where the writers are
First draft, second book

We all know that first drafts are hard. We wouldn't be here on a site connecting us with other writers if we didn't. But since I'm breaking cherry on writing a first draft of a book with a predecessor, I'm observing a few differences that make it easier.

For one thing, I didn't have to pick a font or format to write "Chapter One" at the top of the first page. Tempus Sans, 14-point, all caps, centered. There you have it, just like in the first book.

Writing that all-important, solid-seeming yet changeable-as-vapor first line was easier, too. I started out ESCAPE FROM GOSHEN with an italicized thought from one of my twin protagonists: Miracles don't happen anymore. It was a specific idea that was occurring in a specific situation, but it also set up the theme of the novel. So when I sat back in my chair after typing "Chapter One" and then changing my formatting, I had a scaffold for that first sentence.

But OMG, exposition was so klutzy. This, I'm sure, is a perennial problem. I remember noticing that J.K. Rowling had given up on exposition after four Potter books, as soon as she could be pretty sure that almost no one who bought the next book in the series was going to need it.

Another decision has made this draft easier: I'm not going to reread ESCAPE FROM GOSHEN until I've slogged through to the end, so that I don't incriminate - um, I mean intimidate - myself. For me, slogging through means constantly reminding myself that I don't have to worry about how well it's written: "Just get to the next thing," I mutter under my breath every 15 minutes or so. My slogging would get bogged down if I was comparing what I'm coming up with now to what I finished a year ago.

One good thing about deciding to self-publish the first book is that until I get a "normal" publisher for the series, I'll still be able to change anything I want to. I reckon nothing is really set in stone unless it's available in bookstores.

But I think the most important difference is that I know how my Jacob and Leah novels build now. I know that each twin will have to go through an individual process of growth, coming to a unique and yet complementary epiphany. I like how the climax ended up in ESCAPE, with Leah having her "calm before the storm" moment right before Jacob had his action-filled flash of defiance, and then both of them going through the Red Sea Crossing together yet experiencing it slightly differently.

Now that I'm about a quarter of the way through this draft the sequel, I have a pretty good idea of the distinct conflicts and resolutions my twins will go through, setting them up for the Golden Calf episode and (maybe) the eruption of Mt. Sinai.

This is an invaluable advantage over the process of the first book. At least, I think it is at this point. I'll only know once I've finished the fifth or sixth draft.