How to tackle a difficult second novel

Open notepad and book
Category: Writing

In April 2017, I secured a publishing deal with Legend Press for my debut psychological thriller, She Chose Me. Champagne was consumed. Once the euphoria wore off, however, I found myself facing a seventeen-month wait until publication and the inevitable question of what to write next. Whether you have a one or two-book deal, whether you are writing a sequel or a new, standalone novel, you may find yourself (as I did) suddenly unable to write. If panic is setting in and you are wondering if you will ever be able to write that ‘difficult’ second novel, it may help to step back and consider some of the most common problems.

Tackling burnout: Getting a debut novel deal can take years

  • Crash and burn: Take to the sofa and watch junk TV. Sleep as much as you can. Let your brain shut down for essential maintenance.
  • If you’ve neglected your health whilst writing and submitting your novel, it’s time for some self-love. Get help for any lingering ailments, eat right, exercise. All the good stuff.

Battling self-doubt

  • Self-doubt comes with the territory. Revel in quotes from famous authors moaning about their self-esteem issues.
  • Consider that most of the expectation and pressure may be coming from you.
  • Devote a notebook or computer file to positive comments and praise you’ve received about your writing from any source. Refer to it often.

Finding new ideas and inspiration

  • Read. Read novels outside your genre. Read the novels you didn’t have time for whilst writing your own.
  • Write morning pages. They will take you somewhere.
  • Scour magazines and newspapers. Cut out any stories that appeal.
  • Don’t expect your second novel to compete with the passion and urgency of your first. A first novel is often the idea you’ve longed to write all your life, so don’t worry if you don’t yet love your second baby enough. Be curious enough to follow an idea through and see where it leads. Let it grow on you.

Reboot your writing process

  • Once you have an idea to run with, try a new approach to writing. I wanted to write fast and free, so I did the Novel in Ninety Day Course at The Novelry. I ended up with a first draft of my second novel within the allotted time and by only writing for an hour a day.

Remember you have sold a novel, not your creativity

Most important of all, remember you have sold a novel, not your creativity. That is yours alone and will always be with you. As the publication date for She Chose Me looms, I’m wrestling with a second draft of my second novel, The Victim’s Code. I’m grateful to have a new story to fret over as my firstborn makes its way into the world. In the end, it really is the doing that matters.


Interested in how Tracey's journey panned out before this point? Read what happened when she signed with an agent.

Image credit lil_foot_, via Pixabay.

Tracey Emerson

Tracey started writing fiction after a career in theatre and community arts. Her short stories have been widely published in anthologies and literary magazines. Her debut novel, She Chose Me, is published by Legend Press on 15 October, 2018.