Monday, 16 September 2013


Why writing your second book is so much harder than writing the first...

by Steven A. McKay            

It took me almost three years to write my début novel, Wolf's Head. Three long years of research, writing, editing, then re-writing. Hard going, especially when you're working full time and have a family who you want to spend as much time as possible with.
However, the lovely thing about writing your first novel is the lack of pressure. Sure, you put yourself under pressure to write a certain amount each week, and to make the book as good as possible but ultimately, you answer to no one. More than anything, writing a first novel, for me at least, was fun!
Everything in the story is new: your characters are doing things for the first time; places are visited for the first time; conflicts happen for the first time. You are creating your world from scratch, to your own rules and desires and it's hugely enjoyable.
Then you finally finish the novel and publish it. Assuming it's a decent read, that's when the trouble begins.
Suddenly, you don't have three years to write any more, because people have enjoyed your debut and are emailing demanding to know when the sequel is coming out! That's also when other authors start telling you the best way to market your first novel is to publish the next one!
The problem is, you're still working full-time so don't have any more spare time than you did while writing the debut. And, on top of that, you now have to spend a lot of time promoting that first novel so people will actually go out and buy it.
So there you sit, trying to write your new book, and it's much harder this time. Sure, your writing style and technical skill has probably improved, but now you've used up all the ideas you had for the first book, and, since you have to keep things fresh, you need to keep coming up with brand new ideas for plots and characters. All the time thinking, “I have to get this out there quick, before people forget about me!”
It's really a strange situation to be in I think. I remember when Bernard Cornwell's King Arthur trilogy was first published. My mum bought me the first one, The Winter King, for Christmas. She did the same a year later for the sequel, and again the next Christmas for the third book. It seemed natural to expect at least a year between books in a particular series.
To be honest, I'm sure if it takes me a year to finish my sequel to Wolf's Head, people will still be interested, and, if they liked the first one, they'll buy the second too. Readers are not as impatient as it seems to this stressed out author. But, just two months after publishing my novel, I feel like I need to have the next one out NOW. Is that irrational? Or natural? You tell me.
Actually, for all my talk here of being under's brilliant! Seriously – people have bought my book! And, not only that, they enjoyed it so much they've taken the time out to contact me to say so! Yes, it's added a whole new layer of stress to the writing process, but it also brings a huge grin to my face every time I get a nice email, or Wolf's Head climbs a little bit higher in the charts.
So, yes – writing your second novel is harder than the first thanks to the weight of expectation and the desire to keep your momentum going. But if this is pressure – bring it on. I've got a sequel to write, if I can just stop smiling long enough to concentrate...

You can learn more about Steven A.McKay on his blog
And buy his book Wolf's Head here
Also available in the US paperback and e-reader versions.

Follow Steven on twitter and Facebook


  1. I'm doing a giveaway to go with this - WIN a signed copy of the paperback version of Wolf's Head!.
    If entrants can "like" my Wolf's Head Facebook page and private message me the answer to this question:
    In "Wolf's Head" Friar Tuck is a Franciscan. What colour cassock did the English Franciscans wear?
    Competition is open worldwide. :-)

    1. Great Question Steven and a great giveaway!!!

  2. I am going through the same experience re writing the second book in a trilogy. I really want to read yours, absolutely. I am a Robin Hood addict!

  3. Your book sounds great - I might well give it a try! I know what you mean about pressure, but I was lucky. I wrote all nine novels in my Artesans of Albia fantasy series before landing a publisher. So all I have to do to turn each one out is make sure it is excellently edited and has a great cover. That's the kind of pressure I like!
    I will be entering your competition for sure - it would be neat to win the book. I wish you all the best with it.

  4. Hi Steven,

    I totally understand your thinking, and that feeling doesn't go away even after the second, third or fourth book. I still have stressy days but have by and large learned to enjoy the pressure and thrive on it. It's the place any author wants to be - with a readership demanding more.

    Now - get to work and get book 2 out *drums fingers impatiently* :P

    Gordon Doherty

    1. Cheers Gordon! As you know, you've been a big inspiration to me, showing the way when it came to self-publishing. Hopefully I'll be, like you, onto my third and fourth books before too long. :-)

  5. Thanks you Robert Southworth for name dropping you and your book, it sounds amazing and something thats right up my street, looking forward to reading it