Books, Deepest Fears, Uncategorized, World War 2, Writer's Life, Writing, Writing Inspiration, Writing Tips

The Challenges of Writing That Second Book

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Photo by energepic.com on Pexels.com

Or third, or I suppose now I’m starting on a fourth…

I first published this post after releasing my first novel in 2019. Since then, I completed the second book that I was writing about and released it as Where Shall I Flee? in November of 2021.

Now I’m working to edit a novella, Pearl Harbor Ghosts, and doing research for a story set in the Philippines, and…let me tell you, this post may be a couple of years old, but the struggle continues!

-Anne

This June, after years of research, rewrites, and editing, I published my first novel.

Putting my paper and binding “baby” out into the world was exhilarating, terrifying,  exhausting… but it’s done! That mountain is scaled!

And then… I had the first reader ask, “When’s the next one coming out?!”

snowcap mountain
“Whohooo! I made it! Isn’t it awesome up here? ….Wait, what d’ya mean there’s another one?”

Don’t misunderstand me- having people ask for more is hugely gratifying. Someone read my work, and they want to read more- willingly?  And they aren’t even relatives? Of course the question made me smile…

…while also making my palms sweat and my heart race.

Why? Because, friends, even with a first draft of my second novel written, in many ways, I’m finding that writing the second book is much harder than writing the first.

The Challenge of Being “On The Clock”

gold pocket watch
Photo by John on Pexels.com

When I wrote my first novel, only a select few people knew I was working on it. I had years- years– to become comfortable with the story before putting it in front of anyone I hadn’t hand-selected. I had as much time as I wanted to edit, research, re-edit, get readers and so on.

Now…now I’ve got one book out, and I can’t help but feel that the clock is ticking.

It seems to be pretty common philosophy in the literary market that if authors want to maintain visibility, they’ve got to keep publishing. After all, the market is swamped. Several writing sources recommend publishing at least four novels. A YEAR.

In a word- HA!

Now, full disclosure, while I take my writing seriously, I’m not looking at it as a major source of income- it won’t work for my family at this stage of our life.

Still, I have hard time doing anything halfway. Trying to compromise, I’d hoped to maybe manage one a year… but then I realized that the next challenge was facing me.

The Challenge of Different Seasons of Life

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When I wrote my first novel, I had three children who still napped or had “quiet time” every afternoon. I taught one Art class a week, and did some church music.

Now, all three kids are past napping if I want them to sleep at night, I’m teaching twelve class periods a week, still doing some music…and I’m trying to get a novel written in less than half the time it took to write that first one.

I wish I had an easy answer- a way to reorganize or prioritize that meant writing was possible without failing to do my very best at my other roles. Sorry. I don’t.

The best I have is the realization I’ve come to: we go through different seasons of life. Each has its challenges and its blessings, and those affect what we can do during those times.

Will my current season allow me to get the second novel ready to go by next summer? I guess we’ll see. Will I get it done? As far as it’s up to me, barring cataclysmic events- yes. In time.

Now, I knew that my personal life would challenge my ability to write. However, I didn’t expect my first book to create problems for me….

The Challenge of Letting Go of the First Book

Whom shall I fear graphic
My writing life for the last three years…

I spent a long time with the fictional characters of my first book. I followed them around and messed with their lives for years. If this weren’t all just on paper, they’d probably have been justified in seeking a restraining order. (“Officer, she just won’t leave us alone!”)

And now…now I hardly see them anymore.

It might sound strange, but I miss writing that story. I miss the familiarity of it, the characters I grew fond of, and even the ones I wouldn’t really want to pal around with in real life- I’m used to them.

I like this second book too, and I am excited about its potential…but it’s a completely different animal from the first novel. Different themes. Different nationalities. A compressed time frame. And a whole new cast of “people” to get to know.

Making new friends is hard.

The Challenge of Starting Over

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Photo courtesy of Bryan Minear, via Unsplash.com

Aside from the wrench of pulling away from my old story, there’s the fact that writing a novel is an awful lot of work.

I’ve got a rough draft over 50,000 words. (Thank you, Nanowrimo!) That’s something, but not enough.

Half of the characters are barely developed.

The middle of the story is squishy.

I’m still not sure who’s going to survive to the end.

And the research…I need to find answers to dozens of questions about terrain, climate, history…and the best part is that since I started the book a couple of years back, even the research that I HAVE done is fragmented and tucked away in the cobwebby parts of my brain.

Having “climbed the mountain” of completing a novel and made it safely over, I’ll admit: it’s daunting to find myself standing at the foot of a brand NEW mountain. I stare up at all of the work that it will take to climb it, not sure I’ve got what it takes to make it happen again.

Of course, there’s only one way to find out.

person standing on mountain during daytime

Thanks for coming along on this part of the journey with me today!

Writers- how’s your journey going? Readers- any thoughts on things to make second (or third or fourth) books fabulous?

Here’s that second book, now completed. It’s available on Amazon as a paperback, e-book, and on Kindle Unlimited.

23 thoughts on “The Challenges of Writing That Second Book”

  1. Yes, yes, yes! On one hand, there’s my health challenges, which are time-consuming. On the other, I know so much more about the process and have more fascinating things to look for, to hope to weave into the third book! I’ve learned to trust God with timing, but I can still feel myself want to keep things in motion. Especially since it feels like there may be two more and, as they say, I’m not getting any younger. ha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. May I just say, I’m excited about the “two more” prospect! 🙂
      Oh yes- add in health and family concerns and other things on top of the writing and that mountain can look awfully steep!
      But, as you said, God’s got His own timing.
      Happy writing, Joy! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I sure don’t know what it’s like to publish a book, but thanks to NANO, I did put 65,000 words together. I’ll never be able to do that again, so here’s to you, Anne!! 🥂 Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not stuck between project, and am unsure if I want to pursue the short story or novel route. I need to simplify my writing goals, because like the Stoics say, if I’m everywhere, then I’m nowhere. Great on you for finishing your second book. Wishing you all the best with it!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I completely feel this. I spent so long getting this first book ready and I’ve plotted and drafted most of the second. But fear just keeps interfering. I’ve had so many kind readers who responded to this first story. What if I can’t write another that makes them feel the same? I think this is God’s way of helping us to remember to lean on Him.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A superb article, Anne:)). And now I’ve written a number of books – and managed to publish 7 of them, I’d say it never gets any easier to slot in writing amongst the other ‘have-tos’ in our lives. And I also completely agree with the wrench of leaving familiar characters, who do become solid friends, to turn towards a new project. And as ever, I’m very behind in that I completely missed the publication of your second book! I must get hold of a copy and tuck in – though bear with me if the review takes a while… I’m finding writing and posting something of a challenge these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!
      I love the world building that you do in your stories. I think the “Mantivore” series was my favorite- I felt like I’d stepped into their world from the get-go.
      And thank you- I’d love to hear your thoughts on book #2 anytime you’re able. It’s a different animal from the first one, but I enjoyed writing it.
      Honestly, I’m still in a bit of a post-publishing writing slump. There are some … interesting new opportunities presenting themselves for our family, but I probably should stop using that as an excuse 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah thank you for that! I really appreciate your compliment, given what a capable and talented writer you are – and right now, I haven’t been able to write anything much except for a trickle of reviews and a few thousand words. It’s one of the things I am finding increasingly hard right now!

        As regards the writing slump – my advice would be to go with the flow. We aren’t machines and I think writers who burn out often do so because they don’t pay sufficient attention to their creative rhythms. And if your family issues are taking priority, then that might be the best use of your energy right now – it isn’t an excuse:)). If you are still feeling the same way in 2 or 3 months – then maybe consider other options. That’s me with my Creative Writing tutor hat on, btw…:)

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I just finished reading “Where Shall I Flee?” Great read, exciting and satisfying in all the right places. Your decision to make a couple of main characters, particularly Jean, hard to like at first was unexpected. But I thought it played out and payed off very nicely.
    So then I found this post which adds some interesting perspective. I think it is a common thing in well written fiction for the characters to take on a life in the hearts of readers that goes beyond the pages of the book (or duration of a film or show). It had never really occurred to me the writer(s) could have the same issue. It is obviously a mixed blessing on several levels. It’s clearly good in the sense first that it motivates a writer to tell their story. And it’s good for readers/viewers to really get drawn in, to care about the story, actions and outcomes. And I think it’s good when we can smile or laugh (or maybe cry) days/weeks/months later when we remember a character we were so drawn to.
    But of course we also need to detach and move on, in a way, from such characters too, For years I co-hosted a fan blog for a TV show that remained quite active for six years or so after the show went off the air. It amazes me HOW LONG AFTER people not only wanted to rehash, remember, or even get into nasty arguments over things that truly don’t matter one iota in the real world. Even more than ten years later the fan fiction community is going strong. Literally much ado about nothing… But it was/is fun. And I suppose that’s my big take away. It’s fun to care and get invested. It’s fun to tell each other stories and meet new characters or re-acquaint with old ones.
    I suppose knowing when to move on is an act of fortitude. For fans it’s required to move back into the real world. I guess for a writer it’s a matter of livelihood!
    I think you did it well too. I had no sense the characters or story were your lesser children here. Strangely it had not occurred to me this could be an issue to the writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First of all, thank you for reading, and I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the book! I’m especially glad that you found the pay-off satisfying. Honestly, Jean was especially difficult to write because when her character “came to life” she was so so angry. (One could argue that that’s because I wrote her that way, but once the process starts it seems like they just become who they’re going to become, and I just have to deal with it.) I was happy with how her story arc played out, though- that’s one reason I decided to go with a quick prologue for this one. It was kind of my promise to myself (and readers) that the arc was going somewhere!

      It’s funny, isn’t it, how much time and energy we can invest into our fictional characters? My husband and I spent a lot of time when we were long distance dating discussing the merits (and lacking) in Star Wars offerings after the original three movies. A LOT of time. I think that’s the power of a good story, though- be it in a book or TV. It draws us in and it becomes so personal. I have a number of movies I refuse to see because they’re book-to-movie adaptations that aren’t faithful, and the liberties they took drive me up the wall! Which maybe they shouldn’t because it’s just someone’s interpretation of the material, but I love these characters- after everything we’ve been through together, I want their story told right! (i.e. the way I see it in my head… ;)) Ahem. Anyway.

      I’d say that at this point, the “Where Shall I Flee?” crew really isn’t a lesser group to me. It took a while to warm up to them- to get to know them, as it were, but once I finally got myself immersed in their stories, it really became a fun novel to write. It was encouraging reposting this blog post, too, because I’ve been having a hard time engaging with my newer characters. It’s good reminder that I need to take some time to get to know them!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “I wrote her that way” is funny but so true. With well written fiction (and yes, I’m including yours!) this is usually the farthest thing from the reader’s mind. I’ve certainly never felt the need to be so cynical with anything I read beyond a first chapter. BUT, television is created much more fast and sloppy. And of course, written by committee such that the character concept may be more fluid. Like a poorly crafted scale model, its amazing how often the seams show. So much of what’s on television is fascinating precisely because we can see the different skill levels and concepts between writers. Did you know scripted television is required (union rules) to use a certain number of non-staff writers every season? (I think its around one in ten episodes). So its deliberately constructed to be bad! So trying to deconstruct a character’s motives or actions often becomes a fool’s errand.
        I’m not sure analyzing the Star Wars prequel movies is a much better proposition! But it might work when concerned parties are up past their usual bedtime? Kidding… sort of.
        But no doubt the strength of our connection to fictional characters is fascinating whether its deserved or not. I recently heard a rumor a Chuck reunion project may be getting some traction and I swear my heart skipped a beat! Why? Well, apart from saying they never really finished the story the first time around I have no idea why I still care so much.
        In so many cases the only way to reconnect with a favorite character is to reread a single book. And seriously, that gets old after a while.
        Maybe someday there will be an “Anne Clare” category over at fanfiction.net. Would you be flattered or horrified?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh, Flattered, definitely, but I don’t know how I’d feel about reading it…😊
        I did not know that about TV writing! Wow- that might explain some things…can you imagine having to hand your story off?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I think its a result of the last big strike in 2007, something about giving new writers a chance. But it does lead to characters suddenly acting wildly out of character and story elements that make no sense. I know how much it offends me as a viewer, I’m sure many writers feel the same way.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. GAH, I am feeeeling this more sharply than ever! I must must MUST publish this year–not for the reader’s sake, but for mine. Your encouragement has been such a blessing, Anne, and I do hope that no matter what happens this year, we can support one another in new writing adventures! xxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

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