Second Novel Doubts

Now that my first book, Toonopolis: Gemini, is out in the public sphere and has been getting good reviews (4.2 ave at Amazon, 4.23 ave at Goodreads, and 4.5 ave at Smashwords), I am experiencing second-novel jitters while working on my two current works in progress, Toonopolis: Chi Lin (Book 2 of the Toonopolis Files) and Toonopolis Short: Anchihiiroo (short story/novella back-story of Anchihiiroo/Han’Eiyuu from Toonopolis: Gemini).

I have spoken to other author friends and this seems like a common occurrence amongst my colleagues.  For some, they worry that the story won’t be as compelling as their debut novel.  For others, they fear that people who connected with the characters in the first book may not connect as well with the follow-up.  This is especially true for authors that don’t write in a series with the same characters.

For me, I am fearing that the biggest thing that seems to be enjoyed by readers of my debut novel is the humor.  What if my follow up works aren’t as funny?  I feel like I’ve been overthinking the humor while writing.  When I wrote Gemini, the humor was not my primary focus.  I told a story in a world of my own creation that is very well-defined in my head.  The pithy dialogue came naturally to me and the wordplay and sarcasm were just my natural humor pouring onto the page.  If I overthink it, I know it will invariably be not funny and come across as stale jokes.

This is why, as much as I enjoy comedy and analyzing stand-up, I could never be a stand-up comedian.  My humor is reactionary.  I am funny when I just respond to situations that I am placed in.  I have a quick wit (or so I’ve been told) and use it for evil (so I’ve also been told).  When I was writing Gemini, I had well-defined characters that I could place in a situation and see how they reacted.  Chi Lin‘s main characters are not yet as well-defined so I think that is why I am still struggling early in the manuscript.

Ultimately, I know I need to just push through and write the way I know I should write.  I need to not worry about whether or not my second book is as ‘funny’ as my debut.  I know my story.  I know my world.  I know my characters and am learning more about them.  I need to stop worrying and learn to love the bomb… or something like that.

Any of you fellow writers out there have similar second-novel doubt stories?  Please share! 🙂





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  1. Seriously, Jeremy? Every minute of every day. 🙂 Self-doubt is a writer’s plague, I think. Best of luck with the writing. It’s sure to be amazing!!

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence Terri. Of course, not all of us are following up an award-winning soon-to-be bestseller (T minus 7 days)! 😉

  2. For me the third novel was actually the worst. The second was a sequel but I was so keen for the third not to retread the same ground as soon as I found myself heading in the direction I put it aside and did nothing but write short stories for two years before feeling capable of returning to it which I did, with a new voice, a direction I would never have expected and finished it with little or no trouble. The fourth went fairly smoothly but the fifth was also a bitch and I literally had to scrap the first 10,000 words and begin afresh and, again, there was a huge break in the middle while it decided what direction it wanted to go. I wrote a book that needed to get written but nothing like the book I originally conceived.

    Suck it up, push though, gird up your loins – whatever way you want to put it it all boils down to the same thing. But, as I said over on Facebook, no two novels are ever the same (at least they haven’t been for me) and so just take it as it comes. Plan, yes, by all means, but go with the flow too.

    1. Thanks for the reassurance that it never gets easier, Jim! 🙂

      The last author I met that had the strength to scrap over 10k words was a 10 year old fantasy writer I met when doing some elementary school appearances. I commended her on her ability to do that when plenty of adult, published authors are too scared to just crumple up the page (or, in more modern terminology, hit Ctrl-A and delete) and start over. 🙂

  3. I wonder if you’re having more trouble because you’re lacking the genre-savvy characters you had the first time around. Gemini and Jimbob were sarcastic and snarky and able to see what was ridiculous in the world around them and exploit it. They had humor similar to yours, and it looks like in Anchihiiroo you’ll have the phoenix to work through for the humor aspect. (I literally laughed out loud a few times and she’s only been it it for a few pages).

    But AFAIK you don’t have any cynical or snarky characters in Chi Lin to play with and therefore you’ll have to flex your humor muscles and do things you aren’t used to. I don’t know much about this story yet to know the character types to make suggestions, but I’m sure you’ll figure something out! You always do.

    1. Leave it to the unofficial president of my unofficial non-existent fan club to give me a nice pick-me-up here! 🙂

      I <3 Suzaku myself.

      And I will have those characters in Chi Lin… but gotta get through the first few chapters first (as, chronologically, they take place before Gemini). Thanks Cal! 🙂

  4. I’m beginning to think every writer has these same doubts. I have them and I actually even blogged about my own worries. What if the sequel isn’t as good as the first? But the only thing one can really do is keep on writing what we like. I guess the pieces will fall into place as we go along. (Or we can all be like Harper Lee and write a classic and never publish another book to avoid these doubts!)

    1. Mark Twain defined a classic as “a book which people praise and don’t read.” Forget that noise. I’d rather write 10 books people read than a single classic. 😉

    • Will Macmillan Jones on August 15, 2011 at 11:13 am
    • Reply

    Like Jim says, I’m finding the third one hard. In fact, I’ve chosen to archive it for a bit and work on other stuff, then come back to it afresh in a few months, maybe even next year. No Rush ( and that’s me saying that!!!)

    1. Oh, you’ll just write 27 other stories while waiting. I don’t know how your mind hasn’t exploded with all of your ideas, Will.

  5. I actually have the opposite problem. The Haanta Series is now 27 books long, and every time I get a message from my publisher telling me the next book is ready to go, I say “Thank the Gods”. Why? Because I feel that as any artist does, we become more particular with our work as time goes on. Even Jane Austen said “I am more careful now with my words than I used to be.” I think that the more practice you have with writing and publishing, the more excited you will become about new books. You’ll see. 😀

    1. It’s not that I’m unhappy with what I’ve written for my current two works in progress. Honestly, I think the first draft of these is equivalent to the 2nd or 3rd draft of my first in quality of writing, characters, and story. I am very content with my story and I love my characters (even when I have to do bad, bad things to them). I am very much enjoying writing Anchihiiroo, in a Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead type of existential way, knowing what he is in Toonopolis: Gemini and knowing I have to make him who he became when writing his origin and back story.

      The humor is what I am overthinking but I have had some great encouragement both on and off-line since I first posted this last week! 🙂

  6. Put fear aside it is wasted energy. If I knew your address I would send you a SuperMan tshirt to wear while writing. Just make a schedule and start, the first draft only needs to have the end written – then repair it. Work on a short project while you are in the throws of a longer work – something 150 words as a perfect complete story totally out of the box of what you are deep in the novel. Try different things that let go.
    Caroline Gerardo

    1. Excellent suggestions, Caroline. 🙂 I find that blogging and other avenues help keep the fingers fresh for writing.

      My biggest problem now is not a lack of enthusiasm or confidence… just finding time to schedule in real writing time due to being a stay at home dad and having my homemaker responsibilities eat up the majority of my time. Good news: school starts next week for my 6 year old! 🙂

  1. […] Jeremy Rodden, is writing: The Toonopolis Files.  The reason for this is because he recently wrote a post about having second-novel jitters, and I thought it’d be good self esteem boost if I talked about how excited I am about his […]

  2. […] work and told me they liked it) with additional works. I wrote a blog post in 2011 about having Second Novel Doubts, and maybe that still carries over to this day. Maybe I look at the work involved in publishing, […]

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