Second Novels

At NESCBWI, I went to a workshop about expectations for your writing career and your second book in particular. It was refreshing to hear Cynthia Lord and Linda Urban talk about their struggles writing their second books. Urban mentioned spending a lot of time working on one book in particular and how it was a huge, stressful project. Ultimately, she had to set it aside fro a while and move onto something else.

It’s hard enough to think about getting published and how your first book will do. Then you have to worry about the second one and if anyone will like that. It’s like the work and worry never ends! (Apparently it doesn’t.)

Still, Rachelle Gardner talks about how second book stress doesn’t mean the end of the world. If your agent/editor doesn’t love your next manuscript, that’s okay. Gardner says:

“It’s true, many writers’ subsequent novels fall short of the mark. The most common reason is that most authors work on that first novel, the one that sold, for far longer than the second one. They may have even agonized over it for years. The following novels, by contrast, are usually written much faster and under the pressure of a contract and a deadline, so they might not be as strong…If you wrote one great one, and your second one is not quite as good, the world’s not going to end. You just fix it. Presumably you’ll have the help of whoever told you it wasn’t good enough—your agent or editor. You’ll get notes for revision and you’ll get to work. Or you’ll be told to junk it and start over. (Hopefully not the latter, but it’s been known to happen.)”

I think it’s good to remember that a writing career isn’t all or nothing. Sometimes there are disappointments, but that doesn’t mean your career is over. It’s all a process and it never stops being work. But on the upside, just because you write something that might not be your next book doesn’t mean that your agent will leave your or your editor will hate you. Again, it’s more work, but it’s not the end of your writing career.

6 thoughts on “Second Novels

  1. Went to an author event for S. E. Hinton earlier this week and she talked about having TERRIBLE second book jitters after publishing The Outsiders. She went into a really awful depression and writer’s block phase.

    I think it’d be a nice place to be in, in theory, though. It means your first book is done!

    • SO exciting you got to see S.E. Hinton! I was obsessed with The Outsiders when I was in middle school. And I can totally buy it being a hard book to follow up on.

  2. Oh, shoot. This is such a well timed read for me! I’ve been really struggling with my second novel. Whereas the first one was a work of passion and love, this one feels a bit like an obligation. I have to get through it to make it to the third, which contains the part of the story I’m really excited to tell. So many insecurities are swirling around in my head, it’s nice to see this isn’t just some peculiarity of mine.

    • It’s totally not just you! It seems like everyone has a hard time with their second novel–even writers who are really successful and end up creating a brilliant follow-up. Keep going!

  3. Hi. I see your blog is still going great. My second novel took me the same ten years to write as the first one. And both novels are selling like hot cakes – at a weighwatcher’s convention. Hard to get too encouraged. I completed a short sequel to the second novel this year and I’m having it illustrated. I lilke it a lot. By now I’m so out of gas that I write for the blog.
    Take it easy, but take it.

  4. Pingback: Even S. E. Hinton Gets Writer’s Block « The (Writer's) Waiting Room

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