How does writing a second book compare to writing the first? I’m beginning to build awareness of my second novel, The Copper Road, in advance of its release on July 26th, and one Goodreads follower has already posed this question. It’s got me thinking. Has it been easier or harder? Did I approach it differently? Do I like my second novel more than my first?
Being a writer, I’m spring-loaded to see the world through metaphor or analogy. Those that occur, I don’t always use, but they help the creative process. So in writing this I’ve begun to think about my first two children, both wonderful young ladies now. There are certainly some analogies to a first and second novel there. When my first child came into the world there was a huge amount to learn. I was very unsure as a parent. I sought out a lot of help from others, got better as I went along. And parenting is about care and nurture. Plenty of that in a novel.
Second time around, for both books and daughters, I was already aware of just how much hard work and time I was going to have to put into the endeavour, but there were some advantages. That first one was turning out okay, starting to look after itself and was even quite helpful now and again. I was aware from the first time that some things could have been approached better, so let’s not make those mistakes again. But pretty soon you realise the new creation is its own self and is wandering off in directions where the first one never ventured. (In the case of my second toddler, to the top of the fiberglass model of an Inca temple at Thorpe park. Took us ages to get her down.) And, of course, book one has its own ideas on what book two should get up to.
Fun though it is wandering around those memories, I feel I should perhaps drop the analogy and address the matter at hand. I think The Copper Road was probably marginally easier to write than Whirligig, although it had just as many drafts. This being a series - Shire’s Union - I had most of my main characters for a start. I also knew that too many characters can lead to plot complexity and would likely make it a long book, so I was careful there. I understood my creative approach, what worked best and that going to the scene of the crime, the battlefields, mountains and rivers of middle America, would give me the time and space to conceive a narrative. I’d developed my own particular systematic approach to editing and refinement which I knew worked to improve the pace and quality. And I knew which writing friends I could rely on to help.
There are particular challenges to a second novel though, especially so in a series. That big idea I had for book one was behind me. My characters had succeeded or failed in the terms of the first plot. The story arc for every character had to be looked at again. How had their realities changed? What would be their motivations now? ‘Man is his desire,’ says Aristotle. No desire equals no motivation equals a flat story. This was hard work and, for me, impossible to work out without writing the first draft of the book. Only then do the characters and plot ideas interplay and slowly the character desires and the story reveal themselves.
It's not so unlike raising a child. You have to let them out in the world to see what they’ll become. You love each one just as much as the other. Shire’s Union is a trilogy, of course. And I have a third daughter. To be continued.