Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Curse of the Second Novel

You'd think that after getting published, securing positive reviews and even becoming a bestselling author on Amazon, writing a second novel would be a breeze, right?

Well, you'd be wrong.

Because writing the second novel, in my humble opinion, is even harder. Now, you have something to live up to. Now, you're lucky enough to have people who've loved your first work. And now, you know how critical some readers can be.

It's not only me -- I've heard over and over again how writing Novel Number Two for publication can mess with your mind. All the excitement of 'firsts' with your debut (I can't wait to get a book out there! I can't wait to hold it my hands!) is now replaced with doubt. (What if it sucks? What if it doesn't sell as well? What if... *insert your own personal demon here*?)

Caught up in the seemingly endless cycle of revisions, I admit I've struggled with this over the past few weeks. But, as I've been reminded by those close to me, all I can do is my best and make my work the strongest I can. After that, I won't have any control over it, but right now, I do. Enjoy it!

Well, I'm trying.

Any words of wisdom from my blogging buds? I could use some right about now!

76 comments:

  1. Use wormholes! Seriously, what I like to do is continue to escalate events and keep throwing twists and turns at the reader. That's what I'm doing for my second book.

    And I'm using xcharacters with bit roles from the first book and making them major players in the secnd. I hadn't intended on doing this in the beginning, but as I developed the story more this seemed like the right thing to do. And it gave me a few more characters to kill off.

    Hope this helps.

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  2. You can do it! I know that second novel is a bitch, but you show it who's boss!

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  3. Um, wormholes? :)

    It's not the actual mechanics of the thing, just all the doubts that go along with it! If I could use a wormhole on myself, I would!

    Thanks, Sarah!

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  4. Yes, you shouldn't be playing the 'what-ifs' game right now. Don't think about anything except writing a book that makes you feel happy and satisfied that it's one you've wanted/needed to write.

    Second guessing everything only drags you down. Tell doubt to go sit in the corner and be quiet. :)

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  5. Thank you, Marisa. I'm trying!

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  6. Marisa's advice was great. You're a very talented writer; if you've enjoyed the book you're writing whether it's your second or twentieth readers like me will too. Go have a glass of wine :D

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  7. I feel your pain! I found even just figuring out what to write about for a second novel (which I haven't finished, BTW) was so hard because I'd had the idea for the first one for years, under no pressure to get it written. But I was supposed to start the second novel NOW, so my agent would have something to send out asap. It was VERY pressurized and I failed miserably.

    But here's what I always remind myself: I did it once. I have already written a book. I made something out of nothing. When I was writing the first one, I had no idea if I could. I didn't know if I could write that many words, or plot that many words, or finish them if I did. But I did finish it, so now I always remind myself that although it may feel hard now, I am capable of doing it, because I did it once before.

    Hope this helps. If it doesn't, may I suggest wine.

    :-)

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  8. Oh man I'm in the exact same position with my second novel now. I'm in the middle of writing it and I constantly feel like I have to outdo what I did with String Bridge. I know String Bridge hasn't been released yet, but I'm still dealing with my own inflicted pressure and expectations. I don't think that will ever get easier. Surely there will come a point where we just CAN'T get any better? What do we do then? Swim the plateau?

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  9. You did it once, you can do it again. Just try to have confidence in yourself.

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  10. When I had my daughter, I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but damned if those first few weeks weren't the most exhausting, draining, excruciatingly painful days of recovery, adjustment and error. My sister was staying with me for a few nights from out of town and, on one of those nights, I was in the kitchen pumping milk so that my husband could take one shift and let me sleep.

    I was in the kitchen weeping, raw and determined not to veer from my wish to exclusively nurse my daughter but stretched to my limit in more ways than one. My sister came into the tiny square of a kitchen in our apartment and said something I will never forget.

    'You won't be perfect at this. Perfection isn't possible. Just do your best and then you won't have anything to regret.'

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  11. Rebecca, thank you! I think wine may definitely be in order.

    Catherine, yes, the second one for publication is indeed a different beast! I do try to remind myself that I have written more novels than I care to admit and that I CAN do it. I know I can... but I just hope people like it, which I know is the wrong thing to worry about. Thank you for your words!

    Jess, I'm glad (well, sort of) someone else is feeling the pain right now, too! :) Wine o'clock is almost upon us.

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  12. I hate that feeling. It's so easy to convince yourself you can't do it.

    It does get easier, but some books are hard. The fifth in my series was an absolute pig of a thing to write - like pulling teeth. I hated it. :)

    I suggest you pour yourself a (big) glass of wine and sit and read all your lovely reviews. That should silence the doubts.

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  13. Ann, thank you!

    Suze, that's a wonderful example, and great advice from your sister. I may need to write that down somewhere!

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  14. Shirley, I may do just that. Thank you!

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  15. Wine. Lots and lots of wine. Try to keep a clear head (yeah, I know the two don't go together.) Take your time and breathe! That's my advice. :)

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  16. How come each of these comments contain wine?

    I'm sure it will be a great book Tali, not that that helps your demons that much. One of the problems with success is that people expect you to be great. However on the other hand it's much better than remaining a non-event.

    Good luck, as for wine, I'm in bed reading with a rather nice glass or three myself. The fiancé has pinched my bloody computer. So I have my iPad, wine and blankets. Not bad really...
    Sarah

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  17. You'll do great. Lower those expectations; go for progress not perfection. Betty Has Spoken.

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  18. I can understand that. As a reader, I have to be honest and if I have loved someone's first book, then I am expecting greatness from the second one. It's the way it is and it just pushes us all to keep working hard. I havent even got a novel finished yet, so from where I am sitting you are doing wonders.

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  19. Talli, I bet your second novel will be even better than the first! ;) I know I learn something as I go through the writing/editing/publication process with each book, so I feel like this helps me to do a better job with the next one (and hopefully make an easier job on my editor, ha). As for the story, I think the premise of Watching Willow Watts sounds awesome. I anticipate reading and liking it, and I'm sure others will too. :)

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  20. Oh Talli, I'm with you so much, my condifence is pretty close to zero with my writing and I wonder how I ever write...laugh! BUT, you know you can do it and WE know you can do it.... no pearls of wisdom, sorry, but big hugs to help you get there,because of course you will. Hugs xx

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  21. I've heard about how difficult writin the second novel can be. I've decided to make it easier on myself by getting a head start on it. I haven't found an agent yet, but I'm 20K words into my second novel. Staying ahead of the game that way.

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  22. Dear Talli - you are being too hard on yourself. You are a wonderful writer and this book will be wonderful too. Have faith. Have confidence. Have fun! xx

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  23. Nerve racking, it is natural to have doubts but do not let them eat away at your self esteem.

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  24. I like Stephen's advice about using wormholes!

    You'll be fine because you now have a built-in audience & your 2nd novel isn't a completely different genre so those are huge positive factors.

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  25. Hang in there! You can do it!

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  26. Chocolate! Wine! Beer!! Chocolate flavoured wine and beer!!

    :-) Begone ye demons tormenting lovely Tali!! Raspberries to them!! Yay for you!! Take care
    x

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  27. Wisdom? I feel your stress! Not really advice, but I understand the pressure to create something better than the first.

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  28. As hard as this sounds, you just need to drop assumptions and expectations that other people may have about you and think and focus on nothing but you and your novel.

    I kind of am going through the same thing. I self-published a novel in 2008 but I don't think it accurately portrays my writing because I wrote it as part of NaNoWriMo--AKA, in a rush without much editing. I'm working on my 2nd novel and often have to forget about what other people may think of my first novel and just concentrate on how I'm going to make this current novel a success.

    ~TRA

    http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

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  29. You have proved you are an excellent writer/author. Just think positive and think how successful this new book is going to be.
    good luck.

    Yvonne.

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  30. Thank you so much for the wonderful comments, everyone. I feel better already! Although that might be the wine... :)

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  31. You need to relax, take a deep breath, open up that chilling bottle of wine and just let the words flow.

    Maybe you are being too hard on yourself?

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  32. Reward yourself for the accomplishments and successes you already have done! That success mind set will take over any doubts you have as it is the TRUTH!

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  33. I wish I had this problem, but I don't, so I'm afraid I have no advice to offer. I can tell you that after reading Hating Game, it's obvious you're a super talented writer and I have no doubt that will shine through in your second book as well!

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  34. Oh I feel your pain! There's something about having something to live up to that paralyses us with fear second time around. I think you just have to have faith that you did it once and, unless your mental faculties have collapsed in the interim, you can do it again!

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  35. Not sure this is encouraging, exactly, but when I got my first agent, my crit partner at the time said this is how it works: "You got an agent? Great. Now the real work begins. You sold your first book? Great. Mow the real work begins. You sold your second book? Great. Now the real work begins." It's the nature of the beast, I guess...but by the time we figure this out it's too late...we're hooked on writing, for better and for worse :)

    Best of luck with this second book! It will be work, but it will work out!

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  36. *sends cupcakes* You're amazing *sends bottle of wine* As you can tell I'm sending you the necesarry items to get rid of those insecurities (wine works for me).

    I loved what you did with The Hating Game and the title Watching Willow Watts has already won me over so it looks to me like you have nothing to worry about (because at the end of the day I'm really the only one that matters... clearly).

    I've heard that the second novel is the worse so I'm glad to see you're about to kick it's ass! Like Sarah said... SHOW IT WHO'S BOSS!

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  37. I'm totally with you Talli - Book #2 is a completely different beast to Book #1! With Book #1 there was no time pressure, it could evolve in it's own sweet time, with the hopeful yearning to one day achieve publication...which it will delightedly achieve next Spring!

    Book #2 on the other hand is almost like starting at the other end - its publication date is set, along with a date by which it must be written, and now I must sell a book (which they've already bought) to my editors through a synopsis alone! Aargh! It's a completely different ball-game, one which I have no experience of, and each day the deadline is ticking closer -

    Help!!

    Where's that wine??!

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  38. I understand your fear but you have nothing to worry about. We're going to love it and your sales are only going to get better and better!

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  39. Wow, looks like you have lots of advice here. But of course I have to add my two cents. :D You've already been published and you know you are a great author... anything you write from now on will only be crap if you do it with your eyes closed and don't do any changes. ;)
    Example: wek;ljfop g'og;kljsdf kjsdf oe...

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  40. Maybe you just need a little break, an afternoon off. Shut down the computer and take a long walk outside, call a friend and stop in a coffee shop, do a little window shopping, just be in the moment. You'll come back to your work refreshed and ready to go :)

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  41. One of the things I love about your writing is that you take risks. You push yourself outside your comfort zone and you DON'T write the same easy samey stuff that some romantic comedy/women's fiction authors are doing these days.

    You're an incredibly inventive author with a work ethic that makes my head spin. I have no doubt that what you create will be successful. Go with your gut. I don't think it will steer you wrong.

    ND

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  42. If you're feeling like this then there sure as hell isn't any hope for the rest of us! :P

    You'll do very well, girl. With your ability to create voice I don't think you have a ton of stuff to worry about, IMHO. We believe in you!

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  43. Since I haven't been in your position, I don't know exactly what to say. You've proven yourself. Now you're just building your career brick by brick (or book by book). Good luck, Talli. I believe in you!

    (And I linked your recent post to my post today.)

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  44. You know, I've not read your first book yet, but I am sure that you can do this! Hang in there, okay? Because when I read the first one, I am sure I am going to want to read your next one. :)

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  45. Second novels are horrible. I had to start SIX other projects post-first novel to find this one.

    I think we should take inspiration from musicians and their troublesome sophomore efforts. E.g. Lady Gaga dueted with Beyonce, so I was thinking of throwing that in there. Now--to find a plot where a vampire road trip can stop off to collect Lady G from prison...

    Good luck!

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  46. Talli - I can pretty much promise you that if you have thought of it and worked on it and it's in your voice, we'll love it.

    I know that that's not helpful right now, but you're such a strong character, you won't be able to help but write interesting stuff!
    Lxxxx

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  47. Hi Talli! I can understand your feeling. I have favourite authors whose books I love but I don't love each one of them.

    I loved your first book and I think I will love the second one. I believe in you, Talli. You can do it!!!! Hang in there!!! We will support you all the way! :)

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  48. If it's aweful, I'm sure it can be adjusted - but I have a hard time imagining it will be that bad if you've come this far. You can do it!

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  49. I've still got to get the first one finished!

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  50. Even for unpublished writers, the second novel is hard. There's always that thought in the back of your mind of "If the last one didn't get an agent, will this one?" and "This one HAS to be better than the last." It's a lot of pressure to put on a poor little manuscript. (And a poor little writer!)

    <3 Gina Blechman

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  51. Even for unpublished writers, the second novel is hard. There's always that thought in the back of your mind of "If the last one didn't get an agent, will this one?" and "This one HAS to be better than the last." It's a lot of pressure to put on a poor little manuscript. (And a poor little writer!)

    <3 Gina Blechman

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  52. Whoa! The comment section is behaving very strangely! I hope this works.

    Your first book did so well for 2 reasons: you're a sweetheart and you're a very talented author. Nothing has changed. Relax & have fun with it! :)

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  53. I have no advice, but I do have well-wishes!! Good luck powering through (and shake off those bad feelings - sometimes things just have a great way of working out).
    erica

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  54. I can't imagine how much pressure novel #2 has to be. Writing on a deadline freaks me out. But you can do it--you know you can!

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  55. Hugs. You know what I think! x

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  56. You know, I sympathise, empathise and can identify with you! And I remember feeling exactly the same after my first short was published many years ago! You'll be brilliant.

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  57. Yeah that must be a lot of pressure.

    But it's a very pretty cover and sounds like a compelling/unique story. :)

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  58. I'm sure you'll be fine and I, for one, can't wait to read your next book.

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  59. Ok, well I'm soooo not there yet, so unfortunately I can't offer any writerly wisdom on this one... Except that you must have believed in yourself enough to get the first one out there. So believe in yourself enough for the second!

    PS. And with a cover that pretty what can possibly go wrong? ;-)

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  60. Yes it must be a challenge. I guess you've got to tell yourself, I've done it once, so anything new must be a bonus. Good luck :O)

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  61. Self-confidence is the key, Talli! You did it and now you can do it again...we depend on you to give us your brand of story!

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  62. It's right that you should feel like this, Talli. It means you care about your book, want it to be good and succeed. Unfortunatly I hate to tell you but I find it's still the same for subsequent books! Marrying Cade is out on 13 July, and I'm stressed about it already!

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  63. Here's some sunshine cupcakes for you with a side of starlight wine! :)

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  64. Know exactly where you're coming from. I started my 2nd novel a few weeks ago and have all but given up, temporarily of course! It does however mean that you have a little more experience in the planning department; i.e. knowing how much or how little planning and research is needed.

    Good luck, CJ xx

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  65. I've heard that #2 is the hardest to write. You're a good writer. So do your best, take a deep breath, and let it fly.

    Now go enjoy your weekend :)

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  66. Don't worry - I know your second novel is going to be AMAZING! Your first is already at the top of my to-read list. Go get 'em, girl!

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  67. Hi Talli,

    Wow. It's been a while since I've stopped by. Your blog looks great!! =)

    I can appreciate your fear about the second novel, but just remember something very simple: you're fabulous!

    Don't psyche yourself out. =)

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  68. Everyone's already given you such great advice. Willow looks wonderful from the excerpts that you've show. Try not to pull out your beautiful platinum hair, and after you get through all the rough patches, it will be worth it in the end. Julie

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  69. I'm not there yet (as far as being published), but I know you're an awesome writer! Keep the faith!

    Oh, and I love profanity, so later when I'm not at work I'll be popping by again to read your other post :)

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  70. Your second novel will be fabulous. I have no doubt about it! I'm already so excited by the blurb and description, can't wait for it!

    But I do understand how you feel. There's so much pressure when you start thinking of and working on that second one. You always wonder if it's going to be disappointing.

    BUT YOURS WON'T BE! :-)

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  71. I'm sure it's wonderful and I look forward to reading!

    I read a great post on agent Rachelle Gardiner's blog where she said that writers who stop having these types of insecuritites (e.g. worrying about their writing) stop improving, stop striving to be better. There's truth in that, I think, because no one is ever perfect.

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  72. Aww, Talli, you can do it!! You've got us all cheering for you, and we're not doing it to pressure you at all - just really eager for Willow's story! {{hugs}}

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  73. Hi Talli .. good luck .. and I'm sure you'll be fine, as I know you can do it .. and glad to hear you're getting such encouraging support .. enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

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  74. I can't give any words of wisdom Talli as I'm still slogging my through that first novel and all the demons that come with that one. I have heard that it doesn't get any easier though. Trust in yourself though and your words. Let that voice flow through and you won't have any worrys.

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  75. You can do it, Talli! I believe in you! I know that a lot of people (myself included!) are really looking forward to reading Willow Watts after enjoying The Hating Game. Good luck! :)

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  76. you've done it once.. of course you can do it again!!! xx

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Coffee and wine for all!