If you’re in the middle of writing your first novel, imaging the plight of crafting a second book probably feels less like a quandary and more like a dream come true. When you’re working on that first draft or waiting to hear back from an agent, all you can think about it seeing your name in print…for the first time. If this happens, though, it might help to know that there are further challenges on the horizon. Unlike a storybook, getting published once isn’t the happy-ever-after. It’s only the beginning. Whether you read this as fantasy or you want to be prepared for what happens next, here’s what you should know about writing the second novel.
When you sell your first book, the publisher may or may not want a companion novel. If your first book sells well, they definitely will. With traditional publishing, getting a book from sold to shelves is approximately an 18-month process. Within this time, you’ll also be expected to start working on your next one. Even though you probably felt like you didn’t have time to write the first one, now you really don’t have time.
Since you probably won’t be able to quit your day job with one book sale, you’ve now got to juggle your job, edits on the first book, promotion for the first book, and conceptualizing and drafting the second. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great problem to have, but it will require strategic time management. Some things will probably have to give in your routine to accommodate it.
Perhaps you are a unicorn who wrote the first draft of her first book, immediately got an agent and sold. But, if you’re like the rest of us mere mortals, your “debut” book was actually the fifth one you completed. It may have taken you years to write your other manuscripts since you weren’t sure what you were doing and also, you had no time. No matter how you did it, once you’ve successfully written a title that attracted an agent and got published (or you felt confident enough to self-publish and were then successful—yay you!), you’ve now got to make that magic happen for a second time. Feel nervous yet?
My husband, who’s a sports fan, told me about the concept of the “yips.” It’s when a professional athlete (or any athlete, but especially one with a certain level of success) gets in her own head about how she’s managed to be as good as she is. Instead of just keeping on doing what she’s doing, she freezes up and can’t hit the ball or swing the club the way she used to. It’s a mental block. If you’re feeling this way, remember. You did it before, you can do it again.
Other People’s Opinions
While you were able to keep your first draft under lock and key until it was polished enough to show a select few, your second draft will be looked at in first draft form. It’s easy to worry that your agent or publisher will think you’re a bad writer if they see your baby before she’s fully formed. You might worry you’re disappointing people or that you only have one book in you. Relax. You’ve got #goodproblems now. Enjoy your budding career as an author!