Monday, November 1, 2010

Done and Dusted, and That Second Novel...

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.


  1. I had that problem with Melina Marchetta.

    LOVED LFA, and when I picked up SF I thought it was an awful rip-off of LFA. Couldn't even finish it.

    Saying that, many years later, I was sent PS to read and figured I should read SF so I could make sense of PS. Surprisingly - or unsurprisingly - I loved it.

    I think I needed that break to see to differences between the novels.

  2. Interesting. I never thought Saving Francesca was anything like Looking for Alibrandi. Apart from the fact that both books were written in the first person and both had female, teenage protagonists from an Aussie-Italian background.

  3. I've been thinking about this recently so prepare for serious word vomit! I'm sure it's because I'm about to write a second book that's unrelated to my first one (as opposed to the sequel, which is sorta the same book).

    I was actually lying in bed last night thinking about how happy I would be if J.K. Rowling wrote another book. And then I caught myself and I wondered if it was Rowling that I adored - her writing style, her voice - or Harry. As I'm switching protagonists (my first switch...ahh!) I'm realizing that Emma's voice will be totally, completely 100% different from Bri's, and so I would imagine that anything Rowling wrote would be different from Harry.

    I think it's a lot like people. There are going to be some people out there that I get along with/love/adore/whatever, and there are going to be those people that I just DON'T. Not that there's anything wrong with those people, but they just don't gel with me. Whatever, there are plenty of people that do. Same with characters. I would imagine that readers will like some characters and not others, and I don't think a reader is particularly entitled to like every one of a single author's books.

    I read a blog post a while back (I think it was Megan's actually...but not 100% sure) about how she met an author and was really excited because she loved the author and her voice and wanted to meet her. The blog post went on to reveal how she didn't like the author that much and how she realized that it was the character, the character's voice, that she loved so much. And I think that's true. Just because someone likes Bri (my main character), doesn't mean they'll like Emma (my second main character), and even if people like both of them in different ways, it doesn't mean they'll like ME.

  4. I've had the same struggled with the second novel. Finding a story that engages me, while still being true to the first novel. What complicated my situation was that I received a grant for the sequel, but by that time I'd moved on from the story and the proposal I'd put in felt old and stale. So I had to go back to the drawing board and find the story all over again. 100,000 words later-I finally did it.

  5. this sounds incredibly overwhelming.

    i've had a similar thing with another author i loved too - although they didnt change genres, just that it didn't have the same vibe as their debut.

    i recently read Kirsty Eagar's debit Raw Blue and was gobsmacked - loved it. Loved it so much that i tool a risk on buying her sophomore novel Saltwater Vampires even though I don't really read vampire books. It was really different to her first but I still enjoyed the gorgeous prose and i think you could tell how much she loved writing it and believed in the story - so i still connected with it.

    Good luck!


  6. Thanks, Nomes. I think you're right - if someone writes gorgeous prose, you'll probably enjoy it even if it's very different from what you expected. I think part of my anxiety stems from the fact that I doubt my prose - and wonder if the first novel worked not because of the prose but because of the story.

    Amra - Congratulations! How fantastic that you've finished novel number 2 and written a whopping 100,000 wds. Good luck with the editing. Can't wait to read it.

    And last but not least, Lila. As always, thanks for your thoughts. And thanks for reminding me that in the end ones response to a book is always subjective - so yeah, win some, lose some.