PDA

View Full Version : Second Novel Syndrome



Busy Writer Bee
05-17-2010, 11:16 PM
Hi everyone:

Please help with some advice. My debut novel just got published. I'm ecstatic, but since it got sold in March 2009, I've written numerous "second novels". None of which has come close to being the second novel. Nowadays, every novel I start dies around chapter three. I've been hit hard by the second novel syndrome. Has anyone else dealt with this problem?

It's so hard now. The words and chapters won't come at all. And my agent seems to hate every idea I have.

BB

Amarie
05-17-2010, 11:26 PM
Maybe you should just take a few weeks and write something for fun, without trying to force it into a second book idea. Sometimes I also just roam around the library in the nonfiction section to see what odd subjects spark my interest. If it makes you feel any better, almost every writer I know sufferes from this, because there is so much more pressure to produce a decent second book. Think of all you have managed to accomplish and know the writing ability is still there.

OL
05-17-2010, 11:30 PM
BB -- I feel your pain. My first comes out in less than two weeks. I've been working hard on #2. I don't know how to advise you re: your agent (it depends on your relationship with her/him) but I've struggled a ton with book #2. My best advice is to keep going, to accept that it may not feel good but it might be better than you think, and to remember that a first draft is just that -- a first draft. Mine is FINALLY getting into reasonable shape after a crap-ton of work. Sometimes that's just what it takes.

Remember that showing up is half the battle.

kellion92
05-18-2010, 12:48 AM
Well, I'm not published, but I think Other Lisa's advice is good. There's a lot of pressure for a second book, but I wonder if a little bit is due to the fact that you're comparing your published novel to a first draft. Maybe you could drag out your first-novel first draft. It's probably worse than your other beginnings, but you've forgotten about how rough it was.

Would it be futile to try again to look at your other novel beginnings and try again?

ETA: Other suggestions: Try another planning technique. If you outlined your last novel, try to write from a loose synopsis. If you were a total pantser the first time, try a firm outline so that if you feel lost, you know which way to go.

Kendare Blake
05-18-2010, 10:54 PM
BB- You're going through what we all fear. The first book sells and then it's so important to prove that lightning can strike twice. I'll be tackling this too, when I start my sequel in September. I'd rather not think about it, but I wanted to give you some support, because wow, how it must suck.

We're all different writing creatures, and work in our own way. So sometimes advice isn't worth beans, but just in case, here's all I've got. Take a few deep breaths and brainstorm. Read something that you adore. Read lots of what your adore. Where our ideas come from is a mystery, but sooner or later, another one will spin itself out, and start knocking on your head and fingertips. When it does, make it wait. I think it was Stephen King who compared his brain to a gigantic filing cabinet...always filing notecards of ideas into a drawer, and the good ones kept filing themselves to the front, and the bad ones eventually fell out the back. If an idea is good, it won't let itself not be written, at least I hope not.

And as far as your agent goes, maybe you shouldn't mention your newest baby until you're in pretty deep, and completely in love with it yourself. Maybe your own doubts are making you sell your ideas short, making you query them with less sparkle than they deserve.

Good luck with this, and keep us all posted! I think most second books are breach births. Breathe through it!

OL
05-18-2010, 11:25 PM
Well, if it's a breach birth, then shoot me full of pain-killers and just cut the book out of me already...

Okay, okay, I'm procrastinating.

Jamesaritchie
05-18-2010, 11:34 PM
Hi everyone:

Please help with some advice. My debut novel just got published. I'm ecstatic, but since it got sold in March 2009, I've written numerous "second novels". None of which has come close to being the second novel. Nowadays, every novel I start dies around chapter three. I've been hit hard by the second novel syndrome. Has anyone else dealt with this problem?

It's so hard now. The words and chapters won't come at all. And my agent seems to hate every idea I have.

BB

I'm not sure what you mean when you say you've written numerous second novels. If they're written, why aren't they on editors desks?

The agent's job is not to love or hate your ideas. The agent's job is to sell whatever you give her to sell.

Other than this, stop giving up when you hit chapter three. Finishing a novel is no mystery. You stick with the one you start until it's finished.

Novels do not die around chapter three, writers simply stop writing them around chapter three, and move on to something they think is better. It never is, and leads to the exact problem you now have.

Just pick one, finish the damned thing, and send it to your agent.

brainstorm77
05-18-2010, 11:42 PM
Since when does an agent pitch a book that he/she hates?

OL
05-18-2010, 11:48 PM
Wow, that is a really inaccurate depiction of many client/agent relationships, JR. Nowadays many agents are editors & creative partners and there is an agreement between client & agent about projects before you embark on them, and certainly before you submit them. This can take many different forms, but it is a very common way of working together these days.

I do agree that at some point it's best to pick a project and just struggle through it.

Mystic Blossom
05-18-2010, 11:49 PM
Well, if he/she's a good agent, she'll "hate" it because it won't sell (hate, of course, being possibly hyperbolic). If she's of questionable reputation, she'll hate it completely out of personal preference. But indeed, an agent is not going to sell something just because it's plopped on his desk, even if it's by a client.

mscelina
05-18-2010, 11:54 PM
I'm not sure what you mean when you say you've written numerous second novels. If they're written, why aren't they on editors desks?

The agent's job is not to love or hate your ideas. The agent's job is to sell whatever you give her to sell.

Other than this, stop giving up when you hit chapter three. Finishing a novel is no mystery. You stick with the one you start until it's finished.

Novels do not die around chapter three, writers simply stop writing them around chapter three, and move on to something they think is better. It never is, and leads to the exact problem you now have.

Just pick one, finish the damned thing, and send it to your agent.

Such a misguided little ray of sunshine you are, James. Seriously. And, you're completely out of whack on this response. Try reading the OP first before you decide to stomp all over it with your absolutisms that are two decades out of date.

Now, on to the OP.

First, stop trying so hard to write that "second novel." That's not what you're supposed to be doing. You're supposed to be telling a story and that doesn't include stopping in the middle of the process and telling yourself, "Oh, gee--this isn't a good second novel." No. GET THE STORY DOWN ON PAPER. THEN GO BACK AND SHAPE IT.

Got that? Story first. Novel second.

That being said, regardless of any assertions to the contrary, it's not the agent's job to sell whatever you give them. Publishing doesn't work like that. Take a gander at The Time Traveler's Wife--once again, going back to the recent comments of agents and editors I noticed at the RT convention. In her case, she rushed a "second novel" out, trying to capitalize on the momentum of the first, and it didn't do her career or her publishers any favors. Why? Because she produced a book, not a story.

You have got to focus on the story, not the final product. And you can't approach it from some arrogant "the agent will sell what I send her" angle either. That's no longer the way it works. Your primary goal is to entertain the readers your first book snared. Everything else? It comes further down the line.

So writing a second novel isn't much different from the first one. Think about that first book you wrote. Did you enjoy writing it? Why? What was it about that story that made you want to open your computer every day and work on it? Did you outline? Did you fly by the seat of your pants? What was it about the process that you particularly loved?

Then, sit down and think about the story you've got in your head. Now--what about that story, those characters, the conflict makes you want to know more? Take a few days and do something else. Take the pressure off yourself. Revisit some old favorites--books, movies, music. Take that day to do something for yourself. Let the idea percolate.

Then come back to your desk with your joy in creation and your excitement in the story restored. Forget about the second novel, forget about the 'problems' and above all, forget about any kind of 'what is my problem?' bullshit and just let the story take over.

It should always be about the story, not the book. Know what I mean? Once your priority is the story, all the rest will fall into place.

OL
05-19-2010, 12:04 AM
See, Celina put that all a lot more orderly than I did -- I am THE last person to go to in terms of discussing process -- mine consists primarily of "Kids! Don't try this at home!"

The one thing where I disagree is that for me, writing the book that sold wasn't always a ton of fun either. Sometimes it's just work. But I think what she's saying is something I will remind myself to try in the future.

MsJudy
05-22-2010, 05:20 AM
This may or may not be true of your situation...

I know many debut novelists get really lucky with that first inspiration. They find such a great premise that the thrill of it carries them along. But they don't always have a solid understanding of what, exactly, they did that first time that made it work so well. And without that foundation in craft, the second one is so much harder to do well.

So maybe one approach is to take some time to study some really good writing books. Like the Anatomy of Story or Immediate Fiction or Writing the Breakout Novel. Books that dig into the elements that take a story from good to GREAT!

Then go back to one of the story ideas you've already had and see how you could push it farther, make it more compelling. Anatomy of Story especially has really good ideas on how to take basic elements and make them bigger, more unique.

Paint it Pink
07-12-2013, 11:20 PM
Having been working through the writing of my second novel with the end now in sight. I can say that it was a lot more difficult to write than the first novel, which rather beat its way out of me onto paper. This time round I had to go back and restructure the plot twice, do more outlining in the middle of it, and generally move scenes around, change POVs.

I learnt that when you get stuck it may be an indication the story is not working. Make the story work by writing your way out. Like any advice if this doesn't work for you, don't do it.

Jamesaritchie
07-13-2013, 01:45 AM
Since when does an agent pitch a book that he/she hates?

Since always. It's not about what the agent likes or hates, it's about what an editor will buy because the general reading audience will like it. Do you really want an agent to tell you what you can and can't write?

Jamesaritchie
07-13-2013, 01:54 AM
[QUOTE=mscelina;4966772]Such a misguided little ray of sunshine you are, James. Seriously. And, you're completely out of whack on this response. Try reading the OP first before you decide to stomp all over it with your absolutisms that are two decades out of date.QUOTE]

You aren't real up on anything to do with writing, are you? What I said was true two decades ago, and it's even truer today. One absolutism will never change. No novel dies at chapter three, or anywhere else. Writers simply decide to stop writing at that point. Period.

And if you seriously allow any agent to veto an idea, you aren't a writer at all, the agent is. No good writer even pitches an idea to an agent. The agent's job is simply to pass the idea along to the editor who published the first book. , but I know you haven't the first clue about what it means to be a writer in charge of his own career. Seriously, "Gee, Ms. Agent, would it be all right with you if I wrote a novel based on this idea? Huh, please, please, please?"

Nothing I said is out of date. Poor writers and lousy business people said the same silly things you did two decades ago, and they'll say them two decades from today. They're nonsense.

An agent is not your career manager, and not your mommy or your daddy. An agent's job is to sell what you write, not to praise or condemn it, not to tell you shouldn't write this, or shouldn't write that. It's to sell whatever YOU decide to write.

CallMeIshmael
08-08-2013, 05:24 AM
I've read through all the responses, furiously nodding my head to most of them. Yes yes and yes. Me too! I haven't sold my first yet but my agent keeps saying, "Don't worry about it! Just focus on your 2nd one!"

Um. What 2nd one?? I think I get an idea (and it's never a good one because I'm forcing it out) and I'll start playing around with it, on paper and in my head, but ... eh ... there's no heart in it. (And to the "take a break" comment from above, I have already. I have taken quite the break already, lol.)