Have finally completed all requirements towards my MA, which is a huge relief as I like to finish what I start. More importantly, I am now free to work on my novel. It was great getting back to my own writing after not having time to touch it for several weeks.
Writing novel Number 2 comes with its own set of problems - not so much in the writing itself as in the expectations, or percieved expectations, of the author. No one considered me a 'real' writer until my first novel was published. I knew I had it in me to write a novel, but as no one else knew it, no one expected anything of me.
It's quite different now. People regularly ask me when the second one will be ready, and how it's coming along. Given that the reviews of Dancing and Dark were overwhelmingly positive, I can't help wondering whether my second novel will 'live up to' the first.
I started about 4 different 'second' novels before settling on the one I chose. They all had potential, but with anything I write, I start out by exploring various story ideas, and it takes a while to find out which ones will 'stick'. I have to love the story. It has to be engaging enough to capture my attention for a number of years. I need a story with themes I can see myself discussing well into the future.
A question that presents itself is this: How similar to the first novel should the second one be? There are obvious problems if it's too similar - it will feel repetitive and not worth reading. But readers who've loved the first novel will want a degree of similarity - after all, there's a reason they're looking for another novel by the same author.
I once looked for another novel by an author who'd written a novel I'd loved - one of those wonderful British contemporary novels. I found one, but it turned out to be a spy novel I didn't enjoy, and failed to finish. It was so unlike the first novel that I thought it must be by a different author with the same name, but research revealed that it wasn't. It was the same author. Different genre.
Some writers (Sonya Hartnett comes to mind) switch markets and genres with remarkable ease, and every novel is a masterpiece. Others carve out a niche for themselves in a very specific market, and each book is a bit like reading more of the same. Most fall somewhere in between.
I'm hoping I'll get the balance right, and that readers will enjoy my second novel. (And sorry, I won't tell you what it's about until I have a completed draft and a signed contract.) In the meantime, I'm not going to worry too much about whether my second novel is too similar to the first or not similar enough. I'll just have to trust myself, and hope that I can come up with a second novel that I'll enjoy reading, and that others will too.
If you're a writer who's found that second novel problematic, I'd love to hear from you. If you're a reader with strong opinions about second novels, I'd love to hear from you, too. And if you have any idea why the bottom half of this post shows highlighted lines behind the text, please enlighten me. I'm still a blogging novice, especially as far as anything technical is concernd.