Sunday, 28 October 2012

The difficult second album

Echo had a couple of themes ; the conflict between duty and desire, and the need of an outsider to belong. Although the characters kept going off and doing their own thing, I always had a framework that I could come back to, just by asking "What is this book about?"

You often hear bands talking about the difficult second album. They've got shed loads of songs left over from the first album, but they want the next to be recognisable, but to have progressed. Echo was intended to be a stand alone novel but, somewhere along the way it turned into a trilogy. I had a story line, focussing on the search for the lost Visionary Ship, the Clarke, but no real idea what the book was actually about.

That's not the only problem with a second book. Starting out involves introducing the characters and getting to know them. The third book will bring everything together with some big battle scene and a final resolution (and we -I include myself in that - will find out what happened and who survived). But the second book risks being just the journey from the start to the end. 

I suspect this is not unique. Look at Tolkein's Lord of the Rings trilogy. I think LOTR is a fantastic story, well written, which is one of the few books that I have read which induced a real sense of dread and uncertainty over the outcome. But the middle bit? Oh, get on with it!

I've just completed chapter 14 of Clarke and it's been a bit of a slog. Partly it's that Echo has been so well received that expectations are high and there's a lot of pressure to make it as good, which I'm not sure I'm doing. But also, I've not been sure what the book is about, other than the bit between the start and the end. There have been fun bits. Woz won a competition and got a cameo which I've just done and she's quite pleased with. And I'm in the middle of a big fight and Echo has just rammed her knife into somebody's thigh, severing their femoral artery and getting covered in blood for her trouble.

But today I figured out my theme. It's going to involve a rewrite of several early chapters but, perhaps the difficult second novel isn't going to be so difficult now I know what the book is actually about.

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