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Creation and the Second Book - The Motive Center
December 14th, 2004
10:57 pm


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Creation and the Second Book
Rosemary Dyer wrote me with the following message, which I thought was well worth repeating (with permission):

I attended the N.E.Crimebake, and heard your presentation there.  I agree with you about what motivates mystery writers (though I'd have called it 'control', rather than 'power' or 'influence').

When writing the book or story, you are the creator of your own world.  You control what happens there, what the characters say, do, think.  If a character seems ready to take over the story, or otherwise get out of hand, you can have them killed off, or annihilate them by writing them completely out of the story.  Yes, power, influence, control: whatever you want to call it, it is a strong motivator. 

But look what happens when the writer has finished his/her first book.  All of a sudden, strangers take over your life.  You beseech them to publish your work, or at least to read it, or at the very least to write a personal note saying why they won't do either.  Instead you wait months for a reply, only to get a printed form letter and no indication that anybody ever got beyond the first sentence of your query letter.

You are left wondering if, horror of horrors, your stuff is no good, and you are never going to be a REAL writer, but are doomed to be just a wannabe.

Tell me, how can any writer keep motivated enough to write the SECOND book while the fate of the first one is still unknown?

I thought this was a great point--two great points, really. Here's my response:

I don't have much "control" over the name, I'm afraid. Power motive is the academic name (though as I noted, it sounds bad to English speakers) in the literature. I had a reason for selecting influence, which is less directive, than control, as it happens. Names are tough in this field!

I agree with your point about the joy of being the creator. Dorothy Sayers referred to the feeling of being like "God on the seventh day." I like writing SF, so this is particularly true--I really do create a world!

I also like your contrast of when the writer has finished his/her first book. It's a tough question. All I can say in general is that you need to remember the joy of creation, and keep moving. You are quite right to talk about writing the second book while the fate of the first is still unknown--you could wait a long time! You need to stay in touch with what started you writing in the first place--do it for yourself, not for the publisher. "Extrinsic motivation," motives from outside, can extinguish your intrinsic joy of writing if you let it.

If you feel uncomfortable starting the second book in a series, for example, you can write something different--I like to do that, so do many others. Write a short story; outline something new. But even if you do write a second book, and the first book doesn't sell, sometimes you can sell the second book first! It's happened before, and it can actually add hidden depths to your characters, because they have a history you've already worked out.

For some people, setting a regular goal helps, too. You're not waiting on anyone but yourself in that case--you're just continuing to write.

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