me. But they are talking to me. Like experts, their hands moving all over my Dad and they ask me important questions. I frown at their cold efficiency. Attaching lines to him. Using metal to pry his mouth open and shove tubes down his throat.

Everyone wants him to breathe.

“Shellfish and peanuts. ” I answered.

Someone’s hand is on my shoulder but I can’t take my eyes off his lifeless body. I’ve never seen it like that. The muscles in his arms are always tense. Flexing with constant motion. Thick solid sheets of pure strength run down his legs. Even the muscles of his face twist and stretch with every sound from his mouth.

He sweats a lot.

Quiet now. Still quiet. Quiet some more. They’re moving so fast but it’s not working. My mouth twists and I turn into that hand in my shoulder. Bury my face against it.

“It’s ok. We’re going to do everything we can for your Dad you hear me? Martha, please take this child downstairs to the cafeteria. Get her something.”

Martha and I shift away from the fast and move slow. Down the hallway. Into an elevator. The cafeterias bright lights sting my eyes as the shoes my Dad got me squeak against the floor. He always bought me gifts after.

“What do you feel like? A soup or a sandwich maybe. They have great PB&J here.”

I shook my head.

“I had one already today.”

—-

7 thoughts on “Abandon Book 2?”

  1. First off, thanks for being on the front lines, that can’t be easy for you or your family, however you’re out there. This sh-tuff is scary for real. I’m praying we slow things down and allow the professionals to get out ahead of this.

    You’re absolutely right that we need to write and stay creative. I like your keep creative message, really nice.

    Second, loving that flash fiction piece. At first I was like awww and then wait, what’d she just say? Hm…… Oh that was good. I’ve started doing some flash fiction challenges as well (I’m less than great at keeping up with it, need to do more!). It’s an awesome exercise especially for someone like me who struggles with brevity. 😉

    I’m STILL working on my first draft (I like the idea that I’m telling myself the story, I can’t tell you how often I have to remind myself just get this out then you can fix it). So I have no experience with the second book issue (my first book was poetry, much different than a novel). Perhaps what you started is just not the story for you NOW??? Maybe that one needs to be put in a drawer for now and you try something different. For years I “worked on” a couple different “stories” and got no where. Then NaNoWriMo helped me pick up a short story I was working on and now it’s on its way to being a novel. If you asked me if I saw this coming I’d tell you a big loud HELL NO. This story is a whole nother animal. SO, maybe…

    Best to you and yours! Stay safe and well.

    1. Yes, I found that I was really stuck and uninspired with the story because it was the only writing I was doing (other than research papers for my MBA) and GOD was that boring. When I started to experiment with different forms of storytelling, structures, and themes it’s like I’ve become reinvigorated. I even got two chapters done so far this weekend. We really have to remember that writing is supposed to be fun and exciting. There’s a time to be critical and tighten things up and that is NOT during the first draft.

      Can’t wait to read your novel when it comes out!

      1. Awesome that you’ve been reinvigorated! That’s so true, not during the first draft, not during the first draft…that might need to be a new mantra for me. 😉

  2. Hey! Dope post! While I’m trying to figure out if my first book idea is worth the pixels on a screen, it’s refreshing to read a post post the second book hump. With me, I feel like the chapters I wrote spoke to a different me and/or time. COVID-19 definitely didn’t help fix that. After reading your thoughts on working on your second book, it definitely put things into perspective for me. Keep doing your thing and thank you for all the work that you do! #TeamEssential

    1. You hit the nail on the head! “the chapters I wrote spoke to a different me”. What I underestimated is the potential for personal growth from the time I have the idea for the book to the time I start writing it to the time I finish it. We are constantly growing and experiencing different things that make that idea we had feel antiquated and out of touch with what we want to say NOW.

      I’m trying to weave that into my story then. Instead of just abandoning it, toss around ideas of how, if possible, I can update this or change what’s happening to make it still feel important. That shi*t is hard! lmao. But it’s a writing struggle that all of us experience. Thanks for sharing that, you really gave me an important insight girl!!!

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