The Second Time Around the Second Time Around

Riffing off Tara Dairman’s piece, The Second Time Around, from a week ago in which she explored why the excitement factor of her second book paled in comparison to her first book, I’d like to explore the panic factor of the second book.

The first book I penned, BUNNIES!!!, was sold in a two-book deal to Katherine Tegan Books/HarperCollins a little over a year ago. It was, for all practical purposes, a finished manuscript needing very little editing. I had written it one day in December, 2012. It was inspired by a drawing I had done a couple months earlier and the story just came to me. Seriously. It was that easy. I hate when people talk about banging out a story in a day, an hour, twenty minutes. It is usually people new to the industry and with no clue of what it takes to write a picture book. It seems disingenuous and sounds both dismissive and braggartly at the same time.  I don’t know if it was a rare alignment of the stars, or if I had brushed up against some strange talisman in an antique store, or if it was just dumb luck, but if I spent more than two hours writing and rough-dummying the book I’d be surprised. My critique pals all agreed that with a couple minor tweaks, it was ready for submission. My amazing agent sold it in no time in the afore mentioned two-book deal. I spent most of the rest of last year doing the illustrations and probably prematurely resting on my big fat laurels.

The manuscript for book number two is due at the end of this month. And I’m in second book panic mode. It will feature the same characters from BUNNIES!!! I’ve been working on it pretty regularly since the first of the year with what I thought were some pretty good ideas. They have morphed from one storyline to another to another to another. And I still don’t have it nailed down. I’m close, I think, but not as close as my critique pals suggest after last night’s  meeting. Agh. They are right, of course, the story is almost there, but it is lacking the particular style and delivery of book one. So I am up at 4:15 this morning, unable to sleep and panicking once more about this book. The first one was so damn easy! Why is this one so damn hard? Why doesn’t it just come to me?  When I wrote my dear, sweet editor in a panic late one night last week, she told me to take a break from thinking about it, it needs to simmer. Go see a movie! Relax! She also suggested that maybe this second book does not have to be about the same characters, maybe it could be something else – take a break from them and come back to them later. She was making it so easy for me. And it worked. For a while. I started thinking about other manuscripts I had that I could tidy up and send to her, other new ideas that I haven’t fleshed out. After considering this for a while, I decided that I love the characters in my first book and need to give them one more shot before I temporarily shelve them. So, panicked or not, (panicked) I am back in the land of BUNNIES!!! I will put on my thinking ears and channel the panic into something brilliant. No, really, I have 25 days. Maybe when it is done and it is accepted, the rest of the process of book number two will be the calm that Tara alluded to.


by kevan atteberry


Filed under Anxiety, Colleagues, Creativity, Editing and Revising, Editor, Panic, Writing

22 responses to “The Second Time Around the Second Time Around

  1. Lindsey Lane

    Kevan, this post made me sweat…Geez…what pressure. But you can do it. Totally. 25 days. Some guys only get seven.


  2. Parker Peevyhouse

    The bunny ears will help you think, I just know it.

    Argh, I wish I knew why the writing comes easily some days and not at all other days. But I hear that readers often can’t tell which parts you labored over and which parts flew out from your fingertips.

    Can’t wait to see what you come up with.


  3. Kevan, I love the bunny ears, too. And I think Parker’s totally right about the readers. You’ve got this! Good luck.


  4. kevanjatt

    Thanks, Tara. Your post inspired the subject of this post!


  5. As an artist, on the occasion that I may have produced a good piece of work, people often ask me how long did it take?. My initial reaction was to be open and honest, if it took 2 weeks that wS my claim and if it took 20 mins. I would tell them that also. It seems that validation is an important ingredient in art and it may be so in writing. I now tell people, no matter how long the piece took, that it took 20 years to complete. This is about the time I have been painting and drawing. It is honest and validating for me and the client. It also defuses the norm of trying to judge by standard.
    You need to forget about validating your work and just write the thing. Go hard.B


  6. Go Kevan! *Hop* to it! Eat bunny Peeps while wearing your bunny ears! I agree . . . you got this! (Oh and you could wear that sweater while eating bunny Peeps and wearing your bunny ears! That could bring on some serious inspiration!)


    • kevanjatt

      Bunny Peeps!! Now I know what I’ll be serving at my book lanch next year!!! Thanks, Penny! (And I gave that sweater away in Montana!)


  7. Kevan, I know you’ve got this. Have faith! I do : )


  8. Rebecca Van Slyke

    It never ceases to amaze me at how different picture book manuscripts can be. I think they’re like babies. Some come all in a rush, like BUNNIES!!, and some take countless hours of labor. (See what I did there?) Maurice Sendak spent seven YEARS giving birth to his Wild Thing babies. However long they take, though, they’re our babies, and they’re worth the labor. I’m with Penny– eating bunny peeps while wearing bunny ears can only add to your awesomeness. You’re somebunny special!


    • kevanjatt

      Thanks, Rebecca! You’re right of course about things taking as long as they take. But deadlines usually fit in there soewhere.

      I’ve made note of Penny’s suggestion – Peeps will be at my launch!!


  9. The result of the panic *will* be brilliance, because you’re skilled, talented, and determined to meet your own expectations. Still, I wish you had the luxury of simmering some more (then again, simmering sounds like it might be rather dangerous for bunnies…) 😛 GO, KEVAN!


  10. I imagine the first book came to you like a care-free bunny parade in your imagination. You’ll find a way to finesse the second book, Kevan. Coax those skittery bunnies out of their burrows and set them free to play. You’ll do it! We’re rooting for you from curb.


  11. kevanjatt

    Thanks, Donna! (Though I feel like the guy following the parade with a wheelbarrow and shovel this time around.)


  12. I really love this post, Kevan! I’m feeling that 2nd book pressure right now, too, and I technically finished writing this 2nd book before I even started writing the one I’ve already sold. I’m just . . . you know, revising it over and over again. Because what if I show it to my editor and she doesn’t like it?! Ahh! *wails* Really, I think writing is tough no matter if it’s an author’s first or fifteenth book. GOOD LUCK!


    • kevanjatt

      But you’ve got it written, Amy! That is pretty huge. And I bet your editor will love it! Don’t edit TOO much – you have to leave something for her to do!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.