‘Second Novel Syndrome’ & a New Short Story Market

A cheesy photo of me in this month’s Cotswold Life magazine

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I finally finished the first draft of novel no. 2 on Sunday (I had to beg for a week’s extension – it was supposed to be all done and dusted on 18th March) and sent it to my editor.

I find writing a first draft very hard.

I can totally relate to writer Judy Blume who said, “The first draft is pure torture for me. I hate every second of it. I have a messy mind and my writing is a process of cleaning up the mess. And then, slowly, making a story.”

Where do you start, for a start? I know, in theory, you can go back and sort out the start when you get to the end of the novel but I can’t work like that.

Unless I’ve got the beginning in place (or at least the beginning that I’m happy with for now), I can’t move on. I’m all discombobulated. The first few pages set the mood and the tone for me.

The start of ‘A Wartime Secret’ when Maggie is face down on the floor of a bus during an air raid, was written on a tutored writing retreat in October 2018 (yes, that long ago!), when I was instructed to ‘write the first 500 words!’ (of the novel I was thinking and thinking and thinking about writing).

That first scene was hardly tweaked, throughout the whole editing process but it was only because I was happy with the start of the novel, that I was able to move on and (s l o w l y!) write the rest.

But can you see how long I had, to write novel no.1? Two years before it was submitted to an agent (and even then it wasn’t finished).

And for novel no. 2 I’ve had 9 months to produce the first draft, less all the time I’ve spent editing and promoting novel no. 1 (erm, and then there was Christmas… ), so, it was more like 6 months. Edits are coming back a week today and then I have 4 weeks to get those done.

And this is the truth about the second novel, which Emma Darwin writes about so accurately here, in a post about ‘second novel syndrome’.

I will stop moaning now because I should be happy and grateful and of course, I AM! (but also, tired).

I did have my suspicions that getting published, as a novelist, would be like this. I even wrote about it, here on the blog, back in 2017! (psychic, moi?!)

But on a more cheery note, Stylist magazine has put a call out for short stories and they’ll pay £200 for each one they publish.

It’s hard to know exactly what they’re looking for until they start printing them, obviously, but they mention Emma Cline’s short story collection ‘Daddy’ and author Lisa Taddeo in the article (interestingly, both American female writers in their 30s/40s), so I’d hazard a guess that they’ll take stories with more risks than some of the more traditional women’s magazines (eg: Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly and The People’s Friend) and they may well be looking for stories that are more literary than the traditional womag type of story (which tends to be more commercial – and that’s not a criticism, just fact!) BUT I’m only guessing and we shall have to wait and see.

It’s fantastic news though to see a new magazine market opening up for short stories (a very rare event these days) and fingers crossed that readers of Stylist give the story pages the ‘thumbs up’ and they continue.

If you’d like to submit a story, read the guidelines carefully and it wouldn’t hurt to have a look at the Stylist website (if you can’t get hold of a copy of the magazine itself. You can subscribe to it digitally – and perhaps, if you’ve got Readily, it will be on there? The magazine isn’t sold in shops. It always used to be available on the ‘commute’ – so you’d find it at train stations and on the Tube, free of charge. As I haven’t been anywhere near a station for probably 2 years, I don’t know if it’s still available as a ‘real’ magazine but perhaps some of you know and can answer this question!)

I have Patsy at the Womag Writer Blog to thank for originally flagging this opportunity so many thanks to her and do pop over and have a look at her blog, if you don’t already follow it, as she always has lot of information about writing and competitions which I’m sure you’ll find interesting.

This entry was posted in Books, Magazines, novel writing, Short Stories. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to ‘Second Novel Syndrome’ & a New Short Story Market

  1. AMANDA BARTON says:

    That’s a lovely photo, not ‘cheesy’ at all. You look, quite rightly, very pleased with yourself. And why not? Congratulations on your second book baby.

  2. Barbara says:

    Well done on the second novel! I can imagine the pressure has been intense but it will be so worth it. I can’t even believe I am writing second novel! Congratulations. By the way I picked up a copy of stylist somewhere in central Birmingham last week-it may have been in a supermarket so it is still available in print format. Good luck to all who enter the competion.

  3. nsfordwriter says:

    Thanks for pointing out the Stylist opportunity, I will have a think. All the best with 2nd novel – I’m editing mine too.

  4. Thanks for the mention.

    Good luck with those edits.

  5. juliathorley says:

    A new market? Well, it would be rude not to.

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