Writing that second and third book. Or not.

I’m finding it hard to focus on completing my third book: I keep getting distracted. Weather and career demands aren’t helping but part of it is also ‘writing fatigue.’

The publishing process is  surprisingly demanding: it requires that one keep revisiting and revising the same work over and over again, which makes it difficult to get into the mindset required to write a new one. Instead of developing new chapters, I find myself going over and over ones I’ve already written.

It makes me wonder – how many books does an author have in them? There are writers who seem to be able to produce a series with the same characters over dozens of years (think Ian Rankin’s Rebus).

But then there are those like Harper Lee, whose To Kill a Mockingbird was her only completed novel. (She tried to write a second, The Long Goodbye, and ended up trunking it altogether.) Imagine writing a book so good that it sells thirty million copies and turns the author into a national icon. How could she possibly live up to her own, or anyone else’s, expectations after that?

I kind of feel that way about The Beggar’s Opera, not that it’s in the same category, but the comments about it have been so positive that it makes me wonder if the second book can live up to the first. And as for the third: well, maybe my subconscious is warning me off.

Does anyone else struggle with this? How do those of you with multi-book deals manage to create second and third books that are as good as the one you spent years preparing, with all the other deadlines and  demands you have on your time?

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2 Responses to Writing that second and third book. Or not.

  1. I know what you’re saying. While my second novel, Steel Whispers, came fairly easy and, some say, was a better book than the first which took several years to complete. The third, however, was tough. I had to work much harder, though not a lot longer. At the same time, by the time I started the third book I was a better writer than when I began the first. Practice does indeed count. That got me through in the end and I’m pretty proud of the final result.

    Not everyone can edit and write at the same time. My friend Rob Sawyer can but I can’t. Maybe that’s why Rob has twenty books under his belt. And of course, in SF one seldom writes more than three books with the same characters.

    Still, maybe you need to get some closure on the first and second books before worrying too much about the third.


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