Friday, November 09, 2012

Christmas Creche and Second Novels!

Look at that, it's Friday! No idea how that came about.

I've got Joanne Phillips here today, but first up, some exciting news: today is the launch of The Christmas Creche! What the heck is a creche? It's one of those strange words I never heard until I moved to the UK, and it a nutshell, it means nursery or daycare. Fellow chick-lit author Michele Gorman had the wonderful idea of creating a virtual creche, where authors with Christmas book babies could keep their little ones for safekeeping. I'm pleased to say there was space for my rather precocious Mistletoe in Manhattan, along with some other great reads by Michele, Carole Matthews, Scarlett Bailey, Belinda Jones... and the list goes on!

And now, over to Joanne!

Second Novel Syndrome

Like that difficult second album for musicians, second novels are tortuously hard work to write. A first novel has to do a lot, of course, but there is a wonderful unknown quality about it. Readers have no expectations – you are new, exciting, untried. But your second novel? Oh boy, do they have high expectations of that! And if there’s one thing even more pressured than writing your second novel, it has to be writing a second novel that is also a sequel ...

Of course, Talli knows all about sequels – Construct A Couple was a wonderful follow on to Build A Man, and she very cleverly managed to give her characters new challenges while keeping them true to all we had learned about them in the first book. Construct A Couple could easily be a standalone novel, and that is what I’m hoping for with my sequel to Can’t Live Without.

But ... it’s not easy. The trouble with being consistent is you can find your characters simply doing the same things over and over. Yawn! Finding enough challenges to keep two star-crossed lovers apart might be possible for one book, but two? Tricky. Creating conflict when you’ve already done the whole happy ending thing in the first book? Tough work. Here’s a list of must-dos for a second-novel-stroke-sequel:

·         Be better than the first book – more exciting, more emotionally powerful, more, more, more!
·         Carry on logically from the first book, without seeming contrived. You can’t, for example, spilt your couple up by sending one of them off climbing a mountain in Africa if you never mentioned an interest in climbing in book one!
·         Keep faith with the tone/style/language of the first book – for example, parts of Can’t Live Without are written in the first person, and as much as I would love to drop this technique for the sequel, I can’t.
·         Give enough background for new readers, without treading over old ground and boring returning readers. Can’t Live Without’s plot revolved around the aftermath of a house fire – I have to mention this in the sequel, but to what extent?

So, my advice to a new novelist about to embark on their tricky second novel – don’t make it a sequel. Wait until you have a bit more experience under your belt, like Talli, before you take on this particular challenge. Writing is hard enough as it is! But I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

 Joanne Phillips lives in rural Shropshire, England, with her husband and daughter. Since leaving school she’s had an eclectic career, working as a hairdresser, an air hostess and a librarian. She now writes full time. Find out more about Joanne’s writing and books at; Twitter: @joannegphillips; Facebook; and check out her novel Can't Live Without here.  

Thank you for the kind words, Joanne! 

Have you ever written a sequel or experienced second-novel syndrome?

Have a great weekend, everyone.


  1. ooh, I have a baby for the creche too, heading over to see if there might be room!

  2. You're right about the must-do list. I stressed over my second book. Even more so because I never intended to write it.

  3. Since I write epic fantasy, thinking in series of books is a must. Now I know what a creche is.

  4. Yay for virtual creche for christmas writerly babies!! Awww how cute is that?!?!

    Hi Joanne!! Thanks for these practical sensible tips!! Take care

  5. I've never written a sequel before, but I'd like to eventually. So this post gave me some very good tips, thanks! I would think it would be difficult to keep track of all the characters and storylines from the first novel; I read somewhere about people who make outlines or spreadsheets when they're writing sequels. That way they can remember everything that happened in the first novel.

  6. Thanks for having me here today Talli, and thanks for the comments. I don't think I'll tackle a sequel again, but I may have a stab at a series. I guess if you know ahead of time the characters are going to be around for a while, you can build more longevity in :)

  7. Talli, The virtual crèche is such a cute idea! Thanks for the great guide to sequels Joanne! Julie

  8. What a fabulous idea a creche for books!

  9. I love the idea of a creche as well!

  10. I've often read that the sequel is a challenge for the reasons you mentioned. I almost want to avoid having to do one but I tend to love reading and writing them so, going to take these tips to heart.

  11. Wow! That does sound tough! Makes me very glad I didn't decide to make my WIP a sequel, especially with all the pressure that must exist after that first book.

  12. Second books are hard - I don't know if I'll ever write a series with the same main characters - but I do enjoy writing companion books!

  13. Thanks for the advice!

    A creche for novels sounds like a great idea.

  14. some brilliant advice from Joanne! And the creche sounds very innovative!

  15. Hi Talli and Joanne .. I can see the sense in your words about the 2nd book ... I love the Christmas Creche idea ..

    Enjoy the weekend .. cheers Hilary

  16. I suppose there are some advantages in continuity if your second book is a sequel, in that you're on home ground and familiar territory, rather than having to start from scratch, though it must be hard to make each one stand alone too.

    But I don't think I'd recommend the path I'm taking, either, writing a second book that is not even in the same genre as my first. That was a how-to book for authors about book promotion, but the second will be EITHER an anthology of the best of my personal blog posts OR a collection of short stories - whichever one I finish first! Am hoping there will still be some crossover of readership, though.

    By the way, Talli, I love the cover design of your books, all similar whether or not they are sequels. Applying what is the author's equivalent to a corporate brand makes it very easy to spot each new one as it comes out. I'm sure most readers are like me - if they like one book by an author, they want to read all they've ever written, and I really appreciate it when it's made easy to collect the set!

  17. My mother reads 10-12 paperback books a week. I will tell her about this post when we speak long-distance tomorrow.

  18. I would assume that unless the follow-on book is planned as a sequel at the time the first is written, that it would be really hard. And in that case, there's a risk readers don't feel 'satisfied' at the end of book one. (Lord of the Rings annoyed me no end!)
    Personally, I often enjoy novels where follow-on books focus on different main characters, but favourite people from earlier books play smaller roles.

  19. Great advice you got there Joanne. I followed your post here in Talli's blog through your post on your site.

    As with me, I always have the fear to write a second sequel novel for my first book though I really want to do one. I'm afraid that I can't give justice to the characters on the second book and afraid that the readers might not like how to story goes on the sequel.

    But thanks to your must-do list for writing a second novel stroke sequel, I guess I want to try and see if I'll be able to give justice to my characters and continue the emotion on the second book where the first book has left.

  20. Terrific post, Joanne!

    My next book, which I have yet to start on, will be a prequel, telling how my protagonists first meet, and what draws them into the work they do.

    After that, there'll be sequels.


Coffee and wine for all!