I was chatting with an author friend and we were comparing notes about writing the second book in a series. He talked about the pressure he is feeling while writing the next book in the series.
As we were comparing notes, I realized that we both have been experiencing the same things even though our genres are quite different – he is writing Science Fiction and I am writing YA Adventure.
So what exactly are these pressures that we are feeling? Well let me list them in no particular order.
- I’ve got to make the second book better than the first. You might think this silly because if that is a pressure with each book in a series, eventually you will fail. Also, what if the first book is award-winning or nominated and the second one doesn’t live up to the first’s hype?
- Will I keep my characters consistent from the first book to the second. Readers might wonder about this one. After all, didn’t you CREATE the character? Shouldn’t you naturally get them right every time? Little inside secret here folks – authors sometimes have trouble keeping a character acting consistently within the same book. That’s because the author is juggling plot, setting, multiple characters as well as the actual mechanics of the whole project. Sometimes details get forgotten.
- Will I write the second book for the same audience as the first. Again, an odd one. I mean, if the first was for YA, wouldn’t the second automatically be too? A little thing like level of vocabulary can change that whole thing without you even realizing it.
- Has the voice remained the same? I know that is a concern for me. After all, my first book was…well, it was my first book published. Have I written enough to have settled into my own voice yet?
- Will the readers like the second book? This is the really big one. For example, Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero was written rather episodically. That was done purposefully because the book was an origin story. The one I’m writing now is going to be more of a continuous story. I’m still trying to keep the chapter s ending so the reader wants to keep going (see cliff-hanging), but instead of a series of mini stories in the book, this one will have one primary plot point with several smaller ones contained within. Will the people who like the first one’s style like this one?
I know there are other considerations too, but these are some of the ones I’ve already experienced. How do I get around them? Well, I write the best book I can. I know that doesn’t really answer any of the big mysteries. If I were to give you my plan to keep the books as similar as I can (short of copying the plot) it would be:
- Reread the original before I write the second so I get reacquainted with the characters, setting, style and voice.
- Get back into my characters’ heads. This was actually pretty easy. I love the character Mik Murdoch a lot and enjoy writing him.
- Have beta readers who are familiar with the story proof this one.
It’s really not rocket science, as you can see. Still, the pressures are real. Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero has been nominated for a Prix Aurora (if you can but haven’t voted yet, what’s keeping you?). Even if it doesn’t win, the Aurora is a BIG deal and to be shortlisted is equally so. What if the next one is ignored? I’ve also had many people tell me how much they enjoyed the book. I don’t want to disappoint them. And there is always that nagging little doubt in the back of my mind – what if I only have one book in me?
Have you experienced anything similar? How have you dealt with it?