A long time ago, a writing teacher advised us aspiring novelists to relish the time we had to work on our first novels. I understand what she means now, because suddenly I’m looking at timelines. We novelists are supposed to deliver novels at least once a year. After the first novel, we don’t have all the time in the world to hone our craft, our prose, ours stories. This, to me, is one of the saddest truths about the business side of authordom.
And this might be why second novel syndrome (SNS) exists. What is second novel syndrome? Namely, when an author’s second book fails to deliver what the first book did. It disappoints. This can pertain to series novels, or not, though it’s often associated with series.
I haven’t given much thought to SNS – until now. Now that Kilmoon is this close to publication, I’m thinking, Oh my god, I’ve got to finish the next one faster and yet just as well–or hopefully better...all I can do is postulate about how to outwit SNS. Here’s what occurs to me:
1. In what my teacher called the “halcyon days” before debut publication, keep writing! Write the second novel while working to land your agent, while waiting in general (because it is a waiting game). Let the halcyon days include the second novel, and maybe even the third.
2. If you’re writing a series, leave your series protagonists in transitional or conflicted states at the end of the first novel. Nothing could be more boring than protagonists with perfect lives, everything tied up in a bow, all neat and tidy, la di da. They should still have flaws, inner conflicts, and doubts. Events in the first novel may have deepened their issues or created new ones. Life is messy — keep it messy!
3. Series inhabit particular worlds. Enlarge that world. Don’t just show the same aspects of village life, or police investigations, or whatever it may be.