‘There is a book in everyone.’ We’ve all heard the well-worn cliché. Many have peppered their minds with cigarettes and alcohol: ‘Yes, I must get down to it.’ The motivated do. The remainder procrastinate. So how do we venture beyond the first?
Writers who face this question are of two minds: do I construct a series, or do I migrate to a totally new arena? I had originally mapped out a crime series with each book a ‘stand-alone’ (very important) in its own right. Many claim that writing a series is easier because some characters are already developed and known to the reader. From a writer’s perspective, retaining characters is neither a short cut nor time saver. Delicate handling is required to introduce these continuing characters the ‘new’ reader because the reader already familiar with them does not want to be bogged down with pages of re-hashed character descriptions.
Whisper of Death, the second of my ‘Watts Happening? Investigations’ series, features Olivia Watts and two previously introduced characters. To uphold reader interest, all characters must engage and excite the reader. It is their duty (and ours as a writer) to ensure they are realistic, capture the imagination, and advance the story.
Plot therefore, becomes the most important element of the second (or any) novel, for without an intriguing plot line the second or the twenty-second book will be shelved within 50 pages. How is plot conceived? For me, from wild imagination. Others might draw from life experiences, newspaper articles, and the famed ‘What if?’ game: What if the checkout girl overcharged me for my groceries? Shall I kill her in the car park after work, or wait until she’s home where her boyfriend will become prime suspect? (Extreme scenario, but you get the gist. Note: Always check your docket.)
Authors aim to write a more complex book with each subsequent publication. Therefore, a follow-up must capture new readers and offer similar or better enjoyment than the first. Using feedback for development is essential. Rather than gloat over a raft of four and five star accolades, a writer should direct specific attention to negative reviews (there will always be some) and seize those as an opportunity to improve.
I believe it an advantage to publish the second novel within six to nine months of the first. Devoted readers appreciate an author’s commitment to the craft rather than see them as a ‘one hit wonder’. (I do not malign the late Harper Lee, for example, but many did wish and hope for a follow-up much sooner than the 55-year wait for Go Set a Watchman.)
The second book will promote sales of the first and provide a stronger platform for marketing, publicity, and promotional appearances. I am now completing final edits for Clock face of Ills, the third in my series. It is not difficult to write a second or twenty-second book. The difficulty is in the first.