The Difficult Second Book

14 Nov

In music, people often refer to the difficult second album.  The issue here is that a band or an artist may have slaved away for years before they get any recognition, and when they finally get signed they put all their best material developed across this time onto their first album.  If that happens to be a success, you can bet that their record label will be after them to put a second album out pretty soon after.  This is where the trouble begins because they’ve used all their best stuff and they have to scramble around to find songs that are good enough to fill the next one.

In writing, I suspect there is a related issue with your second book. You’ve probably already used all your best situations, your well-honed plot devices and killer dialogue, basically all the stuff you’ve been storing away in the back of your mind for years.  This means you’re left staring at a blank slate (or more likely a blank screen) with much less in your ideas bank to work with while your publisher is pushing you to get the next one finished ASAP. If you’re second book is a sequel or part of a continuing series, you also need to make sure that it is different enough from the first so that is doesn’t just seem like a carbon copy with some of the names changed, but similar enough that it has the same basic feel to it, and this can be a difficult balancing act.

This is the situation I now find myself in.  My first book is being finalised for publication as I write (it will be out in the UK at the start of January), and I’m meant to be getting my teeth into the second in what may eventually grow be a four book series. It will be set in the same world as the first (a post-apocalyptic alternate reality) but will involve a new cast of characters. The problem I’m facing is that for the first book I’d been mentally building up ideas for events that could take place in this world for about four years, so I had a lot to draw on.  Now, as I work on the second book, I have much less in there and I find I’ve already taken all the best bits out. This means I’m having to work harder and faster than I did with my first book just to generate the new ideas and scenarios I need to refill my ideas bank and it’s a pace I’m not as used to working at.

Add to this the fact that I’ve gone from working on a pretty much finished piece, which has been polished and honed over many months, to a very raw first draft, and I find I’ve forgotten just how raw this can be. I need to constantly remind myself that the first book was once in this state too and that the important thing is to get a completed draft written.  Once there, I can go back and start the editing process once more and gradually whip it into an acceptable shape.

Writing the first book was undoubtedly hard, but I’d mistakenly thought the second one would be easier.  It turns out it’s also hard, but in different ways and for different reasons. This is something no one ever warned me about but I presume I can’t be the only one who has found themselves facing these same struggles with what could rightly be described as the difficult second book.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit to find out more.

One Response to “The Difficult Second Book”


  1. The Difficult Second Book – Part II | Colin M. Drysdale - 31/08/2013

    […] November I posted an article about the difficulties of writing your second book. That was when I was just starting it. Now, 9 months later, and about 6 months behind my intended […]

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