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The Second Novel Slump

“You got a ways to go
There’s so much to know
Got a ways to go
Too much to know”

~The Feelies, “Too Much”

My first novel, for all intents and purposes, was “The Eastward Exodus,” a raw, ambitious, contemporary work about a neurotic high school girl who wants to go to NYU and be a playwright. Forget that jive about the apocalypse I did once; the family saga dripping with melodrama; and the political thriller I wrote in high school, titled, earnestly, “Dark Horse.” If “Dark Horse” is even deserving of analogy, it was something like the savage, mutant love child of 1984 and that good ole Robert Redford flick The Candidate. No offense to savage, mutant love children.

My second novel (for all intents and purposes) is presently marinading in my mind, as it should be, for a very long time.

I’d be lying if I said that that makes me happy. It really doesn’t. I hardly know who I am when I’m not fleeing from social interaction, holed up someplace writing a book. I suppose that’s one reason why I’m blogging again. I can’t just keep silent until I have something spectacularly relevant to share with the world, as tasteful and prudent as that may seem.

I’d also be lying if I said that this trip I’m taking to New York isn’t sort of an attempt to jumpstart my second novel. The beginning of the novel is the most important part, as probably any writer would attest to. If those stakes aren’t sizzling at the beginning, when will they be? When you get all tangled up in your own plot twists and run out of clever pop culture references at around 30k words?

The trip may do the trick, or it may not. Certainly, it will help me as a writer in some way somewhere down the road. Yet, it’s doubtful that I’ll be like, “Eureka! Now I know exactly how to start my second novel that sets out to chart the course of history from the perspective of a parasite, filtered through a story about an autistic girl, a synesthete law student, and a pack of cigarettes with a lifetime warranty.”

Yep, I don’t really see that happening. You can’t plan an epiphany like that. It’s even pretty hard to plan a trip. I feel like I’m wanting to saturate myself with stuff about New York (a crash course in American history and architecture would not be out of place), but it doesn’t seem like I’ll ever know enough to put everything in context, and, what’s more, it’s not like I actually know what’s going to happen to me there. Nor do I want to know; that’s kind of the point, not knowing.

And so, why don’t I just spill something onto a page and see what happens? The reason is that every good thing I’ve ever written was etched onto my soul long before it touched paper (as cheesy as that sounds), and so far, this isn’t. I’m certain that anything I would write at this point would be half-baked and painful to read, and I respect myself too much as a writer to even expose my laptop to such a shameful display.

Listen, you know you’ve got writer’s block when the best working title you can come up with for your second novel is: “Luridly, Leena Lights Up.” A part of me (the rational part) despises this sorry excuse for a title, which begins with a weird adverb and only goes downhill from there. And another part of me is like, “well, it’s self-aware, and it does rather nicely undercut the pretentiousness of the title of your first novel, ‘The Eastward Exodus of Julie Ashbury.'” True as that may be… it really is a piece of shit title, and until I can get my brain waves out of murky territory they must be wading in, it probably isn’t even safe for me to be writing.

 

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