I am working on it. Really I am.
The thing with a second novel is that it is a follow-up: you want it to be at least as good as your first (and ideally better and more successful) but the pressure is certainly on to ensure it is not an anti-climax.
Several writers I know are in similar positions at the moment – trying to find the words to maintain the momentum; to keep their fans hooked and their agents/publishers happy and provide a gleam of light at the end of the tunnel for their bank balances.
Managing to keep afloat financially whilst endeavouring to establish ones reputation as an author is tough – and it is a major distraction from the task in hand (ie, working on the new book). But I still believe the main pressure stems from a desire not to disappoint or underwhelm – because once Novel One is out, you are not an absolute unknown quantity anymore. You are a professional of whom things are expected.
I find the only solution for me is immersion. You have to wake up one morning (and, indeed, hundreds of mornings thereafter) thinking that the only thing you have to do is write. I have taken that immersion a stage further and moved to the place my new novel will be about.
Wales. It’s no secret that I love the country. I have waxed lyrical about it before. I lived on the Orkney Islands in Scotland, and I wrote a book about that; I ‘virtually’ lived in the Amazon for a number of years and I wrote a book about that – but this is different. There was a degree of separation in both those previous examples – the writing did not come at precisely the same time as the experience.
Where we live now (or let us say where we have alighted for the time being) in Central-South Wales, a winding river valley glimmering in a hundred hues of green as distinct and distinguished as any greens I have seen in the Amazon (in Wales the palette of green is always so rich and luscious), I can virtually reach out and touch what I am writing about. The Wales of times passed. The Wales of almost a millennium ago. In a land notorious for its dire weather (often a deserved notoriety but not always) I find how well-preserved Wales’ ancient history is an absolutely remarkable thing. Abbeys and castles and ancient pilgrimage routes still so in tact they nigh-on rekindle to life once more just the kind of characters I want to be writing into the novel.
If I’m feeling lazy and I fancy a break, I make damned sure that break is taking me out to one of those abbeys or castles. I want them imprinted on my retina even in my downtime. When I go to bed at night, I take with me my notebook so that – in those sublime oh-so-creative moments just before you drift off when you feel you can conquer the world and that possibility is infinite – I can jot down ideas. It is ideas penned at such moments that I want on the pages of the finished product. Going out to the local supermarket – I give you due warning – I am scanning the unsuspecting faces of shoppers thinking which might translate well into a minor character, who right now for me must possess a convincing medieval demeanour.
Surround yourself in the book, swamp yourself in the book, and the book will come.