I’ve heard people say that the “sophomore novel”, particularly the second in a series, can be the most difficult book an author will ever write. Until I started writing mine, I thought that those claims were exaggerated. To some extent, I still do, but the second book does present some unique challenges.
The writing itself isn’t any harder. The process is the same, or at least very similar. I am a much better writer than when I started my first book, so in fact this book should be easier to write. I believe that it will be much easier, faster, and a better product when it’s done, but there are a few challenges that I didn’t anticipate.
The first challenge is motivation. I write because I love to create with words, I’m making progress, and I’ll likely finish at least three books in this series regardless of the outcome of any submission to publishers. But I’m a results-oriented man, and I can’t wait to get a contract and be able to see my publishing future clearly. Until that point, which will hopefully happen sometime in the relatively near future, I’ll likely spend as much time dreaming up my next project as I do writing the second installment of this one (Scandinavian/Native American Mythology themed contemporary fantasy, anyone?). Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, but I would like my focus back 100%. The “Infusion” world that I’m currently writing in is awesome, and deserves my undivided attention.
The second challenge I’ve come up against is indecision. Do I structure the book in the same way that I did the first to deliver a similar reading experience while furthering the overarching plot and character arcs? Do I let my characters take the book over and allow the series to devolve into a GRRM/Wheel of Time-esque monstrosity? Somewhere in the middle? My current plan is to use roughly the same structure as the first book to keep the writing tight and deliver another fast-paced, engaging story. But I am going to give other characters more screen time and explore the world slightly more than I allowed myself in the first book. Hopefully as time and my writing career progress, I don’t fall into the trap of letting my world take over the story. Keep me honest on this, people.
So, what do you think? What are some of your favorite sophomore novels, particularly that fall in a series? I’d love to hear about them and why they worked for you. I’d also love to hear what you’d be interested to read about on my blog…without a book out for you to read (or even a sample…hopefully I can provide that much before the book is out), I often struggle to come up with a blog topic that I think people will be interested in. I love to write these, though, so if you’d like to see a blog post on something specific, please comment or message me.
4 thoughts on “The Second Book”
I would have to say that I generally like sophomore novels that take one major aspect of the story and make it new.
Example 1: In James Dashner’s Maze Runner series, the second book took place in a completely different venue.
Example 2: Although not technically a sophomore novel, Ender’s Shadow was from a different character’s point of view but over the same time period as Ender’s Game.
Example 3: In the Sword of Shannara series the story of the second book was of the main character’s children and didn’t revolve around the sword at all. I actually think the second book is a lot better than the first, but this is due to the fact that the first book felt way too much like LOTR.
To contrast the good examples, the one sophomore novel I didn’t love is The Chamber of Secrets. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge Harry Potter fan and I think Rowling is a great writer, but when compared to the rest of the series it just feels stagnant and too similar to the first book.
So really, I think I like sophomore novels more when they introduce something that is fresh and new. I think that’s why series like LOTR, GOT, and WOT all do well because they have so many people, places, and events happening that the story always seems fresh. At least that’s my opinion. Maybe writing about a new venue or character could spark your motivation again.
Hopefully this helps in some way and doesn’t just sound like a bunch of garbage.
ps. I wish I had a specific topic to suggest for a blog post because I do enjoy reading about your experience as a writer.
Those are solid examples, Spencer. WOT is a really good example of maintaining a very similar structure and experience while changing the setting from book one to book two. And I am hoping to deliver something similar with my second book – stay true to the “feeling” of the story but introducing enough new elements that it’s fresh and exciting.
I appreciate you following along with my posts and I’m very happy that you enjoy them. I’ll try to keep posting every now and then, and I’m very hopeful that soon I’ll be able to write in more detail about aspects of my book and my writing because it will be available for you and everybody to read. 🙂
I haven’t read The King Beyond the Game or The Boy Who Cried Blood, but I’d agree with you regarding Grave Peril being significantly better than the first books in that series. I loved every book in that series though, won’t lie.
Favorite sophomore novels:
Fool Moon is ok but I think Grave Peril is really Butcher’s sophomore novel. Grave Peril is where Butcher steps up into the next level.
The King Beyond the Game is amazing. It’s a sequel, that’s technically a prequel because the main character dies in the first book.
The Boy Who Cried Blood is fantastic. Switching the PoV to a new character or a sub-character is a great way to continue the story.