5 Things you learn when writing your second book

There have been lots of articles written about writing your first novel, both on how to do it and the struggle and sense of achievement when finally completing it. This is understandable. You only write one first novel and you are one of a select few who having started, manage to get to the end. But what of your second novel? What should you expect when starting book number two and how is it different from the first time? Here are my top five things I learned writing my second novel.

1 It is just as hard as the first but in different ways

Writing your first novel is a struggle because it is the great unknown. It’s like having a child; you knew in theory what to expect but the reality was so much more. So writing your second book should be easy, right? Unfortunately the answer is both yes and no. Some things are easier. You know what to expect, how much commitment is required and what to do during each stage of the writing process. But at the same time, each book is different and how you get your story onto the page can vary wildly depending on the idea, the characters, your chosen POV and many other factors. Some writers say there is no such thing as a second book, just another first one, and I have a tendency to agree. Even though my second novel was a sequel to my first, it was just as hard to write. And then there is the pressure of expectation to add to all the other challenges you face.

2 You have improved as a writer

The good news is that you have improved as a writer. Yes, you have. It may not be noticeable as you oscillate between the wild creativity and frustrating inertia of your new first draft, but when it comes to editing you should see a difference in the amount of effort needed to pull your book into shape. This isn’t always the case, especially if your first book was an idea that had been germinating for years and your second came from an “oh, shit, what should I do now?” thought after your first novel was finished, but most of us find that there are things learnt when writing the first novel around pacing, phrasing and characterisation which naturally incorporate into our writing process, improving the standard of our first draft.

Then, when it comes to editing, most of us have a clearer idea of what we should be doing and to what extent. Like many people I over-edited my first novel

3 You still have a lot to learn

Writing a book doesn’t automatically qualify you as an experienced author. It makes you a journeyman at best, a novice in most cases. What you’ve learnt with your first novel is how to write that particular story. You’ve picked up many skills along the way – you can see this by how much better your later chapters were compared to your first – but you’ve still only flexed a few of the writing muscles available to a writer. The best writers are always learning, always looking to improve. And then there is the ever-present challenge of how to write without resorting to cliché or stock phrasing. The bad news is, you’ve not made it as a writer, you’ve just started. The good news is that’s a wonderful situation to be in.

4 There are certain typos you will always make

Muscle memory is a funny thing. Once an action is learnt it is very hard to un-learn. When editing your second book you’ll soon notice old friends making an appearance, those same typos that riddled your first book coming back to say hello. If you haven’t already made notes of which typos you regularly make, I suggest you do it now, because these gremlins are guaranteed (that’s one of mine) to visit every manuscript you ever write and a quick ‘find and replace’ (not replace all, always check placement and context) of your document can save hours of frustration further down the process.

5 Once published, you find out your true audience

On publishing your second book your assumption is that your second book will sell at least the same number as your first book, with a bigger launch, because you already have a group of dedicated readers who can’t wait to find out what you’ve come up with next. This may be true if you’ve a thriving mailing list and are releasing your book only a few months after the first. In fact this is the reason why many people suggest you don’t publish book 1 when it’s finished but wait until you have three ready to go and publish them either all at once, or quickly after each other.

The reality for most of us (especially those of us self-publishing) is that the initial sales of our debut novel – especially at launch – came from friends or family either keen to support us or morbidly interested in what could be a car crash of a novel. Another segment of people who bought your novel are those who bought it because of the great cover, blurb, personal recommendation or reviews but found it not good enough to race out and buy the next one. That doesn’t mean they thought it terrible (although they might have) but it just wasn’t compelling enough that your next novel automatically pushed in front of every other book being released. Then you have the people who would be interested but you’ve failed to engage with so they’ve moved on to other things.

As with all these points, this may not apply to you, but don’t be surprised if your second book doesn’t initially sell as well as your first. It can be a frustrating lesson but the good news is that those readers that buy your second book are your true audience. They aren’t there for moral support (well, maybe a few) but they’re there because they’re genuinely interested in what you come up with next. As long as you continue to produce quality work, this group should remain with you every step of the way (although a mailing list helps), becoming the foundation of your (hopefully) ever growing readership.

So what about you? What lessons have you learnt that I’ve missed? Or is there anything I’ve written you strongly disagree with? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here. 

Recommended Reads: Malus Domestica by S. A. Hunt

Malus Domestica

S. A. Hunt is an indie author who, while being on the cusp of becoming the ‘next big thing’, still manages to keep his feet firmly on the ground and is happy to support his fellow indie authors. I’ve been meaning to read one of his books for a while as I’ve a soft spot for horror stories, and eventually settled on his latest, Malus Domestica. However, I was a bit worried. I enjoy Steven King’s work enormously and was a big fan of Clive Barker in my twenties from his earliest Books of Blood through The Great and Secret Show, Imajica, Weaveworld and Everville to Coldheart Canyon. Could Malus Domestica live up to being billed in the same company?

The Description

From the award-winning author of the Outlaw King series comes another harrowing adventure in the grand tradition of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Charlaine Harris.

Robin Martine has come a long way.

She’s not your usual college-age girl. More often than not, Robin’s washing a load of gory clothes at the laundromat, or down at the lake throwing hatchets at pumpkins. She lives in an old van, collects swords, and dyes her mohawk blue.

Also, she kills witches for a living on YouTube.

You see, Robin’s life was turned upside down by those hideous banshees from Hell. She spent high-school in a psych ward, drugged out of her head for telling the cops her mother Annie was murdered with magic. Magic from a witch named Marilyn Cutty.

After a 3-year warpath across America, she’s come home to end Cutty for good.

But she’ll have to battle hog-monsters, a city full of raving maniacs, and a killer henchman called the “Serpent” if she wants to end the coven’s reign over the town of Blackfield once and for all.

The Review

You have to have some balls to put your work in the same company as Stephen King and Clive Barker (sorry, I’ve not read any Charlaine Harris), either that, or unswerving confidence in your own talent. My guess with S. A. Hunt it’s a bit of both, and in Malus Domestica I can see why. This is an excellent book, with a strong, character-led storyline that’s as unsettling as a childhood nightmare yet twice as entertaining.

A young woman, Robin Martine returns to her hometown, Blackfield, for the first time in years, finally ready to confront her past. At the same time a father and son, Leon and Wayne, move into Robin’s old home, hoping to start life anew after the death of Wayne’s mother. After a simple walk home from his first day at school goes horribly wrong, Wayne survives due to the kindness of their elderly neighbour, Marilyn Cutty. But Cutty isn’t what she seems, as Robin Martine already knows, because Cutty killed her mother years before, with magic.

In Malus Domestica, Hunt has written a story right up there with the best horror authors. From the slow drip of fear during the opening scene as two Mormons realise they should never have agreed to a meal, through to the book’s bloody denouement, Hunt creates a modern take on an old tale with a cracking female lead.

Robin Martine is a great character, both vulnerable and as hard as teak, lost and alone in the world. but driven by the need to revenge her mother. At Blackfield she is supported by equally compelling characters, her old friend Joel and ex-army vet, Kenway, who slowly provides a balancing compassion to Robin’s relentlessness, plus a whole host more.

I loved the atmosphere Hunt built through the story, gradually pulling back the veneer of normality to show us a community ruled by powers rooted in blood and fear, all the while avoiding the many horror cliches but still sprinkling enough weirdness throughout to make the premise unique. The first half of the book really did have the feeling of a Stephen King novel but by the end it was very much in Clive Barker territory, yet uniquely S. A. Hunt. And it’s funny, too.

While the story gradually darkens as it progresses, there were some wonderful carefree moments as well, especially early on as Wayne makes friends at school and agrees to go out on an adventure. It takes real skill to be able to write both light and dark convincingly, and Hunt handles this well.

The book itself wasn’t perfect, there was a little too much explaining how the powers worked for my liking, and while I enjoyed the Avengers style action with the Order of the Dog Star, I felt their sudden appearance was too convenient and needed a little more foreshadowing. That said, these are minor points and didn’t take away any of the shine from what is an excellent book. For once, the comparisons were well deserved. I don’t think it will be long before authors are selling their books “in the tradition of S. A. Hunt.” Highly recommended.

To buy Malus Domestica from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Malus Domestica from Amazon.com click here

Recommended reads are either independently published books – or those that are published via a small press – that I have bought and enjoyed. They are part of a commitment to ‘pay it forward’ to other independent authors by buying their work and promoting those that I have enjoyed, both here and on Amazon and Goodreads. I don’t accept submissions but instead focus on people who have helped or inspired me through their blogging or who actively support other writers, but I only recommend those books I have personally enjoyed. If you are an independent author I would encourage you to do the same and help pay it forward to the community. For more information please see my blog post here.

Top 10 Books on Writing and Publishing

The best artist always looks to improve their craft, whether they are just starting out or have many years of experience. And for those of us who self-publish, we not only have to continually improve our craft, we also have to stay ahead of the game on how to publish and market our work. The good news is that there’s lots of advice out there. The bad news is that there’s lots of advice out there. Finding out what works for you can be difficult. I’ve read many books over the past few years, some were incredibly helpful, others less so.

The problem is that writing is a very individual task. Advice that works for one person will be useless for another. However, despite that I thought I’d share the books that have helped me the most, both with my writing and to help publish and market my books. I hope you find them as useful as I have.

 

Writing

You will notice I’ve not recommended On Writing by Stephen King. This isn’t because it isn’t useful (it is), but because everybody recommends it so if you haven’t read it by now, it’s unlikely you ever will!

Emotion ThesaurusEmotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman

This is an excellent book that helps a writer go from telling to showing. It lists a series of emotions and then lists examples of how it manifests physically, internally, the mental responses it provokes, cues to long-term exposure to the emotion and cues that somebody is suppression the emotion.

I found this incredibly useful when starting out and also after having written for a while and catching myself using the same phrasings on multiple occasions.

To buy The Emotion Thesaurus from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy The Emotion Thesaurus from Amazon.com click here

 

 

Self-editing for fiction writersSelf-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

This is a great, how-to guide on the steps to go through to edit your own work, whether to get it into shape before passing it on to an editor, or to go on to publish. It helped provided much needed structure when editing my first book and I still follow its principles today.

To buy Self-Editing for Fiction Writers from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Self-Editing for Fiction Writers from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

2kto10k2,000 to 10,000 by Rachel Aaron

Want to speed up your productivity? This book gives no-nonsense, concise and practical advice on how to improve your daily word count, with the added bonus of also going through the whole writing process to boot. I read it in an afternoon and it was probably the best afternoon’s read I’ve ever had.

To buy 2,000 to 10,000 from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy 2,000 to 10,000 from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

How not to write a novelHow not to write a novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark

This is a very funny guide to the many mistakes a writer can make when writing a novel. The book is split into sections on plot, character, style, perspective and voice, world building and selling your novel, with excellent made-up examples to demonstrate the points made. While reading this book can be occasionally painful (as in, “my God I do that”) it is always helpful and never patronising.

To buy How not to write a novel from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy How not to write a novel from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

bird by birdBird by Bird by Anne Lamott

While this book gives good advice, its real strength lies in the very successful Lamont’s openness about her insecurities and fears about her own writing (even now), and the struggles she underwent before becoming successful. By the end you’ll be reassured that the doubts you have about your writing abilities are completely natural.

To buy Bird by Bird from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Bird by Bird from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

Publishing

Digital2Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran

In this newly revised book, Gaughran rakes you through the nuts and bolts of how to self-publish with clear instruction that anybody could follow. It then moves on to how to market your book, and ends with a series of stories from self-published authors who started with nothing and went on to become a success. Then, if that wasn’t enough, come a series of appendices including checklists leading up to and post-publishing, how to set up mailing lists, advice on how to create paperback books and specific support for authors of short stories. If you are serious about self-publishing, you should own this book.

To buy Let’s Get Digital from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Let’s Get Digital from Amazon.com click here

 

 

Lets get visibleLet’s Get Visible by David Gaughran

The follow up to Let’s Get Digital, in this book Gaughran provides clear, concise advice about how to give your book the best chance to be seen through knowledge of Amazon’s search and ranking systems. I used this book extensively when setting up my novels on Amazon and it helped me both understand how Amazon rankings worked as well as made sure I avoided any pitfalls that could have had my books disappear into the black hole of oblivion.

To buy Let’s Get Visible from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Let’s Get Visible from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

cover-write-publish-repeat-finalWrite, Publish, Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B Truant

This book was an eye-opener. The good news is that it provides a great guide on the best (but not guaranteed) way to build a self-publishing career. The bad news is that there are no short cuts and no magic beans. It’s all down to working hard, treating writing as a job and producing lots of high quality content.

To buy Write, Publish, Repeat from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Write, Publish, Repeat from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

10 step plan10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book: Online Book Marketing on Any Budget by Scott Hughes

This book is a quick and easy guide to book promotion. The steps are clearly described and achievable – although step 1 is by far the hardest one of all. The only step I would query is around guest blogs, only because from my experience and the feedback of many other authors, it doesn’t deliver the results that other activities do for the same amount of work. However, this is just one small gripe. There is a little bit of self- (or should I say website) promotion in the book but I have no problem with that considering it was free. Overall, a good simple guide, especially useful for those starting on the self-publishing path.

To buy 10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy 10 Step Plan to Promote Your Book from Amazon.com click here

 

 

your first 1000 copiesYour first 1000 copies by Tim Grahl

This book is all about marketing your book and gives a step-by-step guide to establishing a connection system which will help you sell your first 1000 books. The steps are straightforward but as with many other books I’ve read, a lot of it is down to hard work. However, for the serious self-publisher, this book is a must.

To buy Your first 1000 copies from Amazon.co.uk click here

To buy Your first 1000 copies from Amazon.com click here

 

 

 

Do you like intelligent thrillers? If so, join my mailing list and get one of my 5-star rated near-future dystopian thrillers absolutely free. The mailing list is guaranteed spam free and I will only contact you if I have a new book launch or an exclusive short story to share. To sign up, please click here.