Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Writing the second book in a series: Why is it harder? (Or, is it just me?)

Technically, I'm still writing the second book in my Vampire Psychologist series. My deadline (extended, because I had massive resistance to finishing this book) is this Saturday. It's now do or die (so to speak).

My experience of working on this second book has been totally different from writing the first.

I think, because I simply didn't know any better after I switched from writing nonfiction to fiction a few years ago, I just wrote what I wanted and then had good crit partners and positive feedback from various agents and publishers to encourage me. I sailed through the process, oblivious. Really oblivious.

I read something JK Rowling said about writing her second book, and how (of course hers is a trillion times more scary a process) she had writer's block for 5 weeks while trying to write the second book in her series. She said all the publicity, reviews, etc. about her first book had paralyzed her. She was afraid the second wouldn't live up to, or would be treated more harshly than, the first had been (her Harry Potter series definitely wasn't universally loved -- especially at first).

On a microscopic level, that's what happened to me.

I've talked about reviews in another post, and how I had an initial wave of good ones, then a few others showed up. While I expected a wide range of feedback on an intellectual level, I found myself contracting. Losing confidence. Becoming creatively constipated.

As my first deadline (the one that got extended) approached, I became more and more cautious in my writing. I was trying to write by committee. Soon, I couldn't even sit in front of the computer.

I've gone back and forth between holding true to my vision of my characters, the tone of the story, my genre-blending tendencies and trying to please others. Let me tell you, that's ulcer material.

Then, factor in a cover for my second book that might cause confusion, and I'm popping Rolaids like candy.

Did any of this happen to you? Were there differences in your process of creating books #1 and #2 in a series? Any suggestions for coping? (grin)

Okay. Stop blogging, Lynda, and finish the book.

UPDATE: Feb. 7, 2008, I FINISHED!


Blogger Susan Macatee said...

I haven't gotten to that point yet, but I'm working on an outline for a sci-fi romance that I'm hoping to develop into a trilogy.

Hope I know what I'm getting myself into.

But of course I haven't written the first book yet. LOL.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Jaye Wells said...

I'm currently potting the second book in my series. When I sold, the second and third books were nothing more than a few sentences my agent made me write to show editors I had an idea of where I was going. So I have a very high level idea of the plot, but the specifics are tough. I keep trying to remind myself that my first books old because I trusted my gut and wrote what I enjoyed. Seems like that would apply to subsequent book, as well--contracted or not.

12:05 PM  
Blogger Linda Wisdom said...

Writing the second Jazz Tremaine book turned out so easy it was downright scary. Before I'd finished the first book I knew the second one would be a continuation, knew what I wanted to write and even scarier, I do believe the characters wrote the book. I'm hoping the third book will be as easy, but we all know that doesn't always happen.

But I've had second book horror stories with other series I'd written where either something didn't fall into place or the characters wouldn't do what I'd hoped they'd do.

So yes, Lynda, stop blogging and write! You'll feel better after you write that last word. You can sign with relief, grab a glass of wine and collapse.


12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lynda!

Great blog topic. I'm in the process of writing the 2nd book in a four book series. Unfortunately, the first book isn't published yet, so my experience may not be the same. I chose to write about two characters who didn't have much "screen time" in the first book so I didn't really delve into their characters too much. As i get into these people's minds I see the complexity of their emotions are much stronger than the heroine and hero in the first book. So right now I feel I may have bitten off more than I can chew.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Nonny Blackthorne said...

Oh man. That's a tough one.

I think everyone has trouble with the second book, to the point that industry folk (editors, agents, authors..) will refer to it as "Second Book Syndrome." You have all the time in the world to finish the first book, but now that you're published... you have a deadline.

And in the time of that deadline, you have to write something at least as good and preferably better than the first book. That's a lot of pressure!!

Personally, I'm glad that Liquid Silver doesn't contract on proposal; I published my first book with them in early 2007, but the entirety of last year was hell. Murphy's Law was rampant, and I barely managed to write anything until December. If I'd had a contract... I'd have been screwed. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I don't know if this would work for you, but I know it's helped some of the other folk at RD -- post about needing to meet your deadline and hop in the chat room for timed writing challenges. As long as you don't let yourself be distracted by chatting with folks, it's a great way to keep yourself on track. :D

12:21 PM  
Blogger Romantic Heretic said...

Since I've never intended anything I've written to be a series, I've not encountered this problem. What I do is fresh every time, as it were.

That said, often I end up wondering what happens to my characters after I've finished a story with them. And very often that becomes another story in the series.

My best example of that are my vampires from In The Dark, Georges Belleveau and Diane Patterson. Building on their lives has given me seven stories to date and about a dozen more in various stages of thought. Maybe it's my organic way of going about writing that keeps my interest fresh.

Not to say I don't have other major hurdles to overcome. ;)

You can stop reading and get back to work now, Lynda. ;)

12:24 PM  
Blogger R.G. ALEXANDER said...

I looked around the other day and realized I was writing three different series at basically the same time. No wonder I'm insane.
My hardest issue is being a panster-you dont realize how important a little plotting is until you jump back into the world without that parachute.
I just got over a long block-LONG. For me-it wasn't any of the series insanity-but more the looming first release and promo stuff that freaked me out and scared my muse away.

As far as your deadline-you can do it! Just keep writing until you're done. Typos and word choice can be fixed later. Write now. :)

12:27 PM  
Blogger Two Voices Publishing said...

Great topic, Lynda! I'm working on a sequel to my werewolf story right now and it's definitely not easy. My fear is getting details wrong. I know a lot of readers will pick this up [or at least I hope a lot of readers do! LOL] without having read the first story, but I also know there will be some who enjoyed the first story and might be paying very close attention to the second one. I wrote the first book in 2005, and I don't want to screw up and have someone think, gee, she doesn't even know the details of her own story, so I'm constantly checking back with the original MS to make sure everything checks out down to eye color, hair color and tiny details about secondary characters.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Melissa Mayhue said...

Lynda ~

You have wonderful characters and wonderfully creative ideas. GO WITH THEM.

Don't allow reviews or agents or anyone to pull you off track. Write YOUR story. You can always change it to THEIR story in the revisions process! :-)

Yes, the second book was harder than the first for me. And the third was too. I'm on the fourth now, and the internal pressure continues to ramp up...not down.

But I just go back to my little mantra, and that's what gets me through... Write MY story. Write My story. I can make all the changes they all want later, but I have to start out with MY story. I have to be true to MY characters. It all flows from that.

Have confidence in your talent, in your knowledge of your characters, in yourself. :-)

Okay... I'm done lecturing. Time for BOTH of us to get back to writing!!! :-)

~ Melissa

1:38 PM  
Blogger Robin L. Rotham said...

JK Rowling had writer's block for 5 weeks!? My heart bleeds for her -- not. I've been working on the second in my Alien series for over a year, and really, there was a point where I couldn't look at it for months. I think my problem stemmed from the fact that I didn't write it with "series" in mind. I just got to the end and it wasn't quite THE END.

Yes, this is the problem with being a pantser -- now I'm having to explain why I did what I did in the first book and sometimes I have no idea. It's been a logistical nightmare. I've learned my lesson, though. I took Shelley Bradley's class on storyboarding and finally wrote out a 20-page synopsis of this book, and I'm plotting the third and final one ahead so I won't run into the same problems. AND I've asked for a deadline, because the more time I have, the more time I take. ;-)

Good luck with yours, Lynda!

2:33 PM  
Blogger Larissa Ione said...

So weird -- I'm currently reading your first book! I'm halfway through and loving it! :)

Timely post, too, because I'm just finishing up my second book in a paranormal series, and in short, it's been hell.

The first book came easily, and I had a ton of time to work on it. With the second book...well, I'm not sure what has made it so difficult. The first book isn't out yet, so it's not a confidence issue, I don't think.

I suspect that it's an issue of not enough time to ponder the story. With the first one, it had been in my mind for months before I wrote it. It had stewed there for so long that I knew the characters, plots, and scenes before I wrote them.

I didn't think about the second one at all, because I wanted to sell the series first.

So I sold, finished book one, and immediately had to start book 2. Crazy thing is, because I've had time to stew and ponder, I have book 3 all figured out and written in my head.

But book 2?

Killing me!

Great post!

3:08 PM  
Blogger gNat said...

Over Christmas, I finished the second book in my series. Was it harder than finishing the first book? Yes, and it has a name: performance anxiety. Granted, my first book wasn't out at the time, so I didn't have reviews, etc., making it worse.

Unfortunately, there is no magical solution. Other than just closing your eyes and hoping for the best. Write the thing straight through, just like you've written everything else. Allow that first draft to be terrible. It's just breaking through that wall that's so tough. I know.

And, yes, this would be a pep talk I'm delivering partially to myself as well, as I attempt the third book now that reviews are coming in about the first . . .*cringe* :)

Good luck!

3:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to say, in the sweetest possible way, that I want to kiss you right on the mouth.

I'm not writing a sequel. I'm not writing anything. I'm matching stray socks to keep from writing. I put all the clean clothes away over the weekend. If I don't start writing again soon, I'm going to have to dust or something. (Swoon!)

The awful part is, I have a second novel mostly done, and a short story well-begun. I've just been avoiding them like crazy, and until I saw this post I couldn't figure out why. It's not like being blocked. I have tons of ideas. It's more that, now that I'm published, I can't just play with words any more. Which is silly, of course. I have no deadline. It isn't a sequel. I can write whatever I want, but ... writing by committee. That's so true. I hear so many other voices along with my own.

It really, really helps to know I'm not the only one.

4:27 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Scott/MK Mancos said...

For me a sequel is harder because I'm forced to keep the tiny details straight. Keeping a 'bible' of the minutia helps, but sometimes I do worry if I've used up all my good schitck in the first book. I think it's harder when it's a continuation saga. Like the same main characters. Luckily, most of my sequel ideas have revolved around a different set of characters, different set of problems. That tends to keep things fresh. But since my first books were fantasy novels, I pretty much cut my teeth on sequels. I think there may be a law that says if you write fantasy it much be in series format. No single titles allowed.

Good luck, and remember...this too shall pass.


4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The second book in a trilogy has the potential of being the "sagging middle" of a 3-book storyline. Looking at it like that helped me on RAINE -- 2nd in a trilogy -- which pubs in 3 weeks!

Elizabeth Amber
erotic historical paranormal romance
Kensington Aphrodisia

4:50 PM  
Blogger Keena Kincaid said...

Wow! This post and the subsequent comments make me feel so much better.

I'm working on the second book of what I think will be a series, or at least a trilogy, and it's been hell. The first book (the one that sold) just came to me like a divine gift. I hadn't planned a sequel, but the characters insisted.

No I know they hate me. It's humiliating, but I've been working on it for more than a year.

Fortunately, I'm almost finished, and I'm so glad to know the second book syndrome is normal.


by Keena Kincaid
coming soon from The Wild Rose Press

6:36 PM  
Blogger Clover Autrey said...

I'm working on my second one now and it is taking so much longer. On top of that, my friend who is love with the characters from the first book was going on and on about how excited she is to see them again.

I'm thinking, oh man, is she ever going to be disappointed because it's a new hero and heroine, same world and conflict, but the first couple never show up.

7:49 PM  
Blogger Lynda Hilburn said...

Dear Larissa: Thank you so much for telling me you're enjoying my book! You're such a sweetie.

And thanks to everyone for all the great and very helpful stories. It really does make us feel better when we realize we aren't alone in some particular thing (writing weirdnesses and everything else!).

Okay. Back to writing. I'm almost done!!!

10:22 PM  
Blogger Janice Seagraves said...


Just keep going, and down look back, and don't listen to anything but that voice that says what happens next.

I wrote my first and second book conjoined then had to seperate them--what an operation. Then I wrote a prequel.

I don't have any of them sold or have an agent, but that hasn't stopped me; I'm just gonna keep writting.


11:40 PM  
Blogger Eden Robins said...

Hi Lynda,

I know this comment is a day late, bu thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing up this subject. BTW, I have my fingers crossed for you on your Saturday deadline!

I've written two sets of series and truly feel your angst over this process. It's difficult, especially if the first book does well, to write that next book knowing the first will be the comparison. And believe me when I say, having successive books not live up to the first is painful.

But I try to look at each book as a universe in itself. Although the previous book and its characters are looming over my shoulder, and writer's block and avoidance techniques sometimes prevail, in the end I keep the most important goal in mind--telling the best story I can.

3:00 PM  
Blogger KristyJo said...

Hi Lynda, I am a little behind on reading the blogs. The cover for your sequel looks great, even though it doesn't represent the characters or story line well. It's a shame that authors don't have more of a say in the covers for there books. With that said the blurb sounds great and I am looking forward to the second book.
I don't write so I can't imagine the pressure your going through. Just stay true to your characters and plot and I am sure the book will work out for you. You have a great writing style and I love your wit!

12:58 PM  
Blogger KristyJo said...

Oops, forgive the spelling error, regarding there. Should be their.

1:00 PM  
Blogger L. Rosario said...

soooo glad you finished!! *hug*
And yes, I can't tell you how many times I've started my second book..sigh...I'm beginning to fear that my editor will simply give up on me. The things that bothers me most is all the starts and stops added together are most likely close to being a full book!

4:24 AM  
Blogger Jeanne Stein said...

Hi Lynda-- great post. It wasn't the second book for me, but actually the one I'm working on now--the fifth. I couldn't even write a first chapter. For the first time, I made myself sit down and write out a synopsis (which I hate doing). 32 pages. But I discovered the problem I was having stemmed from not knowing where I wanted to go with the book. Once I saw it all planned out, I had no trouble. Good thing, since my deadline is April 30-- which will be here before we know it.

Best, Jeanne

6:21 AM  
Blogger Lynda Hilburn said...

Thanks again, everyone, for the wonderful support! The moment I pressed the "send" button to turn in the ms, a weight lifted off my shoulders. Of course, the ms is still out with some of my crit partners and I'll be integrating their feedback once I get the edits back from the publisher. But it feels like the worst (what a strange thing to say about the opportunity to have a book published!) is over.
Hugs, Lynda

7:03 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home