Short answer: Not a lot.
Long answer: A few things change, but mostly it’s back to the usual. And by usual I mean, more writing. EVEN more now, because you’re feeling the pressure from your publisher’s deadline (if you had more than a one book deal), and you have readers now who are waiting on you to write more.
Some little secrets -
1. Writing is no easier after the first book
In general, I’ve not found it any more or less difficult, though certain aspects have become easier. For example, I feel more confident about my own writing, which helps fight that annoying bugger I like to call The Fear (more on that here), and I’m more aware of the narrative structure of a novel, so can self-edit that as I go.
But in some ways, it’s harder too. Now I’m not just worrying about writing a book for myself. There are readers – real, actual people who thought my first book was ok enough to want more – waiting for book 2. And did I mention the pressure of writing to a deadline? Stupidly, I overcome this by taking back control and setting my own deadlines – closer than my publisher’s. TAKE THAT, PRESSURE. Weirdly, it works for me.
2. Bad reviews suck
Ughhh, it’s a horrible, twisty feeling when you come across these. But come across these you will. Look at Harry Potter, look at your most dearest, forever-in-your-heart books. They all have bad reviews too. So although it sucks, you’ve just got to learn to deal.
A little trick I use. After reading a not-so-great review, flick back to a good one. A really really good one. Read. Repeat. You’ll feel better in no time.
3. Prepare for the post-publication funk
My wise, wise agent was the one who made me realise post-publication funk was a thing. I’d been struggling, really struggling, with my WIP in the weeks after The Elites came out. I doubted everything I wrote. Each day, writing was like tearing words from my eyeballs. I did everything I could to avoid it, even getting seriously ill and spending a few weeks bed-bound (ok, so that might not have been intentional. But perhaps it was my body saying, Hold the eff up! I’m scared! Don’t make me do this!). I emailed to my agent to explain how I was going to be late on the deadline we’d agreed on, and she wrote back a wonderful message that included this piece of advice (which hopefully she doesn’t mind me sharing) -
“Don’t underestimate the slightly blindsiding feeling of having THE ELITES out there, your first book on the shelves. It’s a dizzying feeling and can provoke all sorts of weird reactions.”
I wanted to share that with you all because I think it’s so true. For many first-time authors – this definitely applied to me – having a book published is a dream. Maybe even The Dream. And when it’s out, the dream has come true, and it’s both overwhelming and underwhelming at the same time. Be prepared to feel a bit off. Be prepared to give yourself a break. Take time to let the reality of what’s happened sink in. Because -
You did it.
You did it.
Last week was my book launch at the gorgeous Notting Hill bookstore Lutyens & Rubinstein. It was a night I’ll never forget – I’m so glad I put the time and money into organising it. It was incredible to have all my friends and family there, as well as book bloggers and other authors I’d only talked to on Twitter, and of course my agent and publishers. I didn’t have a clue though just how busy it was going to be (or hot – the L&R basement is basically an oven for books)! It was a complete whirlwind. Every time I started talking to someone I got swept away by someone else, and I only realised at the end it was because everyone was there for me. I mean, it was my book being launched, my book I was signing (ok that sounds vain, but it was!). It was all rather baffling really, but utterly, utterly amazing.
Here are some snaps my wonderful boyfriend took on the night, and lovely author Rose Mannering also did a vlog you can watch on her blog here.
I made these with Callum’s mum the day before the book launch. Took us hours!
Old friend and fashion blogger Karlmond looking snazzy
This was how happy I was all night
Can you spot the wonderful Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre there at the back? I went to the launch of their fantastic children’s book Oliver and the Seawigs the next night
Because I was an incoherent mess during my speech, I just want to thank everyone who came one more time. It meant the world to me x
How cool is this! The incredible team at my publishers put together an interactive cover for The Elites, full of juicy little snippets such as my editor saying why she first bought the book when it came in on submission and a video of me chatting about the book. We’re hoping it’ll get people excited in the run up to 5th September when the novel hits bookstores across the world, which is LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY. Wow. It feels just like yesterday when Hot Key gave me their offer.
Anyway, go take a look and play around with the cover. Let me know what you think!
A strange thing that happens as your pub date looms is that people start talking about your book (YOUR BOOK!), writing reviews and featuring it on their blogs and just generally saying Very Nice Things Indeed. It’s a terrifying time, because it makes you realise that you have no control over your book anymore. All those things you suddenly wish you’d changed? Too late! And in today’s world of interconnectedness, you can’t hide from your readers (well, unless you disengage from the internet entirely). You will know exactly what they thought of your precious story.
And while it’s heart-wrenching when it’s not all positive, it is very lovely when readers are saying good things. And you get to see all the excitement and re-read the nice comments over and over until you’re giddy with it all. Here are some of those comments about The Elites that are getting my heart all in a twist …
Ellie from The Selkie Reads Stories said: “Words cannot express how much I need this book in my life right now. The summary completely sold me and I just can’t wait to immerse myself in the interesting new world that author Natasha Ngan created.”
Phoebe from Goodreads said: “Phenomenal read – completely absorbing from the first page!”
Hannah from Waterstones said: “For fans of YA dystopian, this is a book that I would highly recommend. I would argue that it brings something new to an over saturated genre and I can only hope that some sequels are planned!”
UK best-selling author Kerry Wilkinson said: “I read a preview copy of this – and it’s great. The writing is beautifully formed, full of description that paints the scene, an artiste using words as her craft.”
Kai from Amaterasu Reads said: “This is a debut? It just sounds so creative and imaginative you’d think this was written by someone who’s got a lot of books out already.”
Cah from Goodreads said: “This book pushes the limits of one’s own experience and demonstrates the resilience of its characters in adversity, emerging stronger and better when the image of the world as they know it is shattered. A powerful, inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable read.”
Fellow Hot Key author Edward Carey said: “Wonderful, wonderful heartbreaking book”
Laura from Bookish Treasures said: “I LOVED it, best YA book I have read so far this year”
I had no expectations going into reading this, and having received a proof copy from our editor (Laure and I share the same editor at Hot Key), there’s not that much out yet in the world about this book. Come October though, that’s all going to change.
Fearsome Dreamer is a seductive, imaginative novel that I just could not put down. It draws you in slowly, unfurling its story and its characters in such a beautiful, easy way that, about a third of the way in, I realised I’d fallen in love with everything about Fearsome Dreamer, and I read the rest of the book over a day and a half. Plus, Laure writers with an incredibly descriptive, dreamy but simple prose that you slip so effortlessly into the narrative (I’m very jealous of her skill, really). And don’t even get me started on that ending.
Pre-order it now. This is going to be huge.
Add it on Goodreads here and read a sample here.
For me, Matt Haig summed it up when he said writers block = writer’s indecision. I don’t believe in writer’s block. I believe in things in life that stop you writing or make it harder. In the lure of procrastination. In a lack of confidence. I believe in how on hard days, even doing your taxes seems more appealing than sitting your butt down and putting words to paper.
But I don’t believe in writer’s block. Why? Because once you starting calling it a block, you make it seem as though there’s something there that’s completely prohibiting you from writing. And apart from physical issues such as illness or not having the time to write, or mental issues such as illness or emotional hits, I do believe that if you can identify what is holding you back from writing, then you can learn how to overcome it.
Indecision (or lack of confidence, hesitancy, The Fear)
I’m guessing that this is the biggest reason why writers feel as though they can’t go on (and all other reasons apart from those physical and mental issues I mentioned above come back to this). And no wonder. I mean, it’s absolutely terrifying writing a novel. It’s like piloting an airplane without a co-pilot, a crew, or even air traffic control to chat to back down on earth. Plus, more often than not, you’ve never even had any training. And if you’re a published author, then it’s even worse, because you are doing this all WITH passengers on board (we love you readers, but you don’t do anything to help The Fear).
Sometimes the indecision is small. You’re unsure about what scene comes next, but you’ve got the rest of the novel pretty much planned out. Or you don’t know how you’re going to relay a particular bit of information to your readers. But sometimes – and more often than not, I find – the indecision is a great big whopper (this is especially true for pansters) – HOW DOES THIS ALL END? WHY IS THIS ALL HAPPENING IN THE FIRST PLACE? DO I REALLY NEED ALL THESE CHARACTERS AND PLOT TWISTS AND OH DEAR LORD THIS IS THE WORST THING TO HAVE EVER BEEN WRITTEN AND PLEASE JUST LET ME CURL UP IN A BALL AND CRY.
So you see how indecision = The Fear = block. It’s all part of the same problem. I imagine that this applies to any creative activity actually – painters start with a blank canvas, carvers start with a plain hunk of wood. But the thing with writing is, it’s not even like there are boundaries such as the size of a canvas or the type of wood in place. There are millions of different scenarios you could play out with your characters. And will it be a standalone or a series? First person or third? Focused on one or two characters or a multi-character head-hopping fest that would make even George R. R. Martin quake in fear? Worse, there are no right or wrong answers, and it is all down to YOU to decide (I’m not really making it any better, am I?).
Decision (or having confidence, executing, kicking The Fear’s butt)
To be honest, I don’t think there’s any way to get rid of The Fear for good. If you love writing and are passionate about improving as an author, then it will always be there – because you care, because you want to do the best by yourself and your readers. And that is only a good thing. So while writing will forever be a tussle between you and The Fear, hopefully by acknowledging it and identifying the root cause of each individual bout, you’ll be able to keep overcoming it.
I find the most important thing is to figure out what it is exactly that’s bothering you about your current WIP. If it’s a small issue, like what happens in the next chapter, do a little brainstorming to help you feel your way forward, or maybe try plotting the bare bones of the chapter. Or just go ahead and write it and see what happens. More often than not, just getting on with the writing and putting aside all my worries and hesitancies usually leads to the problems sorting themselves out. This is the same with bigger issues, like just what the hell is this whole book going to be about? Trust the story. More importantly – trust the characters. They’ll find their way. And remember that YOU CAN ALWAYS EDIT LATER! Your words aren’t going to set in concrete once they’re on the screen. You can come back any time and change them.
Lastly, keep in mind that all writers go through The Fear at least once (but I’m guessing more often a gazillion times) during the course of each novel. It’s not something that goes away completely after having had books published, because as I said, if you truly care about your writing, you will always worry whether what you’re doing is right. But just remember that it’s all about it being right for you. Only you can write this novel, and only you know how you want to tell it. So just jump in and swim whichever way takes your fancy. You’ll find the current soon.
Hey lovely readers! I can’t believe it’s just 70 days to publication now (I didn’t count, I promise – Waterstones told me). That’s less than 100! Less than three months! Less time than I’m ready but also too much. Anyway, as publication is looming and proofs are already out there with booksellers and lots of other awsome people, I thought I’d share an extract with you guys to show you what you can expect. It’s a great way to see if my book is for you (hopefully it is!).
It’s the prologue and first two chapters, which sees our fifteen-year old heroine Silver facing her biggest assignment yet as part of her life as an Elite … and guess what? *Spoiler alert* – she screws up! So if you’ve got a spare moment and want to find out how Silver messes up, and get a taste for just how huge the consequences of her mistake might be, why not sit down with a cup of tea and some popcorn (or whatever you fancy) and have a little read …
Download (PDF, 664KB)
1. WRITE. It’s so easy to do anything but. So sit your butt down and get those words out.
2. Everything you write can be changed. This is both a daunting and liberating concept. Try and focus more on the liberating side and rest safe in the knowledge that you can edit later. For now, just write.
3. Create a 360 experience for your reader. Utilise each and every sense. Turn your reader into your character’s shadow – no, your character’s heart – and throw them head-first into the words, gasping and laughing and crying with your characters every step of the way. More on 360 writing here.
4. Write for yourself. Only by writing the books you love as a reader will you write books your readers will fall in love with.
5. Do not work in a place where food is within arm’s reach. You will eat it all within five minutes.
6. Listen to the opinions of your beta-readers/friends/agent/editors. It might sting at first, but know when to accept that you could use the help and advice of others. It’ll only make your work better, and in the end that should always be your goal.
7. Write how you work best. There’s so much writing advice out there, and by all means read it (it’s what you’re doing right now!), but don’t be afraid to write the way you find best.
8. Read your work aloud. You’ll notice in an instant if the rhythm is off.
9. Avoid literary snobbery. Yes, 50 Shades and Dan Brown might not have the most beautifully written prose, but there’s something about them that gets readers reading. And that is sort of the whole point, isn’t it?
10. Go with your gut. It just knows.