Everyone seems to agree that the second one is more difficult. The second album, or the second film. Or the second book.
The thing is, you can only write one second book — because the next one after that is the third book. It’s dubious to talk about lessons learned from something I’ve done only once, and can do only once, but I’m going to try. By reading this, you’re just encouraging me.
My first book was CHANGER, and my second book is TOLL. They’re in the same series, which both simplifies and complicates matters. I can say now that both have been well-received, judging by every metric available to me. I’d had plenty of time to get used to CHANGER being out there, but TOLL is still relatively new to the public eye, being only two months old.
I’m delighted that it seems to live up to the expectations of the people who read its predecessor, and I’m also vaguely surprised — not because I ever thought it was a bad book, but because when you’re the one who wrote it, you can’t see it clearly. Releasing it into the world feels like a leap of faith.
I’d often heard about the nebulous difficulty of writing a second novel, and I put it to the back of my mind when I began working on mine. Maybe it wouldn’t apply to me, I thought. Maybe it was just another of those things like writer’s block, where it’s a slightly different problem for each person, and probably over-diagnosed. Maybe it’s just a lack of preparation.
I told myself all of these things, and I think they each have elements of truth — but there is a unique difficulty to doing something creative for the second time. It’s difficult to generalise, but I can at least talk about the challenges I faced, and some lessons that might be applicable to others too.