That Darned Second Book

I suppose it's time for a summary of the continuing saga of The Second Book, and I'm calling it that because at the moment I don't know which book is The Second Book.  That's a decision that will be made by a publisher, not me.

One candidate for Second Book is my children's book, The Amazing Q, which has been declined by several publishers, looked over by a trio of beta-testers, and is now sitting on yet another editor's desk.  It's a book that I began over 17 years ago and finished a couple of summers back, then revised a few more times to tighten up a few elements. I think it's pretty darned solid at the moment, so I'm hoping and praying that the current editor will see its appeal and pick it up.

Another candidate for Second Book is Student Exchange, which is based on an idea I've been kicking around for probably close to two decades, and which I finally put into book shape in a white-hot blaze last August.  I'm very happy with its overall shape and content, but it has given me some problems because it's not easy to categorize.  It's a fantasy--in effect, characters are magically transformed into super-heroes--but it's set in our own world, so it doesn't have that familiar pseudo-Tolkien feel that seems to attract so many publishers.  I wrote it with the idea that it might make a good Young Adult book (eschewing some potentially juicy sexual elements, for example), but I'm still not entirely sure it fits in the YA category, and that makes me wonder if it's actually an adult book that simply lacks sexual elements.  (Since it's the first book of a trilogy, those can always be introduced in later volumes...)  As a result of all this border-hopping, the editors and agents who've looked at it so far seem a bit leery about marketing it, and that's got me a bit uncertain about what step to take next.  Part of me wants to decide where it belongs and fit it into that slot, but a louder voice is yelling "Write the second #*(*&)@!% volume and worry about its genre later!"  I suspect I'll end up sending out more queries about Vol. 1 and working on Vol. 2 soon.

The third Second Book, A Raven for Doves, is another whose genesis lies in the distant past.  I've written a variety of short stories using the basic idea, but none of them found buyers, and when I decided to turn it into a novel a few years back, the idea scared me stiff.  (I think most writers are similarly scared; as one critic put it, each novel is essentially a novelist's attempt to learn how to write a novel.)  It's big, it's sprawling, it's probably science fiction, but I'm not sure it belongs in the SF category--again, that's probably a publisher's decision.  It describes a world completely transformed by a global plague, so it could easily go into the SF section, but the focus isn't really on the workings of the plague, but rather on the people affected by it.  In short, I could see it fitting in with Max Brooks' World War Z, in which a global war against zombies breaks out (and which seems solidly in the SF camp), or with something like Ann Ursu's delightful, thoughtful Spilling Clarence, in which a chemical leak leaves the citizens of a small town unable to forget (and which is definitely a mainstream novel using a SF trope.)  It's been considered by a couple of agents, but I haven't dropped it into a publisher's slush pile yet... mainly because, as I look at the most recent draft, it's in need of yet another revision--but at least now that I've re-read it again, I see where the revisions must come.  Maybe I'll spend August doing them.

Finally, there's the only one of these potential Second Books that is as yet unfinished: the saga of my ongoing attempt to spot a life bird in every state of the Union.  At one point it was called Fifty-Fifty, but lately I've been referring to it as Birdlands.  I've had one publisher turn the idea down, while another has given me at least a verbal agreement that if I were to get it written first, he'd publish it.  The good news is that the project continues regardless of how the writing and/or bookselling goes, and this past March I managed to check Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Arizona off the list.  Added to my other lifer states (Hawaii, California, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Florida), this gives me 21 states--I've got only 24 to go!  The bad news: Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, New Mexico, and in particular West Virginia have kicked my ass so far, so a number of return trips, a bunch of new states, and some serious heavy-duty birding still lie in my future if I'm to finish this thing successfully.

So:  What have I learned?  Well, in short, I've discovered that, in three out of four cases, it's far easier for me to WRITE The Second Book than to publish the dadgum thing.  I get the feeling that may be a problem shared by other writers, but it's hard to be sure.  I haven't had a good bitch session about the Second Book process with any of my writerly chums, so perhaps I should rectify that.

Or maybe I should find an agent.

Hey, maybe I could try BOTH.

But anyway, I appreciate the patience displayed by so many of you who picked up The Verb 'To Bird' five years ago.  I hope for your sake (and mine) that it will be rewarded soon.  In the meantime, you can always load this page to get a sample of PC writing for free.  If that cheap and easy alternative seems less satisfying than the more aesthetically and economically complex process of buying a book of mine... well, actually, I agree.

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This page contains a single entry by Peter Cashwell published on July 25, 2008 7:33 AM.

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