Second Novel Syndrome

I was talking to my friend Mike yesterday about writing the second novel in a two-book deal. It’s exciting and terrifying, but my enemy Self Doubt hovers. Will my sophomore performance be as good as book one? What if my editor hates it? What if my readers hate it? What if I hate it?

Everyone knows that sophomore year sucks, right? The novelty’s gone. Now you’re just an older geek, stuck behind the juniors and seniors.

And parents simply don’t love their second child as much as the first. (An inside joke with my little sister Cheryl.) Better stated: Parents don’t pay as much attention to baby two because baby one has already dazzled them with performances. Rolling over in the crib. Sucking on  toes. Smiling. Puking and peeing and pooping.

With the exception of Empire Strikes Back – which I saw 28 times in one summer – sequels rarely live up to the first story. Revenge of the Nerds II, Ocean’s 12, Speed II: Cruise Control, Staying Alive.

Mike’s advice: Just write. Write and write and write. Let other writers read it; then write more. And that’s what I will do.

But first, here are some quotes from writers about Second Novel Syndrome.

I started a second novel seven times and I had to throw them away.

Amy Tan. Second book: The Kitchen God’s Wife

No one is waiting for you to write your first book. No one cares if you finish it. But after your first, if it goes well, everyone seems to be waiting. You’re suddenly considered to be a professional writer, a fiction machine, but you know very well that you’re just getting going. You go from having nothing to lose to having everything to lose, and that’s what creates the panic.

Jeffrey Eugenides. Second book: Middlesex

The problem with a second novel is that it takes almost no time to write compared with a first novel. … If I write my first novel in a month at the age of 23, and my second novel takes me two years, which have I written more quickly? The second of course. …The first took 23 years, and contains all the experience, pain, stored-up artistry, anger, love, hope, comic invention and despair of that lifetime. The second is an act of professional writing. That is why it is so much more difficult.

Stephen Frye. Second book: Moab is My Washpot

A second book is jittery-making, because chances are it’s been sold on a one-page outline, when you weren’t entirely surely what was going to happen. You don’t know if anyone’s going to like it. It might sprout off in unintended directions. It might develop Excess Plot Syndrome or Prologue-orrhea …

Claire McGowan. Second book: The Lost

Off to slay Self Doubt. Then work on novel two.

4 thoughts on “Second Novel Syndrome

  1. Owen Jones

    I agree with all those quotes, but they did not really affect me too much.
    The worst for me was still having to promote my first book while trying to write the second.
    it was difficult to maintain the flow with two entirely different jobs to do as an indie-author.


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