Writing the dreaded Second Novel

My next novel, THE LAST BEGINNING, is a sequel to THE NEXT TOGETHER, and comes out in Autumn 2016.  I never even knew that THE NEXT TOGETHER would have a sequel until I wrote the last chapter. Then I suddenly realised that there was this whole other story I hadn’t told. I couldn’t bear to give up Kate and Matt.

Writing a second novel was a completely different process to my first. I wrote THE NEXT TOGETHER for me, because I couldn’t find the book I really wanted to read. I never thought about who else would read it. It was full of inside jokes to myself and silly asides that no one else would care about.

I wrote THE LAST BEGINNING knowing that not only would other people read it, but that it was definitely going to be published. That made it so much harder.

I was hit with Second Book Syndrome. I doubted myself. I had to stop myself from not putting things in because I was too busy thinking about what people reading them would think.

Plus, I used all of my best jokes in the first book. I threw everything I had – a lifetime of experiences and ideas – at THE NEXT TOGETHER. For a while, I was a bit stuck.

I got over that in the end – and I think my own self-doubt makes me a better writer. I’d be terrible if I was blithely confident in everything I wrote!

In every book, I find the first 20,000 words the hardest. That can take me almost as long to write as the rest combined. I’ll write and rewrite that about 3 times before I’ll carry on. Getting the beginning right the first time will save a lot of rewriting, I’ve found.

But when I eventually, finally wrote the first draft…. It was so much better that THE NEXT TOGETHER, from the beginning. THE NEXT TOGETHER was the first novel I ever wrote, I was learning how to write at the same time as editing it for publication.

It was a huge learning curve. I was only just figuring out the basics. The edits were huge and endless and I was making stupid mistakes, and writing lots and lots that was immediately deleted because I didn’t know what I was doing.

The second time around, I understood so much more about the plot structures of books. I saved so much time by making sure I knew what the novel’s structure would be from the beginning, before I started writing. That saved me a lot of editing time.

However, I’m still in the midst of editing, so I may be saying this a little early…. I’ll update you in a few months!

I do struggle with comparing the rough draft of THE LAST BEGINNING to the polished final version of THE NEXT TOGETHER. At times it feels like I’d gone backwards because it’s so bad in comparison. But I have to remember how much editing that has had. So. Much. Editing.

And one day,  hopefully very soon, THE LAST BEGINNING will be just as polished and prettied up and ready for people to read. Fingers crossed.

[dives back into edits]

Published by Lauren James

Lauren James is the twice Carnegie-nominated British author of many Young Adult novels, including Green Rising, The Reckless Afterlife of Harriet Stoker and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. She is a RLF Royal Fellow, freelance editor and screenwriter. Lauren is the founder of the Climate Fiction Writers League, and on the board of the Authors & Illustrators Sustainability Working Group through the Society of Authors. Her books have sold over a hundred thousand copies worldwide and been translated into six languages. The Quiet at the End of the World was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize and STEAM Children’s Book Award. Her other novels include The Next Together series, the dyslexia-friendly novella series The Watchmaker and the Duke and serialised online novel An Unauthorised Fan Treatise. She was born in 1992, and has a Masters degree from the University of Nottingham, where she studied Chemistry and Physics. Lauren is a passionate advocate of STEM further education, and many of her books feature female scientists in prominent roles. She sold the rights to her first novel when she was 21, whilst she was still at university. Her writing has been described as ‘gripping romantic sci-fi’ by the Wall Street Journal and ‘a strange, witty, compulsively unpredictable read which blows most of its new YA-suspense brethren out of the water’ by Entertainment Weekly. Lauren lives in the West Midlands and is an Arts Council grant recipient. She has written articles for numerous publications, including the Guardian, Buzzfeed, Den of Geek, The Toast, and the Children’s Writers and Artist’s Yearbook 2022. She has taught creative writing for Coventry University, WriteMentor, and Writing West Midlands.

3 thoughts on “Writing the dreaded Second Novel

  1. It’s just amazing period that your first novel EVER got published. I, not the other hand, happily threw it in the trash. I am on my second one now and like you, I had second novel syndrome. It’s taken me four years to actually get somewhere with my second novel. Although I am not published, you learn so many things from writing your first, that I think it seriously FREAKS you out when you get to your second. It took me four years of writing, and rewriting and constantly stabbing at my plot in my second novel before I had 12,000 words that I actually liked. From then, I’ve written roughly 15,000 more words. Nonetheless, I now have a great story and I’m over my little hump and writing every day!

    xo, N


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