The Pesky Second Novel in the Series

The second novel is calling me. I love and fear it in equal measure. There’s no escaping that pesky thing. This story isn’t over.

The First Novel Hangover

Writing a novel is bloody hard work. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel like it was nothing.

After months of writing, revising, and editing, I slumped in a corner. My brain was addled and I wondered if I could ever word again.

I took a break. And then some more. Then a bit more… You get the gist.

I needed it. I felt no guilt.

Everything involved in creating a novel takes over your life. You sleep and breathe the thing. When it’s done, it’s never really done. It stays with you, particularly your first. We all remember our firsts: first love, first kiss, first win, first loss…

The first novel is powerful because it was the beginning, either because it’s the first in a series or the first you ever wrote. Can the second ever match up?

The Fear

Pesky Second Novel in a Series - facing blank pageI never intended to write a series. I didn’t even know I was going to write the first novel until the sneaky little thing wheedled its way into my mind.

I’d written a novel prior to the first in this series. I wondered if it ended there but this mystery novel with comedic and thriller elements lured me in.

The characters became more than just vehicles for a plot. Their stories expanded and more mysteries were there to be solved. Before I knew it, I had three more novels in mind.

Then came The Fear.

I have a great fondness for my first novel and its main characters, Jen and Claire. I am not one of those writers who go to another plane and view their characters as lifelike beings but these two got under my skin. I owe them because they came up trumps for me.

The Fear is that I may not be able to write another novel. Ridiculous, I know.

I can write. I wrote this post (although if you think it’s crap, please don’t base all my writing on it). I’ve written two novels, several short stories, and weekly blog posts. I can write but ask any writer if they think they can write another novel and you’ll see I’m not so weird.

Doubt is a git but also a writer’s fuel. Doubt sometimes paralyses me but it also motivates. I’m stubborn. I will eventually rise up and retaliate. I will write the next novel.

Procrastinator Extraordinaire

When you’ve got a novel to research, outline, and write, suddenly everything else that you’ve put off becomes urgent.

I have never ironed, cleaned, baked, contemplated my navel, and caned social media so much.

If only books were written by telepathy. I’d have the whole series wrapped up by now.

The Catalyst

I’m one of those people who puts things off for a while and then suddenly, BOOM! The fuse gets lit under my arse and away I go. Thankfully it is finally ignited. No backsides are scorched.

I don’t know where that burst of inspiration comes from. I’m not one for muses, unless chocolate counts as inspiration. My brain just sparks and I then start working.

I’m a crap writing role model for this writing every day, bleed all over the keyboard, business. That’s not to say I don’t write regularly or that I’m lolling around on a chaise longue waiting for inspiration to strike. Nothing would get done as I’m rather partial to a cheeky nap.

I try to be disciplined sometimes. Some days I’m on fire, other days writing is torture.

The Second Novel in a Series

Pesky Second Novel in a Series - help typewriterIt’s both comforting and complex writing the second novel in a series.

It’s great that I know my protagonists and can pick up where I left off. It’s also difficult that I know my protagonists and have to pick up where I left off.

The advantages are that I know Jen and Claire, although already I can see they have so much more to reveal from this strange little mind of mine. I love them both.

Claire’s cheekiness and sarcasm makes me laugh. I know it’s not cool to laugh at your own jokes but this is my world so it’s okay.

Jen is a mixture of people I know and a little bit of me. She is complex and trying to be a better person. I admire her for it.

This duo has lived with me for over a year now. This is where a sense of responsibility lays heavy. I need to stay true to who they are and not annoy the eventual readers of the first book by making these characters behave in ways unlike their true natures.

I have to also remember all the little bits and bobs in the first novel that eagle-eyed readers pick up. I’ve been there and read novel series, finding myself nit-picking at inconsistencies.

I’ve compiled a list of every scar, cough, spit, and anything else important from the first novel. Plot holes are a bugger to try and crawl out of.

Will it Match Up?

I asked myself this question when I began formulating ideas for a second novel.

I’m not being an egotist and saying my first novel is so wonderful that it would be difficult to match it. I am saying that I’m proud of that novel and how hard I worked on it so it deserves a great follow-up.

In a similar vein to ‘first world problems’, this is ‘second novel problems’. It’s trivial and inconsequential.

I’m just going to get on with it and write. The proof is in the pudding, after all, especially if it’s chocolate cheesecake.

It Begins

Pesky Second Novel in a Series - confused writerSo, here I am, planning the second novel. I’ve submitted the first one to agents and will see how that goes. It will be in your hands, whether it’s traditionally or self-published. I wrote it so you can read it. How that happens is down to fate, kismet, destiny, appeal, whether the agent had a good or bad day, if the heavens are aligned, or some other kind of hocus pocus.

I’m firing up the laptop, getting out my highlighters, researching dubious topics that could get me arrested, and I’m going in.

Do not disturb, unless you’ve invented a machine that writes directly from wiring up to your brain or you have a consignment of Dairy Milk.

Over to You

Do you enjoy reading novel series? What appeals to you about them?

Have you written or are you writing a novel series? What are your thoughts?

About Lisa Sell

Lisa Sell is a fiction writer and blogger. When not wrestling with words she can be found showing the love for chocolate, cheese, coffee, the cat, and the Husband. Not particularly in that order.

8 comments on “The Pesky Second Novel in the Series

  1. Oh, I am so with you! With my initial middle-grade books, I wrote a trilogy on rough draft, then went back and worked book one up to being ready to submit. That was kind of okay.

    With the current books, the characters started out in short stories, and currently the first book is almost finished with the editor while the second is about to have post-beta rewriting commence. My desk is a mess of post-its reminding me of people’s eye colour, car type (it mophed from a Prius to a Tesla and back again at one point), and (very importantly) dragon scale colours based on moods. And still my lovely editor found that someone’s cousin twice removed changed their name mid-story…

    And that’s never mind to stress of if Book Two will live up to Book One, plus Book Three has things to say. Consistency is HARD.

    But mostly I can’t wait to read your books!

    1. Oh how I can relate!

      I have lists and lists of characters’appearances, personalities etc and still I know they’re going to shape shift into something else. Wait up, that’s a plot idea in itself…

      So exciting how your books are coming along, Kim! Getting ever closer to that big bad – well, I hope it’s good – publishing day.

  2. When I started the first ‘Blackstone’ detective novel ‘Gone Missing’ I did so knowing I wanted to write a series (I thought 5 books would cut it). When it was done I wrote something completely different then I started pondering the second ‘Blackstone’ and thought it would be quite easy, after all I had the characters all worked out – all I needed was a plot. There was the rub. Each novel (if it ever gets to 5) has to stand on its own, however, they have to relate in some of the details to what has occurred before and as you quite rightly point out that is any thing but easy and mistakes can slip in. Eventually I decided on a plot for the second book ‘Senseless’ and finished that. Now I’m once again writing something completely different but I can’t help thinking about the third ‘Blackstone’ a lot of the time. So good luck with the second one Lisa, actually I can’t wait to read the first one.

    1. It’s interesting to hear how you decided to write a series and approach it. Like you say, you need to write so each novel can stand alone but remember continuity.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, Ian.

  3. One of “my” authors has published two books of a four-part series she has in her head. She’s been stuck on the third book for almost two years, because she has seven-year-old twins who keep her extremely busy, does freelance marketing, and has been writing the first book of a different series as a mental break. But she beats herself up constantly about it, because readers have asked her when the third of the current series is coming, and she feels such pressure to get it out there before she loses readers, but she’s also a perfectionist who will NOT put out a book of subpar quality. It’s a terrible cycle.

    Another of the authors I work with has put out a three-book series over the past few years but is almost afraid to publish his next stand-alone because the third in the series didn’t get enough promo time (or sales as a consequence). The time and money invested makes it so tough for people to want to just jump in there unless there’s a certain amount of success guaranteed.

    1. Thank you for sharing these experiences with me, Lynda. Writing a series certainly has its own set of pressures.

      Before I started writing I wondered why authors took so long to get the next book out. Now I realise why and respect that.

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