COMMUNITY LEARNING HUB: ONLINE MODULES

7.4.1 WRITING THAT TRICKY SECOND NOVEL: LINDSAY GALVIN

The second novel is often regarded with fear and apprehension. You had a long time to perfect your debut, probably more than a couple of years, and now you have to do it all again with the clock ticking. You won’t have the glamour of ‘debut novelist’ to buoy you up, but you may have your agent there from the beginning. You will definitely have the experience won by mountaineering the steepest learning curve of your life.

There are a couple of situations you might be in, depending on your book deal. If you had a two book or multiple book deal, your publisher will be there to guide you and will likely have a clear view of where you’ll be going with your next book. But you’ll also have tight deadlines as publishers may want only a year between books. 

Many publishers routinely offer a one book deal, possibly with a ‘first look’ clause so they have the chance to offer on your second book before other publishers see it. It’s common to stay with the same publisher for your second book no matter what your deal, so you one book dealers aren’t off the hook. Now you need to find an idea to follow your first, and sell it all over again, not leaving too long between books so you can keep your readership happy. 

But writing is difficult enough, there’s no need to talk yourself into it being harder than it is! Nothing will chase away creativity quicker than an author terrified before even starting.

For me, the second book was easier to write than the first, even on a one book deal and a false start. Initially my problem was that I didn’t know what to write, so I didn’t write anything new until after my debut came out. I was totally stuck, so much so, I wondered if I would be able to do it again. This happened to coincide with burn-out after my debut and being diagnosed with anxiety disorder, but I didn’t know that at the time. In the end I was so tied up in trying to figure where to go after my debut teen sci-fi thriller adventure, I simplified it right back to one key idea; I wanted to write about real-life scientifically plausible dragons. I wrote the proposal and sample pages in a frenzy a month after my debut release, but by the time I got my deal, I was too ill to do anything and signed off work, including writing. I only started drafting it months later. 

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Despite all that, my second book, Darwin’s Dragons was the most enjoyable story I’d ever written! By the time I was well enough to get back to my laptop I was so delighted to be writing again that pressure sort of melted away. I had learned to take things day by day. I allowed the story to follow its own path, which meant it ended up historical MG, hopefully still appealing to my earlier readers but also a very different story. I feel incredibly lucky my publisher supported me with the move.

It wasn’t a difficult second book in the end, it was a book combining everything I loved and I still feel privileged that the idea found me and I was able to follow it. 

How to fall in love with book two

So can you make the horror of a second book experience into a rom-com?

I think so. How to fall in love with Book 2:

  • Start early. But…Don’t worry if you can’t start early. Trust it will come.
  • Don’t talk yourself into it being hard. It might not be! But….if it is hard, then remember it’s supposed to be. It’s a book! It will never be easy.
  • Work in partnership if you can with the professionals that understand your vision. But…don’t worry if you feel on your own. You did it once alone, you will do it again.
  • Enjoy it. There’s never any guarantee of success, but writing something you believe in will always shine through. 

In the end, the second book is just another story, and they will all have their unique challenges. 

So don’t start singing the second book blues just yet.


Lindsay’s first book The Secret Deep came out in the UK in 2018 and the next, Darwin’s Dragons, is to be published in early 2021. She writes YA, MG and has adult and younger fiction works in progress. She reads in all genres and loves to edit, she is an experienced mentor plus a critique partner of published authors.

Lindsay came late to writing, self-taught, after a career teaching which is now part time. She is a slush-pile (talent pool!) conqueror who came from nowhere and had no contacts and – although it took a while – had the first ever book she wrote published by the excellent Chicken House.

An experienced teacher, Lindsay’s workshop style is upbeat, constructive and focuses on the practical. She is sensitive to those at different stages of their writing journeys and the courage it takes to share work. Her workshops have a positive supportive atmosphere, intended to empower writers. All questions are welcome.

Lindsay is also a Spark Mentor and runs WriteMentor’s 6 week MG WriteMaster course.