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 thought 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:
by Athena Hernandez
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.”