Saturday, October 8, 2011

Writing the Second Book: Is it Easier?

Ten years ago, if someone had told me I would have two books published by now, I would’ve laughed—longingly of course. My first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, was released in December 2008, almost ten years after I started writing it. The sequel, Follow the Dream, came out two years later.

People say to me, “The second book must be a lot easier than the first one, right?”
Well, yes and no. I guess I could say that I cheated, in a way. I wrote the two books as one long book to begin with. But when I began researching publishers, I found that the word count for the “western” genre was generally shorter. It just happened that I found a place in about the middle where I thought it could be easily divided. But then I had to make sure the second book could stand alone and fill in some of the back story without resorting to the old “telling” versus “showing.”
Writing a book is never easy. There is always a lot of research to do, whether it is fiction or non-fiction. The self-discipline of writing regularly is easier for some than for others. I wear several hats—writer, teacher, editor and critique group leader, so sometimes my own writing gets put aside.

Of course, once the first draft is put down on paper (and I subscribe to Anne Lamott’s advice to give yourself permission to write a “crappy” first draft), there is revision, revision, revision. This can be done in bits and pieces or going through the entire manuscript several times with a fine-tooth comb. Revision is helped greatly by having an astute critique group to give valuable, constructive feedback.

So, despite the fact that I had the second book “written” when my first book came out, I had to go through several revisions before it was ready to submit to the publisher. The preliminary reader had some further suggestions, as did the editor, and so there were more revisions. Finally, after two years, my second novel was released.

Now the work begins: marketing. Is that easier with the second book? Again, yes and no. I learned as I went with the first book, and I know more now than I did two years ago. But it’s still a matter of hitting the bricks, handselling, and roaring through cyberspace, trying to get your name out there, trying to build up fans.
No, I would say the second book is not easier than the first. And, in working on the third in the series, that fact is reinforced. This saying sums it up quite well: “The more you learn, the less you know.” But that is also what I love about writing—I never stop learning.

Both Cowgirl Dreams and Follow the Dream are based on my grandmother who rode bucking stock in Montana rodeos during the 1920s and ‘30s. The books are written for adults, but also suitable for young adult readers.

Cowgirl Dreams, (an EPIC Award Winner), takes place during the 1920s and features the heroine, Nettie Brady, who dreams of becoming a rodeo star. Social convention, family resistance, floods, broken bones and killer influenza team up to keep Nettie from her dreams.

In Follow the Dream (WILLA Literary Award Winner),Nettie has it all: a rodeo cowboy husband, plans for a busy rodeo season and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to rodeo in London with the Tex Austin Wild West Troupe. But life during the Great Depression brings unrelenting hardships and unexpected family responsibilities. Nettie must overcome challenges to her lifelong rodeo dreams, cope with personal tragedy, survive drought, and help Jake keep their horse herd from disaster. Will these challenges break this strong woman?

Heidi M. Thomas’ novels are available on her website, from the publisher Treble Heart Books at and Follow the Dream is also available as an e-book for Kindle.


A native Montanan, Heidi M. Thomas now lives in Northwest Washington. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, has recently won the national WILLA Award. Heidi has a degree in journalism, a certificate in fiction writing, and is a member of Northwest Independent Editors Guild. She teaches writing and edits, blogs, and is working on the next books in her “Dare to Dream” series.


Anonymous said...

My second book was very easy to write, I think because I wrote it in a different genre than the first (from paranormal to straight-up romance). I think any books after the first book have different kinds of challenges: you have to make sure your characters are unique and not carbon copies of your first characters; you have to give them their own voices and shut up yours - and your first characters'; you have to strive to make the plot unique and not copy the first plot...

What I did find easier is finishing. After I completed the first one, I knew I could write one all the way through, and that opened the floodgates for the others. I've completed four and have five & six in the planning stages. But easier to write? I don't think so, not really. Just easier to persevere and see it through to the end. ;-)

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I used to think that writing the second book is easier. And that it gets easier with the second and third. In some ways it does. In other ways, even experienced authors can be fooled. An example is my new edition of The Frugal Book Promoter. I thought, just a cleanup. Just an update. OK, maybe a little reorganizing. Wrong.

It was much harder than the first edition published in 2004. Probably because I now know so much more--both information for the book and about publishing itself. And I'm not ashamed to say that. I'd be more embarrassed to say I hadn't learned anything since 2004! Ha!

And, yes, Sharon. Different challenges! (-: Certainly when one jumps between genres.


Magdalena Ball said...

The thing about the second novel is that, as a writer, I'm always trying to raise the bar. So in some ways it was harder, because I wanted to do more - taking on more POVs, harder narrative structures, and more complex stories. On the other hand, you know you can do it, and you've got a kind of mandate. You're out of the closet and can't just pick at it for years. But of course each book comes with mega-learning, so you are a stronger writer with each one. That doesn't make it easier! But it does make you more capable.

Karen Cioffi said...

Heidi, I love that quote, "The more you learn, the less you know." Boy, is that true.

Carolyn, I'm sure that's why your second edition was more work.

I'm working on my second fiction book, and it's as difficult as the first. Maggie, knowing I did the first one, doesn't help. :)

Sharon, glad you found your second one easier!

Nancy Famolari said...

I think writing the second book and maybe the third is harder because you know what you don't know and now you're trying to incorporate it.

D. Jean Quarles said...

Personally, I've found each book becomes easier to write. The first I would easily become distracted and let it lay for days without writing anything. By the second I knew that the behind in the chair would help me get it done. Also, each book, I too have learned new things that make it easier. What isn't easier? Marketing. Each book has required a different strategy.

Margaret Fieland said...

With the second book, I can say that at least I'd gotten over the fear factor -- the "I'll never find enough to say to write a book." With the first, I wrote the first draft, then spent the next 2 years learning enough to rewrite it. I'm farther along the writing learning curve now, and that does help.

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