Second Book Syndrome – The difference between the first and the second books

Zen Cat

Two days away from the release of WOLF STORM, I’ve been thinking about how different it is to have a second book coming out. Not just in the release, but in the whole writing process. First of all, I am incredibly thankful I’ve connected with so many people in the kidlit community since WILDFIRE RUN came out: the writers, the readers, the teachers, the librarians, and the bloggers. It has made the second book process much easier. At the time of the release of  WILDFIRE RUN, I had an established online network of writer friends, but I had no idea I could find so many people who are passionate advocates of children’s literature.

Many writers talk about second book syndrome. I’m not talking about the first and second books people have written. Most published writers I know have written several books before they have one that gets published. I’m talking about the first and second books that actually get out into the world.  When you are trying to write a second book, the syndrome is very real, but it’s also totally self-induced, except for the deadline pressure. If you are like a typical writer, you may have spent a long time writing that first book, tweaking it, rewriting it, changing the plot, and polishing it through long query rounds or writer workshops until it gets picked up.

The second book is very different-WOLF STORM was sold on a one paragraph pitch and a three page synopsis. I was left, like many writers, with a contract, a deadline, and a blank screen to fill. The pressure is greater because people are depending on you and assuming you can meet their expectations. Every writer I know has to fight that little voice whispering, “You can’t do it again. The first book was a fluke. You are a fraud.” I’ve come to believe writing is a mind game. You not only have to overcome rejection and criticism in the outside world, you have to overcome the insidious doubt your inner saboteur is trying to inflict on you.

In this whole process, the hardest part for me was actually getting a first draft done. Once I had something there, I knew I could get it into shape. When I had a polished draft completed, it was all a relatively easy after that. The rest of it depends on so many other factors that are outside my sphere of influence. I now know what to expect, what I can control, and more importantly, what I can’t. My hair actually began to fall out with the whole publication process of WILDFIRE RUN over the things I couldn’t change or affect. I’m happy to report that’s not happening with WOLF STORM. When the book is released, I can reach out to people who have come to know me a little over the past year and let them know it’s out. I can hope that the story will find enthusiastic readers who will want to recommend it to others. I can continue to find interested people in the children’s literature community, but beyond that,  I have to let go and concentrate on writing the next book and the next. That’s how I should be spending the bulk of my time. I want to be a storyteller, and to do that I have to tell stories.

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2 Responses to Second Book Syndrome – The difference between the first and the second books

  1. Greg Olson says:

    Inspiring and thoughtful words Dee. Thank you for taking the time to put this together and share.

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